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Paleolithic Europe, the Lower or Old Stone Age in Europe, encompasses the era from the arrival of the first archaic humans, about 1.4 million years ago until the beginning of the Mesolithic (also Epipaleolithic) around 10,000 years ago. This period thus covers over 99% of the total human presence on the European continent.[1] The early arrival and disappearance of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, the appearance, complete evolution and eventual demise of Homo neanderthalensis and the immigration and successful settlement of Homo sapiens all have taken place during the European Paleolithic.[2]

Overview

The period is divided into:

Paleolithic

Lower Paleolithic : 1.4 mya – 300,000 BP

An artist's rendering of a temporary wood house, based on evidence found at Terra Amata (in Nice, France) and dated to the Lower Paleolithic (c. 400,000 BP)

The oldest evidence of human occupation in Eastern Europe comes from the Kozarnika cave in Bulgaria where a single human tooth and flint artifacts have been dated to at least 1.4 million years ago. In Western Europe at Atapuerca in Spain, human remains have been found that are from 1.2 million years ago.[4][5] Five Homo erectus skulls were discovered at an e

The period is divided into:

Paleolithic

Lower Paleolithic : 1.4 mya – 300,000 BP

Approximate ranges of pre-Neanderthal (H. heidelbergensis) and early Neanderthal (purple) and of classical and late Neanderthal (blue).

Elements of the European and African Homo erectus populations evolved between 800,000 to 400,000 years ago through a series of intermediate speciations towards Homo antecessor and Homo heidelbergensis.[9] Fossils of the species Homo neanderthalensis

The earliest evidence for the use of the more advanced Mode 2-type assemblages Acheulean tools are 900,000 year-old flint hand axes found in Iberia and at a 700,000 year-old site in central France. Notable human fossils from this period were found in Kozarnika in Bulgaria (1.4 mya), at Atapuerca in Spain (1.2 mya), in Mauer in Germany (500k), at Eartham Pit, Boxgrove England (478k), at Swanscombe in England (400k), and Tautavel in France (400k).[7]

The oldest complete hunting weapons ever found anywhere in the world were discovered in 1995 in a coal mine near the town Schöningen, Germany, where the Schöningen spears, eight 380,000-year-old wooden javelins were unearthed.[8]

Elements of the European and African Homo erectus populations evolved between 800,000 to 400,000 years ago through a series of intermediate speciations towards Homo antecessor and Homo heidelbergensis.[9] Fossils of the species Homo neanderthalensis are only to be found in Eurasia.[10][11][12][13] Neanderthal fossil record ranges from Western Europe to the Altai Mountains in Central Asia and the Ural Mountains in the North to the Levant in the South. Unlike its predecessors they were biologically and culturally adapted to survival in cold environments and successfully extended their range to the glacial environments of central Europe and the Russian plains. The great number and in some cases exceptional state of preservation of Neanderthal fossils and cultural assemblages enables researchers to provide a detailed and accurate data on behavior and culture.[14][15] Neanderthals are associated with the Mousterian culture (Mode 3), stone tools that first appeared approximately 160.000 years ago.[16][17]

Experts debate over whether a flute from the Divje Babe I cave is evidence that the Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal inhabitants of Europe may have made and used musical instruments.[18]

Upper Paleolithic : 50,000–10,000 BP

Aurignacian

Experts debate over whether a flute from the Divje Babe I cave is evidence that the Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal inhabitants of Europe may have made and used musical instruments.[18]

Earliest modern human remains dating to 46,000–44,000 years ago have been discovered in the Bacho Kiro cave, located in present day Bulgaria.[19][20] The bearers of most or all Upper Paleolithic technologies were H. sapiens. Some locally developed transitional cultures (Szletian in Central Europe and Chatelperronian in the Southwest) use clearly Upper Paleolithic technologies at very early dates and there are doubts about who were their carriers: H. sapiens, Neanderthal or the interbred population.

Nevertheless, the definitive advance of these technologies is made by the Aurignacian culture. The origins of this culture can be located in what is now Bulgaria (proto-Aurignacian) and Hungary (first full Aurignacian). By 35,000 BCE, the Aurignacian culture and its technology had extended through most of Europe. The last Neanderthals seem to have been forced to retreat during this process to the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula.[21][22]

The first works of art appear during this phase.

Gravettian