Tools around 20,000 BC

The Globe




Southwest Asia




Indus Valley





European toolkits, 35,000 to 11,000 years ago. The increasingly diversified economies of the late Pleistocene are reflected in increasingly diverse and sophisticated tool kits compared to earlier periods.(21)

Weapons technology and hunting methods became more complex. Small, pointed stone blades, with one blunt edge, became their standard. Remarkably, uniform stone and bone projectile tips have been found, suggesting that they were highly skilled craftsmen. (Before the Pharaohs)

Some 27,000 years ago, an innovative group of hunters and gatherers were in the habit of setting up their summer base camps near a river along the Pavlov Hills in what is now the southeastern Czech Republic. They mixed the fine soil with water and molded it into human and animal figurines and fired them, creating the oldest known fired ceramics. They took the two-and-a-half-million-year-old technology of flaking stone tools a step farther by grinding them into smoothly polished pendants and rings, the earliest known examples of ground stone technology in Europe. (83)

"...they're making cordage," said David Hyland, an archaeologist at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Cordage, essentially plant fibers twisted together, includes string and rope. The model of the Paleolithic men going off with spears to hunt while the women stayed home and gathered plants around the camp may be too simple, he said. "Maybe they killed one mammoth every ten years and never stopped talking about it," Dr. Soffer said. At the Pavlov and nearby Dolni Vestonice sites, for example, Dr. Klima unearthed far more bones of smaller animals than of mammoths. While the former may have been hunted with spears, it is more likely that nets were used to capture small animals like rabbits, the archaeologists said. "This tool," noted Dr. Hyland, of cloth, "represents a much greater level of success where used for hunting than lithic tools." (83)

Whereas Neanderthals obtained their raw materials within a few miles of home, Cro-Magnons and their contemporaries throughout Europe practiced long-distance trade, not only for raw materials of tools but also for "useless" ornaments. Tools of high-quality stone such as obsidian, jasper, and flint are found hundreds of miles from where those stones were quarried. Baltic amber reached southeast Europe, while Mediterranean shells were carried to inland parts of France, Spain, and the Ukraine. I saw very similar patterns in modern Stone Age New Guinea, where cowry shells prized as decorations were traded up to the highlands from the coast, bird-of-paradise plumes were traded back down to the coast, and obsidian for stone axes was traded out from a few highly valued quarries.(The Third Chimpanzee)

The third group is 'Solutrean': this culture existed in southwest France from around 22 to 17 kya, and is marked by incredibly finely worked leaf-shaped stone blades and points, which seem to have elevated stone tools to the status of works of art. Finally, as Europe emerged from the ice age, the technology between 17 and 11 kya is known as 'Magdalenian'. (Climate Change in Prehistory)

One of the most remarkable features of the last ice age is the success of living on the plains of Russia. While northwestern Europe became uninhabitable during the LGM, in Russia occupation of a number of sites from the River Don to eastern Siberia appears to have continued unabated. An archaeological site on the Aldan River, a tributary of the Lena in eastern Siberia, was occupied by a possible ancestor group to palaeo-Arctic people of North America. The people who lived in Dyuktai Cave were hunter-gatherers and fishers and used triangular stone points that have become known as the 'Dyuktai culture'. Occupation levels have been dated between 33 and 10 kya...(Climate Change in Prehistory)

In Western Europe...the Aurignacian tradition consisted of a specific set of tools that included retouched blades, engraving tools called burins, and stone scrapers, and it is dated to between 34,000 BP and 27,000 BP. From 27,000 BP to 21,000 BP the Gravettian tradition delveloped, with its emphasis on smaller blades and denticulate knifes. The Solutrean tradtition, dated from 21,000 BP to 16,000BP, is the most striking of all, characterized by finely made, bifacially flaked, symmetrical, leaf-shaped projectile points. Solutrean points are amoung the most finely made stone tools ever found. The Solutrean was followed by the Magdelanian, from 16,000 BP to 11,000 BP, when the emphasis was not on stone tools at all but rather on bone and antler, with the attendant production of microblades. (The Past in Perspective)

The Solutreans are the key to the emergence of high culture across Central and Western Europe during the Upper Paleolithic age. Their campsites, work stations, and cave sites date to between 25,000 and 16,500 years ago and span from England (especially East Anglia) in the north, to northern Spain, Portugal, and France in the south. The Solutreans mastered the use of surface pressure flaking to create highly unique willow-leaf-shaped projectile points and much larger, laurel-leaf-shaped lance heads. The Solutrean hunters became the forerunners of the Clovis culture, producing laurel-leaf-shaped blades very similar to those manufactured in Western Europe. (Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods)

South America




North America