TRACES OF EARLY MAN
WE MAY now turn our attention to the task of interpreting the life and times of prehistoric man in so far as this is possible. This interpretation must rest primarily upon the skeletal and cultural remains of primitive man as these occur in orderly sequence in the paleontological record. The earlier stages of this phase of human evolution will be discussed in the present chapter, while the later stages leading to the beginnings of the historical period will be reserved for the following chapter. The first clear traces of human existence so far discovered belong to the Eolithic, or Dawn Stone culture of the late Pliocene epoch. On the basis of this direct evidence, the human record can be extended backward approximately one and one-half million years, according to the present reckoning of geologic time. This means, of course, that the paleontological record of primitive man stops far short of the point at which human status was actually attained by the evolving pro-human stock. As might be expected, several developments of a most important nature occurred during the period covered by this gap in the human record as at present deciphered. In general, these relate to the time and place of man's emergence, the gradual dispersion of mankind over the earth, and the diversification of the early human stock into a number of generic types. Certain problems associated with these prior events will be discussed in the present section before passing to the survey of later human developments as recorded in the rocks.