Prehistorical France (between 43000 BC – 701 BC)

Stone tools point to presence of early humans in France at least 1.57 million years ago. Simple stone tools found at Grotte du Vallonnet near Menton date back to 1 million to 1.05 million years BC. Cave sites were extensively exploited for habitation, but Palaeolithic era hunter-gatherers also possibly built shelters such as those identified in connection with Acheulean tools at Grotte du Lazaret and Terra Amata close to Nice in France. Traces of the earliest known domestication of fire in Europe was found in excavations at Terra Amata, from 400,000 BC.

The earliest human species to inhabit Europe, the Neanderthals, are believed to have arrived there around 300,000 BC, but perhaps died out by about 30,000 BC, apparently unable to compete with modern humans during a period of cold weather. Cro-Magnons, the earliest modern humans, were inhabiting Europe by 43,000 years ago during an extended interglacial period of particularly mild climate, when Europe was comparatively warm, and food was abundant. They brought with them sculpture, painting, engraving, music, body ornamentation and the painstaking decoration of utilitarian objects, when they arrived in Europe. Some of the earliest works of art in the world, such as Lascaux cave paintings are datable to shortly after this migration.

The Neolithic Age

The Neolithic period in northern Europe was around 3,000 years long between 4500 BC and 1700 BC. So-called Neolithic Revolution characterises it. Adoption of agriculture, tools and pottery development, and the growth of larger, more complex settlements were indicators of Neolithic revolution. Basic characteristics, such as staying in small-scale family-based communities, producing hand-made pottery, and subsisting on domestic plants and animals augmented with the gathering of wild plant foods and with hunting was shared by many European Neolithic groups. French Archaeological sites have yielded artefacts from the Linear Pottery culture (c. 5500-4500 BC), the Rössen culture (c. 4500—4000 BC), and the Chasséen culture (4,500 – 3,500 BC). Chasséen culture was late Neolithic pre-Beaker culture that had spread all over the plains and plateaux of France, including the upper Loire valleys.

Megalithic (large stone) monuments, such as the dolmens, stone circles, menhirs and chamber tombs, found across France, the largest selection of which are in the Auvergne and Brittany regions are most likely from Neolithic age. The most famed among these are the Carnac stones (c. 3300 BC, but might date back as early as 4500 BC) and the stones at Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens.

The Bronze Age

The earliest Bronze Age archaeological cultures in France include the transitional Beaker culture (c. 2800–1900 BC), the Tumulus culture (c. 1600-1200 BC) and Urnfield culture (c. 1300-800 BC). Brittany Bronze Age sites are supposed to have grown out of Beaker roots, with some Unetice culture and Wessex culture influence. Many scholars believe that the Urnfield culture ancestral culture of Celts.

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