Middle Paleolithic

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Middle Paleolithic
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{{short description|Archaeological period, part of Stone Age}}

{{Paleolithic|middle}}The Middle Paleolithic (or Middle Palaeolithic) is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleolithic in African archeology.BOOK, Anthropology, Miller, Barbra, Bernard Wood, Andrew Balansky, Julio Mercader, Melissa Panger, 2006, Allyn and Bacon, Boston Massachusetts, 978-0-205-32024-0,weblink 768, The Middle Paleolithic broadly spanned from 300,000 to 30,000 years ago. There are considerable dating differences between regions. The Middle Paleolithic was succeeded by the Upper Paleolithic subdivision which first began between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago. Pettit and White date the Early Middle Paleolithic in Great Britain to about 325,000 to 180,000 years ago (late Marine Isotope Stage 9 to late Marine Isotope Stage 7), and the Late Middle Paleolithic as about 60,000 to 35,000 years ago.BOOK, The British Palaeolithic: Human Societies at the Edge of the Pleistocene World, Paul, Pettit, Mark, White, Routledge, 2012, Abingdon, UK, 209, 293, 978-0-415-67455-3, According to the theory of the recent African origin of modern humans, anatomically modern humans began migrating out of Africa during the Middle Stone Age/Middle Paleolithic around 100,000 or 70,000 years ago and began to replace earlier pre-existent Homo species such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus.Origins of Modern Humans: Multiregional or Out of Africa? By Donald Johanson However, recent discoveries of fossils originating from Israel indicate that our species (Homo sapiens) lived outside of Africa 185,000 years ago; some 85,000 years earlier than previous evidence suggests. NEWS,weblink Modern humans left Africa much earlier, Ghosh, Pallab, 2018, BBC News, 2018-01-28, en-GB,

Origin of behavioral modernity

{{Human timeline}}The earliest evidence of behavioral modernity first appears during the Middle Paleolithic; undisputed evidence of behavioral modernity, however, only becomes common during the following Upper Paleolithic period.Middle Paleolithic burials at sites such as Krapina, Croatia (c. 130,000 BP) and the Skhul and Qafzeh hominids (c. 100,000 BP) have led some anthropologists and archeologists such as Philip Lieberman, to believe that Middle Paleolithic cultures may have possessed a developing religious ideology which included belief in concepts such as an afterlife; other scholars suggest the bodies were buried for secular reasons.Evolving in their graves: early burials hold clues to human origins - research of burial rituals of NeandertalsBOOK, harv, Lieberman, Philip, Philip Lieberman, Uniquely Human: The Evolution of Speech, Thought, and Selfless Behavior,weblink 1991, Harvard University Press, 978-0-674-92183-2, According to recent archeological findings from Homo heidelbergensis sites in the Atapuerca Mountains, the practice of intentional burial may have begun much earlier during the late Lower Paleolithic, but this theory is widely questioned in the scientific community. Cut marks on Neandertal bones from various sites such as Combe Grenal and the Moula rock shelter in France may imply that the Neanderthals, like some contemporary human cultures, may have practiced excarnation for presumably religious reasons (see Neanderthal behavior § Cannibalism or ritual defleshing?).Also the earliest undisputed evidence of artistic expression during the Paleolithic period comes from Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age sites such as Blombos Cave in the form of bracelets,NEWS,weblink Cave yields 'earliest jewellery', BBC News, Jonathan Amos, 2008-03-12, 2004-04-15, beads,WEB,weblink Oldest Jewelry? "Beads" Discovered in African Cave, National Geographic News, Hillary Mayell, 2008-03-03, art rock,WEB,weblink Blombos Cave art, 2008-03-12, Sean Henahan, Science news, ochre used as body paint and perhaps in ritual, though earlier examples of artistic expression such as the Venus of Tan-Tan and the patterns found on elephant bones from Bilzingsleben in Thuringia may have been produced by Acheulean tool users such as Homo erectus prior to the start of the Middle Paleolithic period."Human Evolution," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007. Microsoft Corporation. Contributed by Richard B. Potts. Archived 2009-11-01. Activities such as catching large fish and hunting large game animals with specialized tools connote increased group-wide cooperation and more elaborate social organization.In addition to developing other advanced cultural traits such as religion and art, humans also first began to take part in long distance trade between groups for rare commodities (such as ochre, which was often used for religious purposes such as ritualBOOK, Felipe Fernandez Armesto, Ideas that changed the world, Dorling Kindersley limited, Newyork, 2003, 978-0-7566-3298-4, 400, ; weblink) and raw materials during the Middle Paleolithic as early as 120,000 years ago.WEB,weblink When Did "Modern" Behavior Emerge in Humans?, National Geographic News, Hillary Mayell, 2008-02-05, Inter-group trade may have appeared during the Middle Paleolithic because trade between bands would have helped ensure their survival by allowing them to exchange resources and commodities such as raw materials during times of relative scarcity (i.e., famine or drought).

Social stratification

File:Kermanshah Pal Museum-Neanderthal.jpg|thumb|left|200px|A model of a Neanderthal male by modern scientists at the Zagros Paleolithic MuseumZagros Paleolithic MuseumEvidence from archeology and comparative ethnography indicates that Middle Paleolithic people lived in small, egalitarian band societies similar to those of Upper Paleolithic societies and some modern hunter-gatherers such as the ǃKung and Mbuti peoples.BOOK, harv, Boehm, Christopher, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior,weblink 2009, Harvard University Press, 978-0-674-02844-9, , p. 198 Both Neandertal and modern human societies took care of the elderly members of their societies during the Middle Paleolithic. Christopher Boehm (1999) has hypothesized that egalitarianism may have arisen in Middle Paleolithic societies because of a need to distribute resources such as food and meat equally to avoid famine and ensure a stable food supply.BOOK, harv, Boehm, Christopher, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior,weblink 2009, Harvard University Press, 978-0-674-02844-9, , p. 192Typically, it has been assumed that women gathered plants and firewood and men hunted and scavenged dead animals through the Paleolithic.WEB,weblink Sex-Based Roles Gave Modern Humans an Edge, Study Says, National Geographic News, Stefan Lovgren, 2008-02-03, However, recent archaeological research done by the anthropologist and archaeologist Steven Kuhn from the University of Arizona suggests that this gender-based division of labor (presumably) did not exist prior to the Upper Paleolithic in Middle Paleolithic societies (modern humans before 40,000 or 50,000 BCE and Neandertals) and evolved relatively recently in human prehistory. The gender-based division of labor may have evolved to allow humans to acquire food and other resources more efficiently and thus may have allowed Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens to out-compete the Neandertals in Europe.


Although gathering and hunting comprised most of the food supply during the Middle Paleolithic, people began to supplement their diet with seafood and began smoking and drying meat to preserve and store it. For instance the Middle Stone Age inhabitants of the region now occupied by the Democratic Republic of the Congo hunted large {{convert|6|ft|m|sing=on}} long catfish with specialized barbed fishing points as early as 90,000 years ago,"Human Evolution," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007 {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-04-08 }} Contributed by Richard B. Potts. and Neandertals and Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens in Africa began to catch shellfish for food as revealed by shellfish cooking in Neandertal sites in Italy about 110,000 years ago and Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens sites at Pinnacle Point, in Africa.NEWS,weblink Key Human Traits Tied to Shellfish Remains, New York Times, John Noble Wilford, 2008-03-11, 2007-10-18, Anthropologists such as Tim D. White suggest that cannibalism was common in human societies prior to the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, based on the large amount of “butchered human" bones found in Neandertal and other Middle Paleolithic sites.BOOK,weblink Once were Cannibals, Evolution: A Scientific American Reader, Tim D. White, 2008-02-14, University of Chicago Press, 978-0-226-74269-4, 2006-09-15, Cannibalism in the Middle Paleolithic may have occurred because of food shortages.WEB,weblink Neandertals Turned to Cannibalism, Bone Cave Suggests, National Geographic News, James Owen, 2008-02-03, However it is also possible that Middle Paleolithic cannibalism occurred for religious reasons which would coincide with the development of religious practices thought to have occurred during the Upper Paleolithic.JOURNAL, Pathou-Mathis M, 2000, Neandertal subsistence behaviours in Europe, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 10, 5, 379–395, 10.1002/1099-1212(200009/10)10:53.0.CO;2-4, WEB,weblink Karl J. Narr, Prehistoric religion, 2008-03-28, Britannica online encyclopedia 2008,weblink" title="">weblink 2008-04-09, yes, Nonetheless it remains possible that Middle Paleolithic societies never practiced cannibalism and that the damage to recovered human bones was either the result of excarnation or predation by carnivores such as saber-toothed cats, lions and hyenas.


(File:Wikiartifact-page-001.jpg|thumb|200px|This is a drawing of a replica of an Acheulean hand-axe found during the Lower Paleolithic period. The raw material this tool is made of in this drawing is black obsidian and is even worked on both sides.)Around 200,000 BP Middle Paleolithic Stone tool manufacturing spawned a tool-making technique known as the prepared-core technique, that was more elaborate than previous Acheulean techniques.JOURNAL, Hu, Yue, Marwick, Ben, Zhang, Jia-Fu, Rui, Xue, Hou, Ya-Mei, Yue, Jian-Ping, Chen, Wen-Rong, Huang, Wei-Wen, Li, Bo, Late Middle Pleistocene Levallois stone-tool technology in southwest China, Nature, 565, 7737, 82–85, 19 November 2018, 10.1038/s41586-018-0710-1, "Human Evolution," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007. Microsoft Corporation. Contributed by Richard B. Potts. Archived 2009-11-01. Wallace and Shea split the core artifacts into two different types: formal cores and expedient cores. Formal cores are designed to extract the maximum amount from the raw material while expedient cores are more based on function need.JOURNAL, Wallace, Ian, Shea, John, Mobility patterns and core technologies in the Middle Paleolithic of the Levant, Journal of Archaeological Science, 2006, 10.1016/j.jas.2006.01.005, 33, 9, 1293–1309, This method increased efficiency by permitting the creation of more controlled and consistent flakes. This method allowed Middle Paleolithic humans correspondingly to create stone-tipped spears, which were the earliest composite tools, by hafting sharp, pointy stone flakes onto wooden shafts. Paleolithic groups such as the Neandertals who possessed a Middle Paleolithic level of technology appear to have hunted large game just as well as Upper Paleolithic modern humansWEB,weblink Neandertals Hunted as Well as Humans, Study Says, National Geographic News, Ann Parson, 2008-02-01, and the Neandertals in particular may have likewise hunted with projectile weapons.JOURNAL, Boëda, E., Geneste, J.M., Griggo, C., Mercier, N., Muhesen, S., Reyss, J.L., Taha, A., Valladas, H., 1999, A Levallois point embedded in the vertebra of a wild ass (Equus africanus): Hafting, projectiles and Mousterian hunting, Antiquity, 73, 394–402, Nonetheless Neandertal usage of projectile weapons in hunting occurred very rarely (or perhaps never) and the Neandertals hunted large game animals mostly by ambushing them and attacking them with mêlée weapons such as thrusting spears rather than attacking them from a distance with projectile weapons.NEWS,weblink The icy truth behind Neandertals, BBC News, Cameron Balbirnie, 2008-04-01, 2005-02-10, An ongoing controversy about the nature of Middle Paleolithic tools is whether there were a series of functionally specific and preconceived tool forms or whether there was a simple continuum of tool morphology that reflect the extent of edge maintenance, as Harold L. Dibble has suggested.Dibble, H.L. 1995. Middle paleolithic scraper reduction: Background, clarification, and review of the evidence to date. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 2:299-368The use of fire became widespread for the first time in human prehistory during the Middle Paleolithic and humans began to cook their food c. 250,000 years ago.BOOK, Handbook of Paleoanthropology,weblink Nicholas Toth and Kathy Schick, 2007, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 978-3-540-32474-4, 1963, JOURNAL, Wrangham, Richard, Conklin-Brittain, NancyLou, Cooking as a biological trait, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A, September 2003, 136, 1, 35–46, 10.1016/S1095-6433(03)00020-5,weblink 5 June 2014,weblink" title="">weblink 19 May 2005, 14527628, Some scientists have hypothesized that hominids began cooking food to defrost frozen meat which would help ensure their survival in cold regions. Robert K. Wayne, a molecular biologist, has controversially claimed, based on a comparison of canine DNA, that dogs may have been first domesticated during the Middle Paleolithic around or even before 100,000 BCE.WEB,weblink stalking the ancient dog, Science news, Christine mellot, 2008-03-01, Christopher Boehm (2009) has hypothesized that egalitarianism may have arisen in Middle Paleolithic societies because of a need to distribute resources such as food and meat equally to avoid famine and ensure a stable food supply.


Cave sites

  • Axlor, SpainJOURNAL, Garaizar, Joseba Rios, Aportes de las nuevas excavaciones en Axlor sobre el final del Paleolítico Medio,weblink en,
  • Petralona, GreeceWEB,weblink Hypogene Speleogenesis and Karst Hydrogeology of Artesian Basins, JOURNAL, Papamarinopoulos, etal, Stavros, PALAEOMAGNETIC AND MINERAL MAGNETIC STUDIES OF SEDIMENTS FROM PETRALONA CAVE, GREECE, Archaeometry, February 1987, 29, 1, 50–59, 10.1111/j.1475-4754.1987.tb00397.x,
  • Le Moustier, France—see also Mousterian
  • Neandertal (valley), Germany
  • Grotte de Spy, Spy, Belgium
  • Dashsalahli, AzerbaijanBOOK, Azerbaijan: Mosques, Turrets, Palaces, Ilona Turánszky, Corvina Kiadó, 1979, 9789631303216, 8–9,
  • Aterian, North AfricaNEWS,weblink Stone Age - Africa, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018-11-28, en, JOURNAL, William E. Banks, etal, 2006, Eco-Cultural Niche Modeling: New Tools for Reconstructing the Geography and Ecology of Past Human Populations,weblink Eco-Cultural Niche Modeling: New Tools for Reconstructing the Geography and Ecology of Past Human Populations, 68–83,

Open-air sites

See also



External links

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