Stone Age

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The Stone Age for kids learning in KS2 at Primary School. Homework help with the history of the Stone Age, cavemen and stone age tools.

Time: 5 million – 10,000 years ago

When was the stone age?

Over five million years ago lived a group of southern apes in Africa called Hominids. Hominids looked different to us they could walk upright like us but they were much shorter. They also had small brains and ape like faces.

They used to spend a lot of time in the trees so there bodies were adapted to living in trees with long arms and curved fingers and toes to grip the branches. We believe that they started walking upright because the weather changed and a lot of the forests died out so they had to walk further to find food and it was much easier to walk on two feet than four. They could also see far away by standing up to see if any danger was coming.

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When were stone tools first used?

Around two and a half million years ago a new species evolved (changed into something new) from the Hominids to be Homo habilis. They had a bigger brain and they were more skilled. They made their own tools using thin flakes of stone for cutting and larger stones for smashing hard objects. They used long thin stones called hammer stones to chip off flakes of stone from the bigger stones. Wooden sticks were sharpened into a sharp point so they could dig up roots to eat.

The Homo habilis used their tools to cut meat from dead animals they could find. Because these early men started to eat meat meant that they didn’t have to stay close to plants and fruit and could travel further. It also gave them more energy and helped their brains grow bigger.

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When was fire discovered?

A million years ago Hominids evolved again because of their bigger brains into Homo erectus which means ‘upright man’ in Latin. Homo erectus discovered fire. To start with they probably waited until lighting caught grass alight then used branches to transfer the fire.

Fire changed their lives. They discovered that meat tasted better and was easier to eat when it was cooked. Their teeth and jaws then changed to be smaller as they didn’t need to chew the meat so much. As they ate more meat their brains became bigger and their bodies were taller and stronger.

Fire was also used to help create new tools. By heating the stone they found that they could shape them more easily. They could keep safe by scaring away dangerous animals with the flames. They could keep themselves warm too. Until now they would sleep at night as there was no way of lighting the dark, but now they had fire they could stay awake and carry on working at night.

Over time the Homo erectus travelled from Africa to other countries such as China and to Europe to France and Spain. As the population was growing they had to move to find more food which led them to new places.

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What was life like during the Stone Age?

Around two-hundred thousand years ago Homo erectus evolved to become Homo sapiens which means ‘wise man’ in Latin. They had bigger brains again and big strong muscular bodies and a ridge of bone above their eyes.

The Neanderthal people were an early type of Homo sapiens that appeared in Europe and western Asia during an ice age. It was hard to find plants to eat during the ice age so they had to strip meat from dead animals like horses and reindeer. Mammoths and rhinos were too dangerous to go near so the early men used to scare them away with fire. Sometimes they would scare them to the edge of a cliff where they would fall to their death. The Neanderthals could then take their meat.

It was very cold during the ice age so they made basic clothes from the skins of animals. They would shelter in caves to keep warm or make shelters from branches in the open. These men were also good at making better tools for hunting, cutting food and making other tools.

The Neanderthals where clever and worked as families. Hunting was very dangerous and often they would get hurt. The others would then care for them as some would never be able to hunt again. They were also the first to bury their dead. They would dig a hole with their sharpened sticks and lay the body inside. They believed in the after-life so they would bury horns, stone tools and pollen from flowers to help the dead in their next life.

It is believed that the Neanderthals were the first to start talking. It would only be simple words and had gestures to organise each other and warn each other of any dangers.

The Neanderthals began to die out 40,000 years ago. A new type of people who were good a hunting drove the Neanderthals away and many starved to death. Others became weak and died of illness.

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Evolving to the humans of today

150,000 years ago Home sapiens evolved to become Homo sapiens sapiens. All humans today are evolved from these people and they would have looked a lot like us.

There tools were now more advanced with handles and spears with tied sharp stone ends for blades. Bone was used to make fish hooks.

They would wander from place to place sharing information and trading items. People began to sew clothes and many people believed in spirits or gods possibly to help with hunting and to guide them in the after-life.

At this time the early man was now travelling and spreading all across the world. They would travel by boats made from bamboo stems tied together with thin strips of bamboo.

30,000 years ago tribes of people arrived in Eastern Europe and survived only on the mammoths there using their meat for food and bones to make shelters and skin for warm clothes and to cover their shelters. They used a weapon called a spear-thrower which could be thrown much further than before. This made it possible to hunt these dangerous animals.

How old are the oldest cave paintings?

35,000 years ago man started painting on cave walls with paint made from grinding soft rocks into a paste. They would then use their finger or animal skin to create the paintings.

Paintings were of animals like bison, deer , horses and mammoths. No one is really sure why they started painting in caves, it could have been for meetings or ceremonies.

When was the end of the last ice age?

The last ice age ended 12,000 years ago. The ice melted as the weather became warmer and huge forests began to grow. The mammoths died out and people hunted smaller animals. Tribes grew crops such as wheat and barley and grew their own food as well as living off hunting animals and fishing.

Hunters discovered that if they took baby wolves and looked after them they would become tame and help them with their hunting. They tamed other animals such as sheep, goats and cattle. This meant they always had meat, milk and use of fur and skins.

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