The early stone age is also called the palaeolithic. It is by far the longest period in human history.
It started in Africa more than 3 million years ago when the predecessors of modern man first started to use stone tools.
During this time people were hunter gatherers and probably moved around from place to place without having a permanant home. The climate was very cold at times during the Ice Ages, and the world would have looked very different to the way it does now. A lot of the Earth’s water was frozen in the ice caps so the sea level was low and there were land bridges between the continents, and you could have walked all the way from France to Scotland.
Animals that are now extinct would have been roaming around with early stone age man – things like cave bears, cave lions, wooly mammoths and mastodons.There have even been wooly rhinoceros bones found in the Midlands!
People are thought to have come to Europe first around 30-40,000 years ago. In France some of them left amazing paintings in caves, as well as flints and other artefacts. Some of the caves have lots of symbols on their walls as well as paintings of animals, we just don’t know what they meant.
In Britain there is also some evidence for early humans. At Cresswell Crags you can have a look at some caves that were occupied during the last ice age, between around 43,000 and 10,000 years ago, and in Gough’s cave in Cheddar gorge they found some gruesome cups made out of human skulls which dated back to 10,000BC!
For some great books for kids about the palaeolithic have a look at
Stone Age, Bone Age by Mick Manning and Brita Granström.
This rhyming book is probably for younger children, but it does give a good feel for the time and the illustrations are wonderful. It also has a useful glossary of stone age words and some fun activities to try.
Usborne Cavemen Sticker Book by Fiona Watt and Paul Nicholls
My kids are big fans of all the Usbourne sticker books and this one was no exception. The bright and colourful illustrations are like child magnets and it is such fun to put the stickers on that no child will realise it is educational. The scenes are good and cover lots of palaeolithic life including cave painting, the mammoth bone houses of Russia, and mammoth hunting.
From the end of the last ice age, around 10,000BC there were changes in the types of stone tools found – these belong to the next stage in prehistory – the middle stone age or mesolithic.