The Stone ‘Age’—a figment of the imagination?
Ever wonder where the term ‘Stone Age’ came from? It is everywhere—the supposed ‘fact’ that prehistoric humans used stone tools for over two million years before they learned how to find and use metal. Then they began using bronze, and iron only came later.
But the evidence from archaeology is not as clear–cut as you might think.
Christian Thompson, the man who invented the ‘three–age’ system—the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age—was actually a coin collector who was appointed the first head of the Danish National Museum, despite being largely untrained.
His job was to find a classification system that would bring some order to the jumbled human artifacts (tools, weapons, ornaments and so on) piled around the museum.
His successor at the museum, an archaeologist named J.J.A. Worsaae, went looking for evidence of this sequence at dig sites around Europe—beginning with an excavation of burial sites in Ireland, where he found lots of stone, brass and iron tools.
It is commonly claimed that Worsaae found these artefacts in the three layers proposed by his predecessor,1 but in fact, if you check his work, he actually said that you can establish nothing from the tools he dug up directly from the peat moss, because in such a peat bog, the iron, bronze and stone tools are all mixed together.
He also found tombs containing either bronze, stone or iron sets of tools. So why did he conclude that these burials occurred in the three–age sequence? Because the sites with stone implements contained actual bodies, whereas the sites with bronze had only ashes, indicating that the people practised cremation and thus were ‘obviously’ more advanced! Yet even this dubious argument is undermined by the fact that the people who had iron tools apparently went back to burying bodies.
Modern archaeologists now acknowledge that the Stone–Bronze–Iron Age system is not very helpful outside Europe.
One wonders if it is valid anywhere. It appears to be mostly just another instance of dogma about ‘human progress’ that has been imposed on the evidence.
While there has been a sequence to technological innovation, all the basics were well advanced long before Noah’s Flood in the days of Tubal–cain, who ‘forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron’ (Genesis 4:22).
- Worsaae, J.J.A., The Primeval Antiquities of Denmark, transl. by W.J. Thoms, London, John Henry Parker, 1849.
ROBERT NIEMAND is a pen–name used when an article is the product of multiple contributors/writers in such a way as to make it difficult to properly ascribe authorship. (Leaving it unauthored or ‘anonymous’ might erroneously imply an author’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the contents). Return to top