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The Development of Paleolithic Society

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The Paleolithic period was the longest in human history, ranging from when stone tools were first used to when wide-spread stationary farming was adapted. This ranges a massive time in history, from around 3.3 million years ago to around 12,000 years ago. This period of time had very slow changes that would end up changing humanity forever. In the Paleolithic times, stationary farming was rare, if not existent at all. Due to the human’s need for food however, hunting and gathering in the areas around where one inhabited was common as a source of nourishment. Contrary to the views of “hunting and gathering” it was a genuine skill, requiring knowledge of the seasons, plants, and animals, in order to be able to get the most food out of the area around one’s self. Due to the communal style of living required for a hunter-gatherer society, private property was rare, and other only consisted of a few personal items, such as one’s clothing and weapons. In extension to this, some historians have taken it one step further to include the idea of possible relative gender equality too during the Paleolithic era. This would include the work of both men and women trying to find food for the survival of their own personal groups.

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With the use of advanced tools created by these early humans, increasingly larger animals could be killed for increasing gain in food and resources. This can be very well seen in the extinction of the wooly mammoth, which directly resulted from its killing by humans for food and its body for resources. In some areas where food and resources were more plentiful however, semi-permanent settlements were established, which allowed for the creation of a more stationary, rather than nomadic, lifestyle, and eventually leading to the creation of small communities and working positions for the use in these areas, such as leadership and artisans. Examples of these include the Natufians in Phoenicia, the Jomon in Japan, and the Chinook in western Canada. All of these societies possessed a semi-permanent style of living and culture earlier than many other peoples.

Though Paleolithic society did mostly consist of a constant fight for survival against nature, creativity would become a staple part of human existence, contributing to religion, folklore, and legends. Hominid creativity can first be seen in Neanderthal sites across Europe, which often feature cave art depicting animals and humans. Due to the lack of written records, it is impossible to know exactly what they were used for, but it can be inferred that they most likely served some sort of religious, ceremonial, or educational purpose for the Neanderthal inhabitants of the caves. A very early human example of creativity are Venus figurines, which picture exaggerated feminine sexual features and are often found in these caves. These figurines most likely served some sort of religious or ceremonial purpose dealing with child-birth or creation based on their subject matter.

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