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Timeline of human prehistory

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Title: Timeline of human prehistory  
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Subject: Prehistoric technology, Chalcolithic, Prehistory, Millennia, Nanjing Man
Collection: Ancient Timelines, Archaeology Timelines, Millennia, Prehistory
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Timeline of human prehistory

This timeline of human prehistory comprises the time from the first appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa 200,000 years ago to the invention of writing and the beginning of history approximately 5,500 years ago. It covers the time from the Middle Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to the very beginnings of the Bronze Age. The divisions used are those delineating the European Stone Age; however, many regions around the world underwent various stages of Stone Age development at different times. All dates are approximate and based on research in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, genetics, geology, and linguistics. They are all subject to revision based on new discoveries or analyses.


  • Middle Paleolithic 1
  • Upper Paleolithic 2
  • Mesolithic 3
  • Neolithic 4
  • Bronze Age 5
  • Also see 6
  • References 7

Middle Paleolithic

  • 200,000 years ago: appearance of homo sapiens in Africa[1]
  • 200,000 - 180,000 years ago: time of mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam[2]
  • 195,000 years ago: oldest homo sapiens fossil - from Omo, Ethiopia[3]
  • 170,000 years ago: humans first start wearing clothes.[4]
  • 125,000 years ago: peak of the Eemian Stage interglacial
  • 120,000 - 90,000 years ago: Abbassia Pluvial in north Africa - the Sahara desert region is wet and fertile.
  • 82,000 years ago: small perforated seashell beads from Taforalt in Morocco are the earliest evidence of personal adornment found anywhere in the world.[5]
  • c. 75,000 years ago: Toba Volcano supereruption.[6]
  • 70,000 years ago: earliest example of abstract art or symbolic art from Blombos cave, South Africa - stones engraved with grid or cross-hatch patterns.[7]

Upper Paleolithic

  • 50,000 - 30,000 years ago: Mousterian Pluvial in north Africa. The Sahara desert region is wet and fertile. Later Stone Age begins in Africa.
  • 45,000 - 43,000 years ago: Cro-Magnon colonization of Europe.[8]
  • 45,000 - 40,000 years ago: Chatelperronian culture in France.[9]
  • 42,000 years ago: Paleolithic flutes in Germany[10]
  • 42,000 years ago: earliest evidence of advanced deep sea fishing technology at the Jerimalai cave site in East Timor - demonstrates high-level maritime skills and by implication the technology needed to make ocean crossings to reach Australia and other islands, as they were catching and consuming large numbers of big deep sea fish such as tuna.[11][12]
  • 41,000 years ago: Denisova hominin lives in the Altai Mountains
  • 40,000 years ago: extinction of Homo neanderthalensis.[9]
  • 40,000 years ago: Aurignacian culture begins in Europe.[13]
  • 40,000 years ago: oldest known figurative art the zoomorphic Löwenmensch figurine[14]
  • 40,000 years ago: oldest known cave paintings. Red dots, hand stencils and animal figures in Altamira Cave, El Castillo Spain.[15][16]
  • 40,000 - 20,000 years ago: oldest known ritual cremation, the Mungo Lady, in Lake Mungo, Australia.
  • 35,000 years ago: oldest known figurative art of a human figure as opposed to a zoomorphic figure (Venus of Hohle Fels).
  • 33,000 years ago: oldest known domesticated dog skulls show they existed in both Europe and Siberia by this time.[17][18]
  • 30,000 years ago: rock paintings tradition begins in Bhimbetka rock shelters in India, which presently as a collection is the densest known concentration of rock art. In an area about 10 sq km, there are about 800 rock shelters of which 500 contain paintings. [19]
  • c. 28,500 years ago: New Guinea is populated by colonists from Asia or Australia.[20]
  • 28,000 years ago: oldest known twisted rope.
  • 28,000 - 20,000 years ago: Gravettian period in Europe. Harpoons, needles, and saws invented.
  • 28,000 - 24,000 years ago: oldest known pottery - used to make figurines rather than cooking or storage vessels (Venus of Dolní Věstonice).[21]
  • c. 26,000 years ago: people around the world use fibers to make baby carriers, clothes, bags, baskets, and nets.
  • 26,000 - 20,000 years ago: Last Glacial Maximum
  • 25,000 years ago: first colonization of North America
  • 25,000 years ago: a hamlet consisting of huts built of rocks and of mammoth bones is founded in what is now Dolni Vestonice in Moravia in the Czech Republic. This is the oldest human permanent settlement that has yet been found by archaeologists.[22]



Bronze Age

Also see


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Earliest music instruments found, BBC, 25 May 2012
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Martin Bailey Ice Age Lion Man is world’s earliest figurative sculpture The Art Newspaper, Jan 31, 2013, accessed Feb 01, 2013
  15. ^ Amos, Jonathan. "Red dot becomes 'oldest cave art'". BBC News. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ James Trager, The People's Chronology, 1994, ISBN 0-8050-3134-0
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Shift from Savannah to Sahara was Gradual," by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, May 9, 2008.
  25. ^ Kiple, Kenneth F. and Ornelas, Kriemhild Coneè, eds., The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 83
  26. ^ "No-Till: The Quiet Revolution," by David Huggins and John Reganold, Scientific American, July 2008, pp. 70-77.
  27. ^ Fagan, Brian M, ed. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1996 ISBN 978-0-521-40216-3 p 363
  28. ^ Hirst, K. Kris. 2005. "Mehrgarh". Guide to Archaeology
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ Kristiansen & Larsson 2005
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