In the Palaeolithic, people were pure hunter-gatherers. In the Neolithic they were farmers in settlements with domesticated animals and wheat, with over 100 kinds of tools and with pottery. The Mesolithic was a transitional period between the two. It happened at different times in different places. Mesolithic tools are small tools produced by chipping, and are hunter-gatherer tools, often arrowheads and points. Neolithic tools are often polished and far more varied. They are tools of more settled societies with some agriculture.
The term 'Mesolithic' was introduced by Hodder Westrop in 1877, though the idea had been used earlier. It was not much used until V. Gordon Childe popularized it in his book The dawn of Europe (1947). There is another term, 'Epipalaeolithic', which is sometimes used instead.
Distinctive features[change | edit source]
The type of tool is the diagnostic factor. The Mesolithic featured devices made with small chipped stone tools. The Neolithic mainly abandoned this mode in favor of polished, not chipped, stone tools.
The Mesolithic culture can be set apart from that of the Palaeolithic in these ways:
- the tool kit is more varied than Palaeolithic tools.
- the emphasis is on small, even tiny, tools rather than the larger tools used previously. These small tools are called microliths.
- the domestication of animals has begun. Perhaps the earliest clear cultural evidence for this domestication is the first dog found buried together with human, 12,000 years ago in Palestine.
The Fertile Crescent[change | edit source]
The Fertile Crescent was the first part of the world to move out of the Palaeolithic.
In some areas, such as the Near East, agriculture was already underway by the end of the Pleistocene, and there the Mesolithic is short. In areas with limited influence of ice age, the term "Epipaleolithic" is sometimes preferred.
Regions that experienced greater environmental effects as the last ice age ended have a much more evident Mesolithic era. This lasted millennia. In Northern Europe, societies were able to live well on rich food supplies from the marshlands. Such conditions produced distinctive human behaviours which are preserved in characteristic finds. These conditions also delayed the coming of the Neolithic until as late as 4000 BC (6,000 before present) in northern Europe.
Burial of Thèviec – Museum of Toulouse[change | edit source]
Other websites[change | edit source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mesolithic|
- Mesolithic Miscellany- Newsletter and Information on the European Mesolithic
- 20th Century Mesolithic Sites in Mandla (Madhya Pradesh), India, discovered by Dr. Babul Roy: , , and 
- Picture Gallery of the Paleolithic (reconstructional palaeoethnology), Libor Balák at the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological Research
References[change | edit source]
- from the Greek "mesos," "middle," and "lithos," "stone". However, it is not right to use the term 'Middle Stone Age' here because that is used for a much earlier stage in African archaeology.
- Trigger, Bruce G. 1989. A history of archaeological thought. Cambridge University Press. p148
- Dienekes' Anthropology Blog : Dog domestication in the Aurignacian (c. 32kyBP)
- MSNBC : World's first dog lived 31,700 years ago, ate big
- Scott, John Paul & Fuller, John L. 1974. Dog behavior: the genetic basis. 2nd ed, University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226743387. ISBN 0-226-74338-1, ISBN 978-0-226-74338-7. p54]
- James Serpell 1995. The domestic dog: its evolution, behaviour, and interactions with people. Cambridge University Press. p10-12
- SJM Davis and FR Valla 1978. Evidence for domestication of the dog 12,000 years ago in the Natufian of Palestine, Nature 276, 608-610.