The Old Stone Age (or Paleolithic) is a very long period that dates from the first evidence that humans used stone tools they made themselves (about 3.3 million years ago) to approximately 11,700 BC. During this period earlier humans, called hominins, evolved into the erect homo sapiens that humans are today. The period is marked by human control of fire, advances in tool technology, the development of art, human burial of the dead, and early religious ritual. However, despite evolution and technological advances, human life changed very slowly during this time.
No metals were yet used in constructing tools or implements, but tool construction continued to be refined. For example, the first hand ax was developed about 700,000 BC. In other places, strips or flakes of flint were fashioned into tools.
Art and religion developed in this period. Around 50,000 BC, an increase in art objects begin to appear, from carved wooden figures to cave paintings. During the Paleolithic era, humans also began to bury their dead.
During this long period, humans were hunter gatherers and largely nomadic. Agriculture, which is the cultivating of crops and the domesticating of animals, had not yet occurred. Because it was difficult to accumulate food surpluses, human populations tended to remain small, mobile (following the food), and were likely undifferentiated into social classes. Humans lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild nuts and berries.
Humans survived several ice ages or cooler periods on the earth during this time, with the end of the last one coinciding with the end of the Old Stone Age. After this period, much changed, and humans entered a period of explosive advancement and growth.