The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric time period during which humans created tools from stone (for lack of better technology). Wood, bones and other materials would also be used, but stone (in particular flint) was shaped for use as cutting tools and weapons. The term is from the three-age system. The Stone Age is now subdivided into Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, which in turn are often further subdivided.
Beginning and end of the Stone Age
The date range of this period is ambiguous, disputed, and variable according to the region in question. While it is possible to speak of a general 'stone age' period for the whole of humanity, some groups never developed metal-smelting technology, so remained in a 'stone age' until they encountered technologically developed cultures. However, in general, it is believed that this period began somewhere between 2 and 5 million years ago, starting with the first human (or pre-human) tool-making.
The Stone Age was usually followed by the Bronze Age, during which metalworking technology allowed bronze tools to become common. In some regions, the Stone Age was followed directly by the Iron Age. The transition out of the Stone Age occurred between 6000 BC and 2500 BC for much of humanity. It is generally believed that the Middle East and southeastern Asian regions progressed past stone age technology around 6000 BC. Europe, and the rest of Asia and Africa became post-Stone Age societies by about 4000 BC. The civilizations of the Americas continued at a Stone Age level until 2500 BC.
As English slang, "Stone Age" can be used to describe a modern civilization or group of people that live in relatively primitive conditions, even though its use is often a blatant misnomer. The phrase "bomb [a region or people] back into the Stone Age" implies a fierce attack that utterly destroys its target's infrastructure and presumably forces its survivors to revert to primitive technology in order to survive.
The American comedy television show The Flintstones, which took place in the strangely advanced Stone Age town of Bedrock and featured primitive versions of modern technology (such as cars and cameras), became one of the most popular cartoons of all time.