8 Stone Age Facts to Engage Primary Pupils - Full of Trivia for your Lesson Plan
Updated: Oct 5
Here's take a peek of our recent article from Teach Primary Magazine; 8 Stone Age Facts to Engage Primary Pupils.
We were delighted to have our writing featured in Teach Primary Magazine and on the teachwire website.
The Stone Age is a truly fascinating period of human history. In the study of it we can better appreciate the incredible adversity that our ancestors had to overcome in order to survive on a day to day basis. By developing our understanding of our cave loving ancestors, we can better understand ourselves. After all, evolution is a slow process and the aspects of our body, brains and minds that helped us survive until tea time 50,000 years ago, can often prove to be a detriment to the modern city dwelling human today.
Ever wondered why you feel so negative over trying something new? That's your brain helping you to consider the worst case scenario and thus stay alive. Handy for avoiding the sabre tooth tiger hiding in a bush whilst you explore a forest, less handy if you've decided to take up a new hobby and can't understand why the thought of attending a knitting class is making you so nervous.
Despite its fascinations the Stone Age can be a mighty tricky topic to teach, thanks to us having no written sources and no historical characters to build a story around. History is the study and retelling of the stories that humans told each other after all, and when no stories are there it can seem like a vacuum. At first glance the Stone Age can appear to be devoid of history, a large empty span of time in which nothing happened very slowly. Hopefully then this list will help. The Stone Age is crammed full of terrific trivia, here's just the tip of the iceberg. Enjoy!
1 | The three eras
The Stone Age lasted for millions of years, which is a difficult concept for most students to comprehend. It’s best then to separate it into three eras; the Palaeolithic (or Old Stone Age, from approximately 3.4 million BC to 10,000 BC), the Mesolithic (or Middle Stone Age, from 10,000 BC to 6,000 BC) and the Neolithic (or New Stone Age, dating from around 6,000 BC to the beginning of the Bronze Age in the fourth millennium).
2 | First use of stone tools
The Stone Age began when our ancestors first started using stones as a tool to enhance their abilities. The earliest known tools ever discovered have been found in north-western Kenya and date to over three million years old.
3 | Next big thing
Our ancestors took their first giant technological leap with the invention of the axe or hatchet. Developed around 1.2 million years ago, the axe is a device that we still use in the modern world – making it one of the most important inventions of all time. The process of inserting an artefact – a stone or a bone – into a haft, or handle, is called hafting. Stone Age rope was used to ensure the artefact stayed in place.
4 | Stone age rope
Stone Age rope wasn’t made from stone (which would be weird). Instead, plant stems or vines were used. These were braided and twisted together to form a rope. In some cases, nettle stems were utilised, though the picker had to be careful to remove the nettle leaf first. The best technique was to grip the top of the leaf between thumb and forefinger. As long as the edge of the leaf wasn’t touched then there was no risk of receiving a sting.
5 | Stone phone
While must adults can be found cradling a smart phone in their hands, our ancestors had invented a portable communication device that predated the best efforts of Apple by around 20,000 years. The ‘bull roarer’ was a piece of wood (though a stone or bone would suffice) tied to cordage that could be then spun around the user’s head. The low frequency of the sound can be carried for many miles, allowing for long distance communication.
6 | Giant animals
It is the megafauna that can often prove the most fascinating aspect of the Stone Age for students. These giant creatures share similarities with the animals of the modern world, yet on a mind-blowing scale. Some of these animals are well known, such as the woolly mammoth and sabre tooth tiger, whilst others are much more obscure. The procoptodon, or giant kangaroo, is one such example. Standing at over 6ft tall and weighing over 500lbs, this was a kangaroo so enormous it couldn’t hop; it just walked on hooved feet.
7 | Woolly history
Many megafauna went extinct around 10,000 BC. Various reasons are cited, such as the change of climate or environmental disturbances. Yet recent theories point out that wherever humans went, megafauna would go extinct. This could be due to our improved skills as hunters, thanks to the invention of new weapons. The woolly mammoth lasted longer; an isolated population survived on Wrangel Island until 2000 BC – when humans turned up.
8 | Any dinosaurs?
The boring answer is no. Dinosaurs went extinct around 65 million BC. However, birds are directly descended from dinosaurs. More specifically theropods, which means that the humble birds shares an evolutionary link with the mighty tyrannosaurus rex. So dinosaur relatives did exist in the Stone Age, and still do today.
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Further reading from the Imagining History blog: