The Palaeolithic economy is characterized by being parasitic, that is, there was no production, since it was limited to activities such as hunting and gathering.
The Paleolithic is a period of prehistory that ranges from the appearance of man to his grouping in the first settlements. During this stage of prehistory, the economy was predatory, its main activities being hunting and gathering. Thanks to these activities, it was possible to respond to needs such as food, clothing, clothing, and the necessary materials to make tools could be obtained.
Regarding hunting, it should be noted that it gained greater importance in the most advanced phases of the Palaeolithic. Initially, the human being dedicated himself to feeding on dead animals, which is what is known as “scavenging”. However, it was necessary to wait for the human being to evolve physically and reach a certain level of technological advance for hunting to reach special relevance.
Main features of the Paleolithic economy
The main characteristic of the Paleolithic economy is that it is a predatory economy. As we noted earlier, this assumes that economic activities are primarily hunting and gathering. Once the resources of a territory were exploited, due to scarcity, displacements to other geographical areas occurred.
From the point of view of technology, it is worth highlighting the creation of the first weapons and tools, used for activities such as hunting and gathering. However, it must be borne in mind that, being nomads, they were not used to collecting large quantities of utensils. All this had consequences on technological development, since with a nomadic lifestyle, accumulating capital (tools and utensils) was more complicated, a circumstance that made technological progress more difficult.
As for trade, the value of objects depended on their usefulness. This, without forgetting that money did not yet exist as a medium of exchange. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that, for commercial exchanges to take place, it was necessary that there were no conflicts between the different groups.
From a social point of view, humans settled in small groups. The reason for organizing in small groups responded to the need to cope with their needs together. The size of the group deserves special attention, because for Palaeolithic humans, the more numerous the group, the fewer the dangers they had to face. Another characteristic to highlight regarding the organization into groups is that there was no division of labor nor was there a hierarchy.
The importance of the nomadic lifestyle of these societies must be highlighted, since they moved when they exhausted the resources of a territory or if the weather was unfavorable for them.
Economy and human evolution
As we indicated earlier, in the early Palaeolithic phases, hunting had not yet assumed great importance. Hence, hominids such as Australopithecus and Homo habilis fed by collecting dead plants and animals.
With Homo erectus, hunting begins to gain importance, although scavenging and gathering continue to be the main activities. We will have to wait for Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens for the development of the hunt, although these hominids will not abandon the collection either. It is striking that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals discovered activities such as fishing, using instruments such as nets, hooks and harpoons.