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In individual regions, this dating can be considerably refined; in Europe for example, Acheulean methods did not reach the continent until around 400 thousand years ago and in smaller study areas, the date ranges can be much shorter.
Numerical dates can be misleading however, and it is common to associate examples of this early human tool industry with one or more glacial or interglacial periods or with a particular early species of human.
Now it is realised that stone tools were used much earlier (3.3 million years ago) and that was definitely before the genus Homo had evolved.
It is not known for sure which species actually created and used Oldowan tools. Early Homo erectus appears to inherit Oldowan technology and refines it into the Acheulean industry beginning 1.7 million years ago.
These tools are the first cultural products which have survived.
The Palaeolithic age began when hominids (early humans) started to use stones as tools for bashing, cutting and scraping.
The Acheulean was not a neatly defined period, but a tool-making technique which flourished especially well in early prehistory.
Acheulean was a basic method for making stone tools which was shared across much of the Old World.
The term "Oldowan" is taken from the site of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, where the first Oldowan tools were discovered by the archaeologist Louis Leakey in the 1930s.
For a long time it was thought that the Oldowan was the earliest stone tool industry in prehistory, from 2.6 million years ago up until 1.7 million years ago.
It was followed by the more sophisticated Acheulean industry.
They are found in Europe somewhat later, from about 1 mya (0.7mya for Britain).
The Palaeolithic is by far the longest period of humanity's time, about 99% of human history.