The uncounted millenniums which lie back of the time when man began to keep written records of what he thought and did and of what befell him are called the Prehistoric Ages. The comparatively few centuries of human life which are made known to us through written records comprise the Historic Age. In the valleys of the Nile and the Euphrates there have been discovered written records which were made at least four or five thousand years before Christ. These, however, have not yet been deciphered. The men who lived before the dawn of history left behind them many things which witness as to what manner of men they were. In ancient gravel beds along the streams where they fished or hunted, in the caves which afforded them shelter in the refuse heaps on the sites of their villages or camping places, or in the graves where they laid away their dead, we find great quantities of tools and weapons and other articles shaped by their hands.
The long period of prehistoric times is divided into different ages which are named from the material which man used in the manufacture of his weapons and tools. The earliest epoch is known as the Old Stone Age. The following one is known as the New Stone Age. In the Old Stone Age man’s implements were usually made of stone, and particularly of easily chipped flints, though sometimes bones, horns, tusks, and other material were used in their manufacture. The man of the Old Stone Age saw that he retreating glaciers of the last great ice age, of which geology tells us. He was a hunter and fisher. His habitation was a cave or a rock shelter. His implements were in the main roughly shaped flints. He had no domestic animals save possibly the dog and the reindeer. He was practically ignorant of the art of making pottery.
He had no belief in a future life. Before the end of the age man had learned the use of fire and had invented the bow and arrow. This important invention gave man what was to be one of his chief weapons in the chase and in war down to and even after the invention of firearms late in the historic age. The Old Stone Age was followed by the New. Chipped or hammered stone implements still continued to be used, but what characterizes this period was the use of ground or polished implements. Neolithic man was in many respects much advanced over Paleolithic man. He had learned to cultivate the soil. He had learned to make pottery, to spin, and to weave. He had domesticated various wild animals. He built houses and constructed great earthen forts and he buried his dead in such a manner as to show that he had come to believe in a future life.