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[pey-lee-uh-lith-ik or, esp. British, pal-ee-] /ˌpeɪ li əˈlɪθ ɪk or, esp. British, ˌpæl i-/
(sometimes lowercase) Anthropology. of, relating to, or characteristic of the cultures of the late Pliocene and the Pleistocene epochs, or early phase of the Stone Age, which appeared first in Africa and are marked by the steady development of stone tools and later antler and bone artifacts, engravings on bone and stone, sculpted figures, and paintings and engravings on the walls of caves and rock-shelters: usually divided into three periods (Lower Paleolithic, c2,000,000–c200,000 b.c., Middle Paleolithic, c150,000–c40,000 b.c., Upper Paleolithic, c40,000–c10,000 b.c.)
Origin of Paleolithic
First recorded in 1860-65; paleo- + -lithic
Related forms
prepaleolithic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for Paleolithic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Paleolithic implements have also been found in Palestine and in India.

    The Prehistoric World E. A. Allen
  • The probable data for the Paleolithic Age have formed the subject of this chapter.

    The Prehistoric World E. A. Allen
  • We may consider it proven, then, that in this country there was also a Paleolithic Age.

    The Prehistoric World E. A. Allen
  • We are just on the threshold of discoveries in regard to the Paleolithic Age in this country.

    The Prehistoric World E. A. Allen
  • The axe of Paleolithic time had had nearly the shape of an almond.

  • This is the last time I trust myself to one of these Paleolithic contrivances.

    The War in the Air Herbert George Wells
  • Paleolithic, Neolithic, Technological—I don't even know what time it is.

    The Ego Machine Henry Kuttner
  • This completes our review of the Paleolithic people, and it only remains to present some general conclusions.

    The Prehistoric World E. A. Allen
Word Origin and History for Paleolithic



of or pertaining to the Earlier Stone Age (opposed to neolithic), 1865, coined by John Lubbock, later Baron Avebury (1834-1913), from paleo- + Greek lithos "stone" + -ic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Paleolithic in Science
The cultural period of the Stone Age that began about 2.5 to 2 million years ago, marked by the earliest use of tools made of chipped stone. The Paleolithic Period ended at different times in different parts of the world, generally around 10,000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East. Also called Old Stone Age. ◇ The Lower Paleolithic is by far the longest division of this period, lasting until about 200,000 years ago and characterized by hammerstones and simple core tools such as hand axes and cleavers. The earliest tools belong to the Oldowan tool culture and may have been made by australopithecines as well as by Homo habilis. Later Lower Paleolithic cultures include the Abbevilian, Clactonian, Acheulian, and Levalloisian, associated with early Homo erectus. ◇ The Middle Paleolithic is generally dated to about 40,000 years ago and is associated with archaic Homo sapiens, primarily the Neanderthals and their Mousterian tool culture. The tools produced during this period represent improvements on those of the Lower Paleolithic, especially in flaking techniques, but remain little changed throughout the duration of the period. ◇ The Upper Paleolithic dates to about 10,000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East and is associated with modern Homo sapiens. Various distinctive local tool cultures such as the Aurignacian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian flourished during this relatively brief period, producing a great variety of skillfully flaked tools as well as tools made of bone, antler, wood, and other materials. Compare Mesolithic, Neolithic.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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