Definition of Paleolithic in US English:



  • 1Relating to or denoting the early phase of the Stone Age, lasting about 2.5 million years, when primitive stone implements were used.

    The Paleolithic period extends from the first appearance of artifacts to the end of the last ice age (about 8,500 years ago). The period has been divided into the Lower Paleolithic, with the earliest forms of humankind and the emergence of hand-ax industries (ending about 120,000 years ago), the Middle Paleolithic, the era of Neanderthal humans (ending about 35,000 years ago), and the Upper Paleolithic, during which only modern Homo sapiens is known to have existed

    Compare with Mesolithic, Neolithic
    • ‘Although climate changes in Palaeolithic times 25,000 years ago began to lead to desertification, there were still summer rains in the Neolithic era.’
    • ‘The cave at Lascaux contains Palaeolithic drawings and paintings and is generally held to be the finest example of prehistoric art.’
    • ‘Evolutionists have devised an elaborate classification system for stone tools ranging from the most primitive early Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to the youngest, exquisitely crafted tools.’
    • ‘Few traces exist of the settlements of the earliest Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in Southern France.’
    • ‘Like this one, Hosfield's Paleolithic study used stone tools as observation units.’
    • ‘This would mean that a number of groups of people using early Paleolithic stone tools entered the New World at the same time as the Clovis people.’
    • ‘Although I am a Palaeolithic archaeologist now, my interests were largely Roman at the time.’
    • ‘Permanent settlements were established in early Paleolithic times.’
    • ‘Human experience on the territory of present-day Russia dates back to Paleolithic times.’
    • ‘In Paleolithic times it was home to Stone Age hunters, who occupied the caves and left their art behind them.’
    1. 1.1as noun the Paleolithic The Paleolithic period.
      Also called Old Stone Age


Mid 19th century: from paleo- + Greek lithos ‘stone’ + -ic.