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Prehistory is the period of human history prior to the advent of writing (which marks the beginning of recorded history).

Table of contents
1 Eras
2 Age system


Prehistory, more precisely, is the period from which no known written records (including later copies) have been preserved. When did prehistory begin? People disagree. Human prehistory is defined, as presumably it should be, as the pre-literate history of Homo sapiens sapiens then at least the matter can be resolved in principle. The recent pace of progress in understanding the evolution of Homo sapiens suggests in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Some would begin it with the first known tools, c. 2.5 million years ago (Olduway). The first Homo erectus, around 1.5 million years ago is another possibility. Others would begin it around 40,000 BC, with the Cro-Magnons.

The end of prehistory varies according to location in the world. In Egypt, it is generally accepted that prehistory would end around 3500 BC. In New Guinea, it is generally accepted that prehistory would end around 1900. Still earlier periods of time are usually known as geological history.

Age system

Prehistory is often subdivided by a three-age system. This system of classifying human prehistory creates three consecutive time periods, named for their respective predominant tool-making technologies.

Stone Age

The Stone Ages is the time period during which, humans created tools from stone (for lack of better technology). Wood, bones and other materials would also be used, but stone (in particular flint) was shaped for use as cutting tools and weapons. The date range of this period is ambiguous, disputed, and variable according to the region in question. It includes:

Bronze Age

Bronze Age began with the use of copper and/or bronze tools. It is a period in a civilization's development when the most advanced metalworking has developed the techniques of smelting copper from natural outcroppings and alloys it to cast bronze.

Iron Age

The Iron Age is the period in a civilisation's development at which time iron working was the most sophisticated form of metalworking achieved. It began around 1200 BC in Turkey and the Caucasus Mountains. It came later to other areas. It didn't come to Polynesia until the coming of the Europeans, between 1500 and 1750.