- The oldest stone tools
Tools in the Paleolithic era probably were crafted from a variety of materials such as bark, wood, and bone. However, those that were made out of stone are the only ones that have lasted to our days. Archaeologists have found some stone tools estimated to be 2.5 million years old. These tools are usually theorized to have been used for digging up roots or chopping food products or maybe even used in hunting.
- Hominin footprints
Mary Leakey is credited with excavating the oldest evidence of human ancestors. She found footprints at the Laetoli site in Tanzania that are estimated to have been imprinted about 3 million years ago. The footprints lasted that long because they were placed in the soft mud of a lake and preserved with ash from a volcanic eruption.
- Male and female skeletons
Over the years of Paleolithic excavations, many skeletons have been dug up, and there is an important pattern in which male skeletons were much bigger than females. This has led to various theories of the male-female relationship among human ancestors, usually revolving around men being the primary hunters, while women focusing on family life and gathering plants closer to home.
- Lower Paleolithic hand axes
This chipped stone tool is the most common artifact found from the Lower Paleolithic era. The people in that time period used the tools to kill animals, chop up fruits and vegetables, and dig up roots. Alongside these axes scholars usually find scrapers and chisels made to sharpen the axes.
- Lower Paleolithic caves
Caves are particularly fruitful places to have excavations, and key discoveries have been made at such places. For example, the Zhoukouiden Cave had over 90 species represented in the food supply of the cave’s inhabitants. Meanwhile, a cave in Atapuerca, Spain had over 30 human skeletons in a very deep pit, which may have been a site of a mass burial.
Fossilized human feces are found at some archaeological sites, and are a great help to discover what ancient humans consumed. For example, the coprolites unearthed at Terra Amata, France had plant fragments, as well as fish and shellfish bones nearby.
- Middle Paleolithic flints
Unlike the Lower Paleolithic peoples’ tendency to use pebble cores, people of the Middle Paleolithic era used large, thick flints for the purposes of scraping and cutting. In fact, some tools that are similar to knives have been found in this group of artifacts.
- Neanderthal burials
The first intentional burials of the dead were probably in the Middle Paleolithic period, which allowed for more preserved bodies. One such skeleton was found in Shanidar Cave in Iraq and showed injuries but also a lifespan of at least 40 years. Other skeletons have traces of pollen or red ochre, which may point to some burial ceremonies being carried out by Neanderthals.
- Upper Paleolithic blades
Unlike the flakes that were used in the Middle Paleolithic era, blades were twice as long as their width, which served well for the usage of harpoons and spears. These upgraded weapons are more visible in excavations of this time period.
There is also an explosion of artistic expression in the Upper Paleolithic people. They left behind ivory and clay figurines, as well as engraved pieces of bone. Of course, there are also the famous Lascaux cave paintings, which depict mostly the animals that humans of the time were in closest contact with.