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Stone Age

The stage in man's cultural development preceding the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. It is characterized by use of exclusively stone tools and weapons, though some made of bone, wood, etc., may occur. It is split up into three periods: the Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age, began with the emergence of human-like creatures, the earliest stone tools being some 2.3 million years old and associated with the australopithecines. Paleolithic tools, if worked at all, are made of chipped stone. The Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age, was confined exclusively to north-west Europe. Here between c.8000 and c.3000 BC, various peoples enjoyed a culture showing similarities with both Paleolithic and Neolithic. In Europe, the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, began about 8000 BC, and was signaled by the development of agriculture, with consequent increase in stability of the population and hence elaboration of social structure. The tools of the period are of polished stone. Apart from farming, the men also worked mines. The Neolithic merged slowly into the Early Bronze Age.