History of Greece: The Stone Age

The earliest evidence of habitation comes in the form of a skull that was found in the Petralona Cave in Halikidiki. The cranium has been difficult to date, with some estimates indicating that it is about between 300,000 and 400,000 years old. While questions abound regarding the exact age and the species of the cranium, it has been classified as a hybrid between “Homo Erectus, the first hominid to migrate out Africa, and Homo Neanderthalensis, the early human that dominated Europe and the Near East before the advent of our own species. (Runnels & Murray, 15)

The earliest evidence of burials and commerse in the Aegean which have been dated to 7250 BCE were unearthed in Franchthi cave in the Argolid. A wealth of stone tools found in sites in Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, and the Peloponnesse reveal the existence of flourishing Paleolithic and Mesolithic communities in the Greek mainland. The Neolithic settlements of Sesklo (c. 7000 - 3200 BCE) and Dimini (c. 4800 – 4500 BCE) in Thessaly exhibit early evidence sophisticated social organization, fortifications, and construction of pottery art and “megaron” houses.

While the Mycenaean is considered the first “Hellenic” civilization, the various settlements testify that the territory that defines modern Greece was a hub of cultural activity since the Stone Age. Several Paleolithic open air sites have been unearthed in Epirus, Macedonia and Peloponnese, but the Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements found are much more numerous. The settlements of Dimini and Sesklo show that that stone age peoples of Greece had reached a high level of development by 3000 BCE with advanced economies and complex social structure.

Next: The Bronze Age