Man’s earliest tools and weapons were those that lay ready to his hand. A branch from a tree served as a spear; a thick stick in his strong arms became a club ; while stones picked up at haphazard were thrown as missiles or used as pounders to crack nuts and crush big marrow bones. Eventually, man discovered that a shaped implement was far more serviceable than an unshaped one, and so he began chipping flints into rude hatchets, knives, spearheads, borers, and the like. Such objects are called palaeoliths (oldstones), and the period when they were produced is therefore known as the Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age.
No slight skill is required to chip a flint along one face or both faces, until it takes a symmetrical form. Practice makes perfect, however, and the Paleolithic Age for the most part shows steady improvement in manufacturing, not only stone implements, but also those of bone, mammoth ivory, and reindeer horn. Many different kinds of implements, adapted to special uses, were gradually produced. In addition to those just mentioned, we find awls, wedges, saws, drills, chisels, barbed harpoons, and even so neat a device as a spear-thrower. Bone and wooden handles were also devised, thus adding immensely to the effectiveness of tools and weapons.
Paleolithic man learned fire-making. Just how, we cannot say. Probably he struck a piece of iron pyrites with a flint and then allowed the sparks to fall into a bed of dry leaves or moss. Some savages still do this, though more often they produce fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together. The discovery of fire made it possible for man to cook food instead of eating it raw, to smoke meats and thus preserve them indefinitely, to protect himself at night against animal enemies, and to make his cave home comfortable. Later, the use of fire enabled him to bake clay into pottery and to smelt metals, but these inventions were not made in Paleolithic times.