The Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age, is an archaeological term used to describe specific groups of cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic Periods. While the start and end dates of the Mesolithic Period vary by geographical region, we can date it approximately 10,000 BCE – 8,000 BCE.
The Paleolithic was an age of purely hunting and gathering, but toward the Mesolithic period the development of agriculture contributed to the rise of permanent settlements. The later Neolithic period is distringuished by the domestication of plants and animals. Some Mesolithic people continued with intensive hunting, while at the same time others were practicing the initial stages of domestication. Some Mesolithic settlements were villages of huts and others walled cities. The type of tool remains the diagnostic factor. The Mesolithic featured composite devices manufactured with Mode V chipped stone tools—small stone tools called microliths and retouched bladelets . The Paleolithic had utilized more primitive stone treatments, and the Neolithic mainly abandoned the modes in favor of polished, not chipped, stone tools.
Art from this period responds to the changing weather conditions to a warmer climate and adaption to sedentism, population size, and use of plant foods—all evidence of the transition to agriculture and eventually the Neolithic. Still, food was not available everywhere forcing Mesolithic populations to become migrating hunters and to still settle in rock shelters. However, it is difficult to find a unique type of artistic production during the Mesolithic. Man most likely continued the art forms developed during the Upper Paleolithic (latest period of the Paleolithic). These include cave paintings and engravings, small sculptural artifacts, and early architecture.
The native Mesolithic populations were slow in gradually assimilating the agricultural way of life, beginning with just the use of ceramics. It took a thousand years into the Neolithic period before they adopted animal husbandry (which became especially important to them) and plant cultivation to any appreciable degree. When they eventually developed interest in the more fertile areas utilized by the late Danubian cultures, they became the threat that compelled the Danubian farmers to fortify their settlements.
Findings from Archeological Excavations
Excavation of some Megalithic monuments (in Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, and France) has revealed evidence of ritual activity, sometimes involving architecture, during the Mesolithic. However, in some cases, the megalith monument is so far removed in time from their successors that continuity is unlikely. In other cases, the early dates, or the exact character of activity, are controversial.
In North-Eastern Europe, Siberia, and certain southern European and North African sites, a "ceramic Mesolithic" can be distinguished between 7,000-3,850 BCE. Russian archaeologists prefer to describe such pottery-making cultures as Neolithic, even though farming is absent. This pottery-making Mesolithic culture can be found peripheral to the sedentary Neolithic cultures. It created a distinctive type of pottery, with point or knob base and flared rims, manufactured by methods not used by the Neolithic farmers. Though each area of Mesolithic ceramic developed an individual style, common features suggest a single point of origin. The earliest manifestation of this type of pottery may be in the region around Lake Baikal in Siberia.