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Prehistoric Archaeology


Bone and Ivory Artifacts from the Kostenki Site

An assemblage of bone and ivory artifacts from the lowest layer at Kostenki that includes a perforated shell, a probable small human figurine (three views, top center) and several assorted awls, mattocks and bone points dating to about 45,000 years a

Colorado University at Boulder (c) 2007

Prehistoric archaeology is one of those chewy definitions that not everybody agrees on. Mostly, as compared to historical archaeology, prehistoric archaeology refers to the archaeological remains of cultures that are primarily pre-urban and so, by definition don't have contemporary economic and social records that can be consulted. The time depth varies across the planet; and some archaeologists consider any culture untouched by European colonization as prehistoric--but in a good way.

Thus, although there might be disagreements about the latter part of human history, scholars would agree that prehistory includes the Stone Age (also known as the Paleolithic period), hunter-gatherers, and the first farming communities.

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com Guide to the Subdisciplines of Archaeology, and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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