How did Stone Age hunter-gatherers live?

Stone Age hunter-gatherers had to catch or find everything they ate. They moved from place to place in search of food.

Early Stone Age people hunted with sharpened sticks. Later, they used bows and arrows and spears tipped with flint or bone. People gathered nuts and fruits and dug up roots. They went fishing using nets and harpoons.

Stone Age people cut up their food with sharpened stones and cooked it on a fire. They used animal skins to make clothes and shelters. After a good day’s hunting people could feast on meat. But the next day they had to start finding food again!

In the early Stone Age, people made simple hand-axes out of stones. They made hammers from bones or antlers and they sharpened sticks to use as hunting spears.

Watch the video to see how these were made.

Raksha Dave finds out how our ancient ancestors made tools and weapons from flint.

What animals lived in prehistoric Britain?

Climate change during the Stone Age caused animal life in Britain to go through several changes.

During the Ice Ages, Britain was covered by ice and snow. Herds of mammoths, reindeer and woolly rhinoceroses roamed across the snow and brown bears sheltered in caves.

In the warm periods between the Ice Ages, Britain became as hot as Africa is today! Elephants, hippos, rhinos and hyenas all moved north through Europe to live in Britain.

The last Ice Age ended around 15,000 years ago and the British climate became very similar to how it is today. The forests were full of foxes and red squirrels. Wolves and bears lived in the hills.

Britain was home to most of the species of birds, fish and shellfish we have today, so people had a wide range of food to eat.

A hunter and a wooly mammoth
During the Ice Ages, prehistoric people hunted hairy mammoths in Britain.

What kind of art did hunter-gatherers make?

Stone Age Britons made necklaces and bracelets from tusks, bones and shells. They also drew patterns on their bodies, using a kind of paint made from ochre (a type of red clay).

People living in caves decorated their walls with pictures of animals. Carvings found on cave walls show giant bulls, stags, horses, bison and birds.

No cave paintings have been found in Britain, but Stone Age Britons probably painted scenes like the ones found at Lascaux in France. The Lascaux cave paintings were created around 14,000 years ago. They show animals as well as some human hunters.

Some historians believe that Stone Age paintings had a religious meaning. They think the painted animals were meant to represent powerful spirits.

An engraved antler bone, depicting a horse, found in the Magdalenian, Robin Hood Cave
This work of art was found in a cave at Cresswell Crags, Derbyshire. It was made around 12,000 years ago. The Stone Age artist used a sharp stone to scratch the outline of a horse onto a piece of bone.

Explore this picture to find out about Grey Otter, an imaginary Stone Age boy. Details about his way of life are based on evidence found at a camp in Star Carr in Yorkshire.

Explore the image below to find out what footprints, bones and tools can tell us about prehistoric people.

Prehistoric family living in cave
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Prehistoric Britain, there's more to learn...