Between about 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, the pace of innovation in stone technology began to accelerate very slightly. By the beginning of this time, handaxes were made with exquisite craftsmanship, and eventually gave way to smaller, more diverse toolkits, with an emphasis on flake tools rather than larger core tools. These toolkits were established by at least 285,000 years in some parts of Africa, and by 250,000-200,000 years in Europe and parts of western Asia.
One of the main innovations was the application of ‘prepared core technique,’ in which a core was carefully flaked on one side so that for a flake of predetermined size and shape could be produced in a single blow. This technique probably raised the level of standardization and predictability in stone technology.
Middle Stone Age toolkits included points, which could be hafted on to shafts to make spears. When smaller points were eventually made, they could be attached to smaller, sleeker shafts to make darts, arrows, and other projectile weapons. Stone awls, which could have been used to perforate hides, and scrapers that were useful in preparing hide, wood, and other materials, were also typical tools of the Middle Stone Age.
Here, the term ‘Middle Stone Age’ includes a variety of toolkits from Africa and also the toolkits usually referred to as the Middle Paleolithic in Europe. These toolkits last until at least 50,000 to 28,000 years ago. In Africa, the Middle Stone Age toolkits sometimes include blades and other types of archeological evidence (beads and artifacts that indicate the use of color and symbols) that are typical of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe.
Explore some examples of Middle Stone Age tools.