Pre-History Collections

We start with Pre-History (this is the period before recorded history or the invention of writing), which is all about the Stone Age (Paleolithic, Neolithic, Copper Age), Bronze Age, and early Iron Age, e.g. through to the appearance of the Etruscans (768-264 BC).

The University of California Museum of Paleontology has a series of education-oriented collections, and partner websites covering evolution, understanding science, the history of life through time, and including a gateway to North American paleontology resources.

Evolution compliments a seven-part, eight-hour television broadcast series, and includes a multimedia library that provides Web access to more than 150 multimedia resources and concepts (checkout this example). Becoming Human is a interactive documentary with video, articles, news and debates in paleoanthropology. There is an introductory video overview of evolution and the Human Lineage Though Time is a simple but effective interactive timeline. BBC Prehistoric Life has put together quite a collection including “Age of the Dinosaurs” and “Human Beginnings”. In this second section the “Ice People” and “The New Batch” are particularly rich. At times there appears to be two BBC Websites on the topic, e.g. Nature Prehistoric Life and Science & Nature: Human Beginnings.

Genographic is a National Geographic Website that has collected more than 742,000 DNA samples in an effort to understand how man evolved and populated the Earth. Essentially it is all about using our individual genetic markers to trace how Homo sapiens emerged from Africa 140,000 years ago and colonised the world (check out the migration routes here).

If you are interested in archaeology then checkout BBC History: Archaeology (with some poetic justice this site is now archived) which has special sections on excavating human remains and the story of carbon dating. You can then go on to Fossil Fragments: The Riddle of Human Origins, of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and explore the history of fossil hunting and fossils themselves (the Timeline of Evolution is worth a visit). Virtually the Ice Age and Ice Age Europe are other EU-based learning resources about our early Ice Age ancestors. Understanding Evolution from Berkeley sees itself as a one-stop source of information on evolution and the science and history of evolutionary biology. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has a series of interesting bio-related lectures concerning evolution, stone tools, hominid paleobiology, fossils, etc. The BBC strikes again with The Story of Africa: Early History which looks at Homo Sapiens in Africa, their switch from hunting to farming, and their tools and culture. Unfortunately the site is not maintained and many of the external links are broken, but the content is still useful. The Talk Origins Archive is a newsgroup site about scholarly evidence concerning the origins of man. Unfortunately the Website came under cyber attack in 2007 and is no longer updated regularly, but the archives still contain some useful and detailed information. Evolution of Modern Humans is all about the biological and cultural evolution of archaic and modern Homo sapiens. archaeologyinfo is a Website about the intersection of human evolution and archaeology, and it has a very interesting timeline of human evolution and an interesting glossary.

Sometimes it is difficult to follow the geological timescale, so perhaps the Web Geological Time Machine can help. This is all about stratigraphy (e.g. the study of rack layers), so the best “academic” place to go is the International Commission of Stratigraphy who have downloadable versions of their International Chronostratigraphic Chart

Turning to pre-historic art, check out Art History Resources on the Web: Prehistoric, which contains a whole collection of links, including to sites on prehistoric art. Just as an example, you can visit The Cave of Lascaux, The Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, the very “average” Cosquer Cave, the Paleolithic Virtual Museum, and the fun Oldest Art: The Top 50. Or you can visit the French “grand sites archéologiques” with its interactive map (naturally in French).