Today’s people belong to the species Homo sapiens (= rational human), which is the only species of the genus Homo that still exists today. Anatomically modern humans have their origin in Africa ca. 200,000 years ago. From here they spread and settled the whole world (also known as the so-called “Out of Africa II model”, in addition to “Out of Africa I”, which describes the spread of the earlier human species Homo erectus, the upright walking human, from Africa ca. one million years ago). When anatomically modern humans came to Europe over 40,000 years ago, they gradually replaced → Neanderthals.
The term Aurignacian is a French word and is derived from the archaeological site in the town of Aurignac in the district of Haute-Garonne. It signifies an “archaeological culture“, i.e. an ensemble of characteristic artefacts of a distinct time period that appears in numerous find assemblages from different sites. The Aurignacian belongs to the beginning of the → Upper Palaeolithic.
The word chronology is a Greek term and means the science of time. In archaeology it stands for the temporal sequence (the so-called relative chronology) as well as the exact temporal position with a date (the so-called absolute chronology) of cultures, events or layers and features at excavations.
During the → Pleistocene (= Ice Age) there was an alternation of warm and cold stages. The term glacial indicates – in contrast to an → interglacial – a cold stage during the Pleistocene. Glaciers expanded and even in moderate regions like central Europe the climatic and environmental conditions were (sub)arctic. Glacials could last for several hundred thousand years and are divided into → stadials and → interstadials.
The Holocene is the youngest stage of earth history. It began ca. 11,700 years ago with the end of the → Pleistocene. Derived from Greek, this term denotes the “entirely recent“ era in earth history. The Holocene is the warm stage in which we live today.
During the → Pleistocene (= Ice Age) there was an alternation of warm and cold stages. The term interglacial indicates – in contrast to a → glacial – a warm stage during the Pleistocene. Glaciers retreated and in moderate regions like central Europe the climatic and environmental conditions could be even milder than today. Interglacials could last for several ten thousand years.
Interstadials are warm phases during a → glacial and in between the cold stages (→ stadials) of a glacial.
The Jura is an epoch of earth history. It began ca. 200 million years ago and ended ca. 145 million years ago.
Jurassic chert is a fine grained rock which formed in limestone during the → Jura. It is simmilar to the rock commonly known as (cretacious) flintstone.
The → Palaeolithic (= Old Stone Age) is divided into an older, a middle and a younger stage. The middle Old Stone Age is called Middle Palaeolithic. In Europe, it lasted from ca. 250,000 to ca. 30,000 years ago (with regional differences). During the Middle Palaeolithic Europe was settled by → Neanderthals.
Neanderthals are a human species of the genus Homo. The name derives from the site of the first discovery of skeletal remains in the Neander Valley in the district of Mettmann east of Düsseldorf. The Latin term is Homo neanderthalensis. Neanderthals evolved in Europe from the species Homo heidelbergensis. Early Neanderthals probably evolved as early as 250,000 years ago. After the spread of → anatomically modern humans over 40,000 ago they retreated gradually (refuges were, for example, on the Iberian Peninsula and in Crimea). They became extinct in a time between ca. 35,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Palaeontology is the science of life in past epochs of earth history. Its sources are mostly fossils. In contrast to archaeology, palaeontology does not examine the material remains of (pre)historic humans.
The Pleistocene is a stage in the younger history of earth. It lasted from ca. 2.6 million years to ca. 12,000 years ago, which marks the beginning of the → Holocene. Derived from Greek, this term denotes the „most recent“ era in earth history. The Pleistocene is often used as a synonym for “Ice Age”, although it actually only denotes the youngest part of the current (so-called Cenozoic) Ice Age. The Pleistocene is characterised by a constant alternation of → glacials and → interglacials.
The term Palaeolithic comes from Greek and means Old Stone Age. It denotes the oldest stage in human history which began ca. 2.5 million years ago with the first appearance of humans as creative, cultural beings (in Africa). It ended (with regional differences) ca. 10,000 years ago.
Stadials are cold stages during a → glacial. They are usually linked with the expansion of glaciers.
The → Palaeolithic (= Old Stone Age) is divided into an older, a middle and a younger stage. The younger Old Stone age is called Upper Palaeolithic. In Europe, it lasted from ca. 43,000 to ca. 12,000 years ago. During the Upper Palaeolithic → anatomically modern humans dispersed in Europe.