The History Of The Mesolithic Age
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Published: Thu, 27 Apr 2017
The Mesolithic age or the Middle Stone Age was a period that fell between the ending of the Paleolithic age and the starting of the Neolithic age. This was a transition period from Old Stone Age to New Stone Age. This period took place during the last period of glacial that happened over ten thousand years ago, and continued into the starting of the Neolithic period.
This period involved gradual animal and plant domestication and communities settling in various places and in particular times. During this period, there were a lot of migrants that were seen migrating towards the north through Europe. It was during this period that the sea level was rising slower than the land level as the ice melted, leading to creation of bridges between islands and mainland. This glacial retreat led to the modification of the ecological conditions; such as growth of forests in the whole of Europe, growth of deserts in the North of Africa, as well as the ice age disappearance.
Due to the extra lands gained, cultures in this age were forced by circumstances to adopt different techniques that would enable them gather food. The cultures present during this time were made up of two societies that existed according to the environment they were in, which were horticultural societies and pastoral societies. These societies did not only use stones as their tool in their various activities but also bones, arrows and bows. It was during this period that man begun practicing land management. Wetland and swamps were burned intentionally and chipped. Trees were cut down by the use of stone axes that were used for fires and they were able to construct settlement areas, as well as fishing vessels.
The people in this age highly relied on fishing and hunting. They settled along lake shores and rivers, where they could easily fish. They lived in houses that varied in shape from rectangular to round with sunken floors. The hunter-gatherers in Mesolithic moved seasonally depending on the migration of animals and changes in plant. Most of these people were located along the coast either in semi-permanent or large permanent communities. Hunting served as a source of food and also provided the people with antlers and bones that were used for making weapons and tools. The animal skins were used as clothes, sacks, as well as water carriers.
It was during this time that animals sizes became smaller thus they became more faster. This led to the development of stone tools that were known as Microliths that were much delicate and smaller than those used during the late Paleolithic age. The microliths are one of the tangible evidence that archaeologist have to prove that the people in this age used arrows, since the stones provided arrow barbs and tips. They also developed new weapons that were made up of wood and bones that were much lighter to carry and use. They also developed ornaments and started using items such as combs which were daily used items. They constructed canoes and boats, and were able to build the first wooded tracks that enabled them cross water mass area. During the late Mesolithic age people were able to make ground stone tools and pottery although they were not fully used until early Neolithic age.
Different from the Paleolithic art, art in Mesolithic was geometric filled with range of colors that were dominated by red ochre. Mesolithic art included beads, painted pebbles, pierced teeth and shells and amber. Star Carr was decorated with red deer bearing antler headdresses. Cemeteries that were small in size were first seen in this period. The largest evidence of these cemeteries is sixty five interments located at Skateholm. Burials in this age varied greatly; some people cremated their dead, some inhumations and some were ritualized. Mesolithic burials included tools, jewelry, grave woods, shells and human figurines. Evidence of megalithic tombs that were made up of stone blocks, constructed to serve the purpose of collective burial places, were constructed in the late Mesolithic age. The oldest of these tombs were constructed between 4700-4500 BC along the coast of Brittany and in Portugal in the upper Alentejo.
Very many skeletons were recovered from burials in the late Mesolithic age about 5000 BC. The skeletons recovered provide tangible evidence of violence experienced during the last days in this age. Forty four percent of the skeletons were from Denmark and twenty percent were from France and Sweden. According to archeologist, the violence was as a result of social pressure that was triggered by competing for resources, and as hunters and gatherers fought for land rights with the Neolithic farmers. The Star Carr that is located in Britain, near Scoarborough, Yorkshire, was built during the Mesolithic Age and is believed to serve as a hunting base or a place where the hunter-gatherer people carried out their economic and ceremonial activities. The star Carr occupant were managing the environment in various ways, this is evident by the discovery of reeds being set on fire deliberately- either for the animals to feed on the new reed shoots or for them to get access to the waters. There is also the remains of a house in Howick, Northumber that is believed to be the remains of the Mesolithic people house.
The Neolithic age is also known as the New Stone Age. ‘Neo’ meaning new and ‘Lithic’ meaning stone, therefore New Stone Age. This age is considered to be part of the late period of the old stone period. This period lasted longer in some areas, with China experiencing the longest of it, about 10,000-2000 BC.
Neolithic age was a period of technological development or culture evolution that was characterized by stone tools usage and village settlement that highly depended on domesticated animals and plants. There were also practices of crafts such as weaving and pottery. Neolithic culture is distinguished from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures by their way of domesticating animals and plants. The last period of Neolithic age was characterized by introduction of writing and metal tools, as well as urban civilization.
Neolithic age was ushered in by wide spread of farming across Europe, Indus valley, Nile alley and in the North of China. Immigrants brought with them new farming skills that led to discovery of wild varieties of barley and wheat, goats and sheep. This culture formation across the world led to local cultures combination that developed from the diffusion of innovations from the Middle East. The people in this age particularly practiced animal farming thus they were highly dependent on animal foods. Analysis done on bones show that people in this age ate less plant foods, proving that Neolithic people were more interested in animal husbandry and not crop growing. Although animal husbandry was most practiced, cereal growing was also practiced, where they used hoes, spades and may be rudimentary ploughs. Archeologists speculate that, most of the cereals were used for rituals, and possibly in the 3rd millennium they were used for brewing.
The people in this age cleared woodland for more grazing land. They used polished axes for woodland clearing a tool that is well associated with Neolithic age. The axe-head was made from a flint or a stone that would be well shaped and sharpened to an axes’ shape and a round wooden haft would be attached for use. The stones used to make the stone head axes would be quarried from axe factories, such as the one at Great Langdale. Flint was also mined in few sites, but it is believed that the sites were not more of utilitarian significance but of rituals. The Neolithic people believed so much in rituals than any other culture among the four cultures.
Apart from crop faming and animal farming the Neolithic culture also practiced pottery and weaving. During the early stages of the Neolithic age, Neolithic people made a round-bottomed pot, which was not decorated; it was later decorated from approximately 3800BC using different styles of art. The production of the grooved ware, which was flat-bottomed bucket and pots, became popular. Availability of large numbers of antler and bone pins is a clear indication that Neolithic cloths were made from skins of animals. Presence of different sizes of perforated stones that may have been used as loom weights and spindle whorls, indicate that there were linen and woolen cloths during this period. They also made capes using grass.
Neolithic houses were built using timber and were rectangular in shape. They were thatched roofed with daub and wattle, though they were not so common. The houses rarity clearly indicates that Neolithic people were moving from one place to the other in areas that were defined, a behavioral pattern that is termed as tethered mobility. In the late Neolithic age, stone built houses were seen and the remains are located in Orkney. These people are presumed to make their utensils, awls, scrapers, mattocks and shovels from bones and wood due to the unavailability of stones that were of good quality. The stones available were in large blocks that were hard to break.
Neolithic people buried their dead in chambers that were be made of incorporated timber or stones, later in the period there was development of passage graves. These were tombs where the stone passage that led to the main chambers was covered by a round mound. The tombs contained bones from different bodies, suggesting that bodies were given time to deflesh and then taken for disposal in other places, or used for ritual purposes.
Skara Brae is the best prehistoric village that is preserved and that provides evidence of the Neolithic age settlement. Skaill knives made from pebbles were also recovered from this place. These knives are believed to be used for butchering. Although Neolithic people are known for any kind of fishing, the watertight tanks that were discovered are presumed to be used for storing fish baits. Also discovered in Skara Brae is the existence of abstracts, these are objects that could have been used for ritual uses. Other villages as the Skara Brae villages have been found in Orkneys. Also two houses that are believed to be of an earlier date than the villages have been found at Papa Westray.
Bronze Age refers to the time in which humans made their weapons and tools from bronze. It was between the Stone Age era and the Iron Age era. The Bronze Age era marked the beginning of metal usage. Calcolithic refers to the use of stone tools and pure copper that ushered in the Bronze Age. Copper was first used in Anatolia, Turkey until the 2nd millennium when bronze came into use. Bronze is an alloy of tin and copper.
Bronze Age is said to have lasted for about three thousand years, and it saw advancements such as social ones, technological and economic ones. Three major civilizations are in record as having occurred in this age, with their times of occurrence overlapping and coinciding with some geographic regions. The Age’s three major age system are Stone Age, Iron Age and Bronze Age. Bronze Age saw advancement in metalworking in a widespread way, with a culture of bronze usage in record. Some areas recorded copper smelting and some having bronze trading and production. In some cultures, written records which are extensive in nature were developed.
The Bronze Age people were the people who first introduced metal work. They were the first people to construct stone circles and hedges that somehow belonged to the late Neolithic people and early Bronze Age people. These people made their long barrows with round heads unlike the narrow headed barrows that were present during the Neolithic period. It was during this period that metallurgical industries were developed leading to urbanization. The people in this age practiced smelting and mining, practices that demanded labor specialization and surplus food production for certain artisan support. New territories were also explored and colonized in the process of searching for raw and new materials.
During this period, agriculture was widely spread and people planted crops such as barley and wheat. They also practiced animal farming and they bred animals such as cattle and sheep. They added crop seeds to their soups, and also made bread from the wheat that they grew. From the barley that was grown, people in this age were able to brew beer that was purposely for health reasons. They also made insecticides from the alcohol made from barley.
Bronze Age people buried their dead in graves with timber lining, evidence of this was found in Britain, where archeologists uncovered a grave that had a timber lining. This site is in Amesbury some 3 miles from Stonehenge to the South Eastern side. Evidence that they buried the dead lying down was found in the graves. After analysis, archeologists discovered the timing of these graves as around 2400BC and 2200BC. The skeleton recovered was that of a man, whose further examination showed an injury on the left leg around the knee which was serious, sustained during his life. The Injury could have made him walk with a limp and in a lot of pain, since the bones showed infection. The man in question here was probably a person of status in the society, evidence of which is the many objects with which he was buried. The items were around ten times the number they normally found in other graves. There were Beakers, five in number, there were knives made of copper which were three in number with one which position showed he might have been wearing it. Other items recovered on the skeleton were a shale ring, boars’ tusks which were four in number, flakes and flint tools, a spatula from red deer.
The Bronze Age was characterized by houses that were of different shapes, such as rectangular ones, oval shaped ones, semi circular shaped ones, sub-rectangular and horse shoe shapes ones. Some six houses were built with foundations, with two of them discovered to have been built using posts and another with stakes. One of the houses was discovered to have been built of posts alone. These houses were of small sizes and were narrow as well, with their diameters having been recorded as 2.7 to 6.0 centimeters.
The people in this age made a wide range of tools weapons and utensils from metal. They also used precious metals such as gold for decoration as well as in jewelry. Copper was a metal they used mostly in making of common items. And gold was used as a decorative metal due to its capability of not tarnishing. A discovery was made of two beakers of pots that were styled and a dagger made of copper alloy, items whose dating is placed as 2100 to 1900BC. Two embossed armlets made of gold sheets were also discovered.
In Wessex, which comprises of Hampshire, Berkshire, Dorset and Willtshire, Burial burrows that were furnished richly some with gold were discovered. The burrows show a rich culture that this age represented. Skeletons uncovered by stone laborers in North Wales had crushed remains of Mold Gold Cape. They also had quite a number of amber beads laid with them. The Capes recovered were sold to the Museums, with only one of the beads recovered reaching the museum.
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