Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Was the Stone Age actually the Age of Wood?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Wood Age; Schoningen Wooden Artefacts; Prehistory vs. History; Christian Jorgensen Thomsen’s classification

Why in the News?

New research suggests the Stone Age be termed the “Wood Age” due to advanced wooden tools found in Schoningen, Germany.

About Schoningen Wooden Artefacts

  • A study of around 300,000-400,000-year-old wooden artefacts excavated from a coal mine in Schoningen, Germany, between 1994 and 2008.
  • It reveals that these were not merely “sharpened sticks” but “technologically advanced tools” requiring skill, precision, and time to build.
  • The tools demonstrated a broad spectrum of wood-working techniques including splitting, scraping or abrasion.

Back2Basics: Periodising Human Prehistory

  • Prehistory vs. History: Human ‘history’ began with the advent of writing, while everything before that is ‘prehistory,’ studied using archaeological evidence and ethnographic research.
  • 19th Century Periodization: Danish archaeologist Christian Jorgensen Thomsen introduced the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age classification based on technological advancements. This classification has been refined to reflect diverse cultural experiences.

The Stone Age Timeline

  • Beginning: The Stone Age began when hominids first used stone tools, around 3.4 million years ago in Ethiopia, and lasted until about 6,000-4,000 BP (Before Present).
  • Divisions: The Stone Age is divided into:
  1. Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age): Characterized by rudimentary stone tools and a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, ending around 11,650 BP.
  2. Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age): A transitional phase.
  3. Neolithic (New Stone Age): Beginning roughly 12,000 BP in West Asia, marked by settled agriculture and domestication of animals.

Use of Wood: Preservation Bias and Archaeological Evidence

  • Stone Tools: Stone tools provide significant insight into the lives and capabilities of early humans. Charles Darwin noted that even the rudest stone tools required a high degree of mental sophistication and physical dexterity.
  • Other Materials: Evidence shows the use of bones, antlers, clay, and some metalworking alongside stone tools. However, evidence of woodworking is limited due to wood’s perishable nature.
  • Lesser Evidence of Wood: Wood has been recovered from less than 10 of thousands of Lower Palaeolithic sites (up to around 200,000 BP). The earliest wooden dwellings date to only 700,000 BP, much later than the earliest stone tools.


[2021] With reference to the period of the Gupta dynasty in ancient India, the towns Ghantasala, Kadura and Chaul were well-known as

(a) ports handling foreign trade

(b) capitals of powerful kingdoms

(c) places of exquisite stone art and architecture

(d) important Buddhist pilgrimage centres

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