List of archaeological periods

The names for archaeological periods in the list of archaeological periods vary enormously from region to region. This is a list of the main divisions by continent and region. Dating also varies considerably and those given are broad approximations across wide areas.

The three-age system has been used in many areas, referring to the prehistorical and historical periods identified by tool manufacture and use, of Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. Since these ages are distinguished by the development of technology, it is natural that the dates to which these refer vary in different parts of the world. In many regions, the term Stone Age is no longer used, as it has been replaced by more specific geological periods. For some regions, there is need for an intermediate Chalcolithic period between the Stone Age and Bronze Age. For cultures where indigenous metal tools were in less widespread use, other classifications, such as the lithic stage, archaic stage and formative stage refer to the development of other types of technology and social organization.

Historical periods denotes periods of human development with the advantage of the development of writing. Written records tend to provide more socio-political insight into the dominant nations, and hence allow categorization according to the ruling empires and cultures, such as Hellenistic, Roman, Viking. Inevitably these definitions of periods only relate to the region of that empire or culture.

The Industrial Age or Modern era is generally taken to refer to post-1800. From this time, the industrial revolution which began in Western Europe resulted in global trade and greatly increased cultural exchange.

Archaeological period articles – by continent and region

Continents Regions Periods articles Major periods
Africa North Africa North Africa Paleolithic

Neolithic c. 7500 BCE
Iron Age

Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa Earlier Stone Age

Middle Stone Age
Later Stone Age
Neolithic c. 4000 BCE
Bronze Age (3500 – 600 BCE)
Iron Age (550 BC – 700 CE)
Classic Middle Ages (c. 700 – 1700 CE)

Asia Near East Levantine Stone Age (2,000,000 – 3300 BCE)

Bronze Age (3300 – 1200 BCE)
Iron Age (1200 – 586 BCE)
Historical periods (586 BCE – present)

South Asia South Asian Periods 1) Paleolithic (c.53000 – 10000 BCE).

2) Mesolithic (c.10000 – 6500 BCE).
3) Neolithic (c. 6500 – 4000 BCE, up to c.2000 BC in some areas) see Mehrgarh and Bhirrana.
4) Chalcolithic (c. 4000 – 2000 BCE).
5) Bronze Age (c. 3100 – 1100 BCE) see Indus Valley civilization.
6) Iron Age (c. 1100 - 500 BCE).
i) Proto-history (c.1500 - 500 BCE) known as Vedic period.
ii) Historical period after 500 BCE.

East Asia East Asia Periods Neolithic c. 7500 BCE Pengtoushan culture
North Asia North Asia Periods
Korea Korean Periods Paleolithic c. 40,000/30,000 – c. 8000 BCE

Jeulmun pottery period c. 8000 – 1500 BCE
Mumun pottery period c. 1500 – 300 BCE
Protohistoric period c. 300 BCE – 300/400 CE
Three Kingdoms of Korea c. 300/400 – 668 CE

Japan Japan Periods Paleolithic c. 35,000 – c. 10,000 BCE

Jōmon period c. 10,000 – 300 BCE
Yayoi period c. 300 BCE – 250 CE
Yamato period c. 250 – 710 CE

China China Periods Paleolithic c. 1.36 million years ago

Neolithic period c. 10,000 – 2100 BCE
Ancient China c. 2100 – 221 BCE
Imperial period c. 221 BCE – 1911 CE
Modern period

Americas North America North America Lithic/Paleo-Indian (pre 8000 BCE)

Archaic (c. 8000 – 1000 BCE)
Woodland (1000 BCE to 1000 CE)
Mississippian (800 CE to 1600 CE)

Mesoamerica Mesoamerica Lithic/Paleo-Indian (pre 8000 BCE)

Archaic (c. 8000 – 1000 BCE)
Formative (c. 1000 BCE – 250 CE)
Classic (250 – 900 CE)
Post-Classic (900 – 1515)

South America South America
Lithic/Paleo-Indian (pre c. 8200 BCE)

Archaic (c. 8200 – 1000 BCE)
Formative (c. 1000 BCE – 500 CE)
Classic (c. 500 – 1200 CE)
Post-Classic (c. 1200 – 1900 CE)

Australasia Australia Australia Indigenous Period (60,000 BCE – 1606 CE)

European-Contact Pre-Settlement Period (1606 – 1788 CE)
Settlement / Pre-Industrial Period (1788 – 1820 CE)
Industrial/Modern (1820s – Present)
NB Australian archaeology is often simply classified as Pre-historic before European settlement (prior to 1788), and Historic (post-1788) but this is contentious as it implies indigenous Australians had no history, despite having a strong oral tradition.

New Zealand New Zealand Archaic period (1000 – 1350/1650 CE)

Classic period (1350 – 1800; 1650 – 1800 in eastern South Island)

Oceania Oceania
Europe Northern Europe Northern Europe Nordic Stone Age

Nordic Bronze Age (c. 1700 BCE - c. 500 BCE)
Pre-Roman Iron Age (c. 500 BCE - c. 1 BCE)
Roman Iron Age in northern Europe (c. 1 CE – 400 CE)
Germanic Iron Age (c. 400 – 800 CE)
Viking Age (c. 800 – 1066 CE)
Medieval period (1066 – c. 1500)
Post-medieval period (c. 1500 – c. 1800)

Western Europe Western Europe Paleolithic (pre c. 8800 BCE)

Mesolithic (c. 8800 – 4900 BCE)
Neolithic (c. 4900 – 2000 BCE)
Bronze Age (c. 2000 – 800 BCE)
Iron Age (c. late 11th century BCE – 1 BCE)
Roman (c. 56 BCE – 400 CE)
Early medieval period (c. 400 – 800 CE)
Medieval period (800 – c. 1500)
Post-medieval period (c. 1500 – c. 1800)

Southeastern Europe Southeastern Europe Paleolithic

Bronze Age
Iron Age
Byzantine period
Ottoman Empire

See also

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