The long-lasting Palaeolithic period had seen the
initial stages of habitation in Europe by anatomically modern humans.
Tools and hunting territory had steadily improved and broadened,
albeit with occasional declines due to small periods of ice
By 8000 BC the ice sheet was almost gone, lingering
only in Scandinavia and a few higher points across continental Europe
and the British Isles. Europe's Mesolithic had begun, although dates
for this start are different for other world regions.
Although culturally and technologically continuous
with Palaeolithic cultures, Mesolithic cultures quickly developed
diverse local adaptations for special environments. The Mesolithic
hunter achieved greater levels of efficiency than did their
Palaeolithic ancestors. They were able to exploit a wider range of
animal and vegetable food sources.
From a little after 7000 BC, immigrant Neolithic
farmers probably absorbed many indigenous Mesolithic foragers (hunters
and fishers), and some Neolithic communities seem to have been composed
entirely of Mesolithic peoples who adopted Neolithic equipment (these
are sometimes known as 'Secondary Neolithic').
As the Mesolithic is characterised by a suite of
material culture points, its timing varies by location. In north-western
Europe, for instance, the Mesolithic began around 8000 BC, at the end of
the Pleistocene, and lasted until about 2700 BC. Elsewhere, dates for
the Mesolithic are somewhat different.
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