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Archaeology means the study of ancient times. It is the systematic recovery of material evidence of manís past. Archaeology is usually a subdivision of Anthropology, the study of man. In Geology the most recent geological period is the Quaternary (Age of Man) which is divided into the Pleistocene and Holocene which continues until today. For a good introduction to Archaeology read Invitation to Archaeology by James Deetz. Archaeology has divided the Quaternary period up into ages that reflect the production of different tools.
Paleolithic - Old Stone Age
The oldest is the Paleolithic age which stretches back into the Pleistocene to almost 2 million years ago with the first crude tools. Paleo means "old" and lithic means "stone." Here man made tools, like spears and arrow heads, out of stones. Men were hunters and gatherers. Archaeologists divide the Paleolithic into the lower, middle, and upper periods. The Lower Paleolithic is from about 2 million years ago to about 80,000 BC. The Middle Paleolithic is from 80,000 to 35,000 BC. The Upper Paleolithic is from 35,000 to 10,000 BC where the Holocene epoch starts in geology. During the Paleolithic there are four major glacial advances and retreats.
Mesolithic - Middle Stone Age
Next is the Mesolithic meaning "middle stone" age. This age is about 9,000 BC to 7,000 BC. During this time there is the domestication of animals and crops of wheat and barley.
Neolithic - New Stone Age
Then there is the Neolithic meaning "new stone" age from 7,000 to 6,000 BC. This age marks the beginning of permanent settlements.
Chalcolithic - Copper Stone Age
Then there is the Chalcolithic meaning "copper stone" age. This marks the beginning use of copper. In Mesopotamia "middle of the rivers" (the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) there is the beginning of temples and irrigation, with the Ubaid culture.
In Palestine the next age is the Bronze Age which is divided up into Early Bronze Age from about 3200 to 2200 BC, the Middle Bronze Age from 2100 to 1500 BC, and then the Late Bronze Age from 1500 to 1200 BC.
Next is the Iron Age starting around 1200 BC. History begins with the start of writing about 3200 BC. Let us turn to the oldest civilization, the Sumerians. This continues on the next web page on the history of the Sumerians.