The Palaeolithic ('Old Stone Age') makes up the earliest chunk of the Stone Age – the large swathe of time during which hominins used stone to make tools – and ranges from the first known tool use roughly 2,6 million years ago to the end of the last Ice Age c. 12,000 years ago, with part of its stone tool culture continuing up until c. 10,000 years ago in some areas. As such, it corresponds neatly with the timeframe of the geological epoch the Pleistocene, which saw waves of glacials and interglacials sweep across the planet. The term's connotations extend beyond the characteristics of its stone industries, however, as the Palaeolithic is also more generally associated with the cultures and lifestyles of the hunter-gatherers who produced the tools in question.

More about: Paleolithic


  • c. 2600000 BCE - c. 250000 BCE
    Lower- or Early Palaeolithic industry.
  • c. 2600000 BCE
    First known tool use (stone ones) by early hominins, discovered in present-day Ethiopia.
  • c. 400000 BCE
    From around this time, the habitual use of fire by humans becomes visible in the archaeological record.
  • c. 250000 BCE - c. 30000 BCE
    Middle Palaeolithic industry (carried on until c. 30,000 years ago in certain areas, while other populations can already be paired with the Upper Palaeolithic industry from between c. 50,000-40,000 years ago onwards)
  • c. 50000 BCE - c. 10000 BCE
    Upper- or Late Palaeolithic industry (began popping up somewhere between c. 50,000-40,000 years ago)
  • c. 12000 BCE
    End of the most recent Ice Age. End of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene epoch.