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Upper Palaeolithic

From Academic Kids

The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Modern humans (i.e. Homo sapiens sapiens), emerged around 100,000 years ago and began migrating out of Africa during the Middle Paleolithic period. Until around 40,000 years ago, the lifestyle of the humans changed little from that of their predecessors. But then, relatively suddenly, they began to produce regionally distinctive cultures, using new technologies, more efficient hunting techniques and having a more refined aesthetic sensibility. This shift from Middle to Upper Paleolithic is called the Upper Paleolithic Revolution. The Neanderthals continued to use Mousterian stone tool technology.

The earliest remains of organised settlements in the form of campsites, some with storage pits, are encountered in this period. These were often located in narrow valley bottoms, possibly in order to make hunting passing herds of animals easier. Some sites may have been occupied year round though more generally they seem to have been used seasonally with peoples moving between them to exploit different food sources at different times of the year.

Technological advances included significant developments in flint tool manufacturing with industries based on fine blades rather than simpler and shorter flakes. Burins and racloirs attest to the working of bone, antler and hides. Advanced darts and harpoons also appear in this period.

Artistic work also blossomed with Venus figurines, cave painting, petroglyphs and exotic raw materials found far from their sources suggest emergent trading links. More complex social groupings emerged, supported by more varied and reliable food sources and specialised tool types. This probably contributed to increasing group identification or ethnicity. These group identities produced distinctive symbols and rituals which are an important part of modern human behaviour.

The reasons for these changes in human behaviour have been attributed to the changes in climate during the period which encompasses a number of global temperature drops, meaning a worsening of the already bitter climate of the last ice age. These may have reduced the supply of usable timber and forced people to look at other materials whilst flint becomes brittle at low temperatures and may not have functioned as a tool.

It is also argued that the appearance of language made these behavioural changes possible. The complexity of the new human capabilities hints that humans were less capable of planning or foresight before 40,000 ya and that speech changed that [1] (http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/images/anthropology(NoLastWordOnLanguageOrigins.htm).

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