- The Old Stone Age, a chronological period extending from around two million years ago to around ten thousand years ago, depending on the area at issue, and encompassing the rise of early modern humans (Cro-Magnons) in Europe. The European Paleolithic is part of the “three-age system” (of Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age), but these antiquarian classifications are arbitrary at best, suggestive of unifying periods of time, and it is misleading to define peoples by their tool use alone. The period is best known for the so-called origin of art, marked by cave art (most famously in France and Spain, though not restricted to these areas), some of which has been interpreted as derived from altered states of consciousness. Shamanism is often cited, in turn, as the origin of religion. The search for origins, though, must be situated within the Eurocentric concerns of Western discourse and may tell us more about ourselves than the people of the Paleolithic. Indeed, the emphasis on “European Paleolithic” itself is Eurocentric, disrupted by Paleolithic finds—including plausibly shamanistic art—elsewhere in the world.See also Neolithic.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.
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