Timeline of human prehistory

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This timeline of human prehistory comprises the time from the first appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa 200,000 years ago to the invention of writing and the beginning of history approximately 5,500 years ago. It covers the time from the Middle Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to the very beginnings of the Bronze Age, the divisions used are those delineating the European Stone Age; however, many regions around the world underwent various stages of Stone Age development at different times.

All dates are approximate and based on research in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, genetics, geology, and linguistics. They are all subject to revision based on new discoveries or analyses.

Middle Paleolithic[edit]

Engraved ochre with grid or cross-hatch patterns from Blombos Cave, South Africa. One of the earliest examples of abstract or symbolic art dating from around 70,000 years ago.
  • 200,000 years ago: first appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa.[1]
  • 200,000–180,000 years ago: time of mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam.[2]
  • 195,000 years ago: oldest Homo sapiens fossil—from Omo, Ethiopia.[3]
  • 170,000 years ago: humans are wearing clothing by this date.[4]
  • 125,000 years ago: peak of the Eemian interglacial period.
  • 120,000–90,000 years ago: Abbassia Pluvial in North Africa—the Sahara desert region is wet and fertile.
  • 82,000 years ago: small perforated seashell beads from Taforalt in Morocco are the earliest evidence of personal adornment found anywhere in the world.[5]
  • 75,000 years ago: Toba Volcano supereruption.[6]
  • 70,000 years ago: earliest example of abstract art or symbolic art from Blombos Cave, South Africa—stones engraved with grid or cross-hatch patterns.[7]
  • 64,000 years ago: It has been speculated that the bow and arrow may have existed at this time in South Africa based on the discovery of stone points there. [8]

Upper Paleolithic[edit]

  • 40,000–30,000 years ago: First human settlement (Aboriginal Australians) in Sydney,[17][18] Perth[19] and Melbourne.[20]
  • 40,000–20,000 years ago: oldest known ritual cremation, the Mungo Lady, in Lake Mungo, Australia.
  • 35,000 years ago: oldest known figurative art of a human figure as opposed to a zoomorphic figure (Venus of Hohle Fels).
  • 33,000 years ago: oldest known domesticated dog skulls show they existed in both Europe and Siberia by this time.[21][22]
  • 30,000 years ago: rock paintings tradition begins in Bhimbetka rock shelters in India, which presently as a collection is the densest known concentration of rock art. In an area about 10 km2, there are about 800 rock shelters of which 500 contain paintings.[23]
  • 29,000 years ago: The earliest ovens found.
  • 28,500 years ago: New Guinea is populated by colonists from Asia or Australia.[24]
  • 28,000 years ago: oldest known twisted rope.
  • 28,000–24,000 years ago: oldest known pottery—used to make figurines rather than cooking or storage vessels (Venus of Dolní Věstonice).[25]
  • 28,000–20,000 years ago: Gravettian period in Europe. Harpoons and saws invented.
  • 26,000 years ago: people around the world use fibers to make baby carriers, clothes, bags, baskets, and nets.
  • 26,000–20,000 years ago: Last Glacial Maximum.
  • 25,000 years ago: a hamlet consisting of huts built of rocks and of mammoth bones is founded in what is now Dolní Věstonice in Moravia in the Czech Republic. This is the oldest human permanent settlement that has yet been found by archaeologists.[26]
  • 21,000 years ago: artifacts suggests early human activity occurred in Canberra, the capital city of Australia.[27]



Bronze Age[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What does it mean to be human? Homo sapiens". Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. 
  2. ^ Ewen Callaway (6 August 2013). "Genetic Adam and Eve did not live too far apart in time". Nature. 
  3. ^ Erin Wayman (11 January 2012). "Meet the Contenders for Earliest Modern Human". smithsonian.com. 
  4. ^ "Lice DNA study shows humans first wore clothes 170,000 years ago". ScienceDaily. 7 January 2011. 
  5. ^ "World's Oldest Manufactured Beads Are Older Than Previously Thought". Science Daily. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  6. ^ "Mount Toba Eruption – Ancient Humans Unscathed, Study Claims". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  7. ^ "'Oldest' prehistoric art unearthed". BBC News. 10 January 2002. 
  8. ^ http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-11086110
  9. ^ "World's oldest needle found in Siberian cave that stitches together human history". Siberian Times. 23 August 2016. 
  10. ^ John Noble Wilford (3 November 2011). "Fossil Teeth Put Humans in Europe Earlier Than Thought". The New York Times. p. A4. 
  11. ^ a b Tom Higham; Katerina Douka; Rachel Wood; Christopher Bronk Ramsey; Fiona Brock; Laura Basell; Marta Camps; Alvaro Arrizabalaga; Javier Baena; Cecillio Barroso-Ruíz; Christopher Bergman; Coralie Boitard; Paolo Boscato; Miguel Caparrós; Nicholas J. Conard; Christelle Draily; Alain Froment; Bertila Galván; Paolo Gambassini; Alejandro Garcia-Moreno; Stefano Grimaldi; Paul Haesaerts; Brigitte Holt; Maria-Jose Iriarte-Chiapusso; Arthur Jelinek; et al. (21 August 2014). "The timing and spatiotemporal patterning of Neanderthal disappearance". Nature. 512 (7514): 306–309. doi:10.1038/nature13621. PMID 25143113. 
  12. ^ Earliest music instruments found, BBC News, 25 May 2012
  13. ^ Corbyn, Zoë (24 November 2011). "Archaeologists land world's oldest fish hook". Nature News. Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  14. ^ O'Connor, Sue; Ono, Rintaro (25 November 2011). "Pelagic Fishing at 42,000 Years Before the Present and the Maritime Skills of Modern Humans". Science. AAAS. 334 (6059): 1117–1121. doi:10.1126/science.1207703. PMID 22116883. Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  15. ^ William E. Banks; Francesco d'Errico; João Zilhão (2013). "Revisiting the chronology of the Proto-Aurignacian and the Early Aurignacian in Europe: A reply to Higham et al.'s comments on Banks et al. (2013)". Journal of Human Evolution. 65: 810–817. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.08.004. PMID 24095637. 
  16. ^ Martin Bailey Ice Age Lion Man is world's earliest figurative sculpture The Art Newspaper, 31 January 2013, accessed 1 February 2013
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  21. ^ Elizabeth Landau (14 November 2013). "Dogs first domesticated in Europe, study says". CNN. 
  22. ^ "Ancient domesticated dog skull found in Siberian cave: 33,000 years old". ScienceDaily. 24 January 2012. 
  23. ^ "Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka". World Heritage Site. Archived from the original on 8 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-15. 
  24. ^ James Trager, The People's Chronology, 1994, ISBN 0-8050-3134-0
  25. ^ a b Adam Benton (5 July 2012). "The oldest pottery discovered". EvoAnth. 
  26. ^ Stuart, Gene S. (1979). "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages". Mysteries of the Ancient World. National Geographic Society. p. 19. 
  27. ^ Flood, J. M.; David, B.; Magee, J.; English, B. (1987). "Birrigai: a Pleistocene site in the south eastern highlands". Archaeology in Oceania. 22: 9–22. 
  28. ^ Stuart, Gene S. (1979). "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages". Mysteries of the Ancient World. National Geographic Society. pp. 8–10. 
  29. ^ "Shift from Savannah to Sahara was Gradual", by Kenneth Chang, The New York Times, 9 May 2008.
  30. ^ "'A Recent Ice Age Was Triggered by a Firestorm Bigger Than The One That Killed The Dinosaurs' Coming Jan. 31, 2018". NASA. February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2018. 
  31. ^ Mithen, Steven (2006). After the ice: a global human history, 20,000–5000 BC (1st Harvard University Press pbk. ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-674-01999-7. 
  32. ^ Curry, Andrew (November 2008). "Gobekli Tepe: The World's First Temple?". Smithsonian.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  33. ^ E. J. Peltenburg; Alexander Wasse; Council for British Research in the Levant (2004). Garfinkel, Yosef., "Néolithique" and "Énéolithique" Byblos in Southern Levantine Context* in Neolithic revolution: new perspectives on southwest Asia in light of recent discoveries on Cyprus. Oxbow Books. ISBN 978-1-84217-132-5. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
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External links[edit]