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Lower Paleolithic - Also Known as the Early Stone Age

Timeline and Description


'Lucy' Exhibit To Open In Houston Amid Protests

HOUSTON - AUGUST 28: A sculptor's rendering of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis is displayed as part of an exhibition that includes the 3.2 million year old fossilized remains of 'Lucy', the most complete example of the species, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, August 28, 2007 in Houston, Texas. The exhibition is the first for the fossil outside of Ethiopia and has generated criticism among the museum community and others that believe the fossil is too fragile to be moved from it's home country.

Dave Einsel / Stringer/ Getty Images News/ Getty Images

The Lower Paleolithic period, also known as the Early Stone Age, is currently believed to have lasted from between about 2.7 million to 200,000 years ago. It is the first archaeology, that is to say, that period when the first evidence of what scientists consider human behaviors occurred. The Lower Paleolithic begins when the first known stone tool manufacture occurred, about 2.7 million years ago, called the Oldowan tradition. The earliest stone tools have been discovered at Gona and Bouri in Ethiopia, and (a little later) Lokalalei in Kenya.

The Lower Paleolithic saw the rise of Hominin ancestors of human beings, including Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Homo ergaster.

Stone tools of the Paleolithic include Acheulean handaxes and cleavers; these suggest that most humans of the period were scavengers rather than hunters. Lower Paleolithic sites are also characterized by the presence of extinct animal types dated to the Early or Middle Pleistocene. Evidence seems to suggest that the controlled use of fire was figured out sometime during the LP.

The end of the LP is debatable, and some scholars just consider the period one long sequence, and refer to it as the 'Earlier Paleolithic'. I picked 200,000 rather arbitrarily, but it is about the point when Mousterian technologies take over as the tool of choice.


4.4-2.2 million years ago. Australopithecus was small and gracile, with an average brain size of 440 cubic centimeters. They were scavengers, and were the first to walk on two legs.

Homo erectus

ca. 1.8 million to 250,000 years ago. First early human to find its way out of Africa. H. erectus was both heavier and taller than Australopithecus, and a more efficient walker, with an average brain size of about 820 cc. They were the first human with a projecting nose, and their skulls were long and low with large brow ridges.

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