Historians have divided the long period of human prehistory into different ages. They call the earliest period of human history the Old Stone Age, or Paleolithic Period. This long period dates from the time that the ancestors of early humans began to make tools—about 2 million years ago—up to about 12,000 years ago. Historians have identified a second period as the New Stone Age, or Neolithic Period. This age began about 12,000 years ago and ended with the development of writing about 5,000 years ago.
Scholars believe that Stone Age hunters followed animal herds across a land bridge that once connected Asia and North America.
During both periods, people made and used stone tools. During the New Stone Age, however, people in some parts of the world developed new skills and technologies that led to dramatic changes in their ways of life.
Over tens of thousands of years, people developed various skills that affected daily life. Recent discoveries offer evidence that the ancestors of modern humans may have used fire as early as one million years ago. Learning to control fire was a huge advance, allowing early humans to cook food, keep animals away at night, and stay warm.
Slowly, scholars and scientists have pieced together evidence to suggest how early people lived. Paleolithic people were nomads, or people who move from place to place in search of food. The evidence shows that early people lived in small hunting and food-gathering bands, numbering about 20 or 30 people.
In general, men hunted or fished. Women and children gathered berries, fruits, nuts, wild grains, roots, or even shellfish. This food kept the band alive when game animals were scarce.