Three-age system

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The three-age system is the periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive time periods, named for their respective tool-making technologies:

The system is most apt in describing the progression of European and Mediterranean societies, although it has been used to describe other histories as well. The system has been criticised for being too technologically determinist.

Contents

Origin

Its formal introduction is attributed to the Danish archaeologist Christian J├╝rgensen Thomsen in the 1820s in order to classify artifacts in the collection which later became the National Museum of Denmark. Thomsen was not the first to use tool-making materials as a basis for classifying prehistoric cultures; the French antiquary Nicholas Mahudel had proposed a similar system in the early eighteenth century and the idea gathered supporters in the intervening hundred years. Such a system was revolutionary and a vast improvement on the disorganised nature of previous prehistoric archaeology.[1]

Stone Age subdivisions

In 1865 the Stone Age in Eurasia was first divided into the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic after John Lubbock's use of the terms in his book, Prehistoric Times. Further subdivisions have since been introduced to divide all the ages into early, mid mesolithic or late (or lower, middle and upper in the case of the Palaeolithic) sections. Amongst African archaeologists, the terms Old Stone Age, Middle Stone Age and Late Stone Age are preferred. In some cultures, archaeological evidence has made it necessary to add a Copper Age, or Chalcolithic period, between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. (The term Megalithic does not refer to a period of time, but merely describes the use of large stones by ancient peoples from any period.)

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