|The Stone Age|
|? before Homo (Pliocene)|
In archaeology, the Epipaleolithic is the final period of the Upper Palaeolithic, occurring at the end of the last glacial period, and leading without interruption into the Mesolithic. The period is generally dated from c. 20,000 BP to c. 10,500 BP, having emerged from the Palaeolithic era.
The term is sometimes used synonymous with Mesolithic. When a distinction is made, Epipaleolithic stresses the continuity with the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic as it is understood today, whilst Protoneolithic stresses a subsequent transition to the Neolithic. Alfonso Moure says in this respect:
In the language of Prehistorical Archaeology, the most extended trend is to use the term "Epipaleolithic" for the industrial complexes of the post-glacial hunter-gatherer groups. Inversely, those that are in transitional ways towards artificial production of food are inscribed in the "Mesolithic".
Some authors[who?] reserve the term Mesolithic for the cultures of Europe, where the extinction of the megafauna had a great impact on the Paleolithic populations at the end of the Ice Age, from c. 8000 BCE until the advent of the Neolithic (Sauveterrian, Tardenoisian, Maglemosian, etc.).
The Epipaleolithic is best understood when discussing the southern Levant, as the period is well documented due to good preservation at the site. The most prevalent animal food sources in the Levant during this period were:
These were most likely the main food sources throughout the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period. Of these animals, it is likely that only the equids were migrational.
The Scandinavian Ice Sheet itself started to retreat northward about 8300 bce, and the period between then and the origins of agriculture (at various times in the 7th to 4th millennia, depending on location) was one of great environmental and cultural change. It is termed the Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age) to emphasize its transitional importance, but the alternative term Epipaleolithic, used mostly in eastern Europe, stresses the continuity with processes begun earlier.