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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 In many regions, the term Stone Age is no longer used, as it has been replaced by more specific geological periods.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 organisation.

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 BC
Iron Age

Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa Earlier Stone Age

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

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

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

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

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

Japan Japan Periods Paleolithic c. 100,000 – c. 10,000 BC

Jōmon period c. 10,000 BC – 300 BC
Yayoi period c. 300 BC – AD 250
Yamato period c. AD 250 – 710

China China Periods Paleolithic c. 1.36 million years ago

Neolithic period c. 10,000 BC – 2100 BC
Ancient China c. 2100 BC – 221 BC
Imperial period c. 221 BC – AD 1911
Modern period

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

Archaic (c. 8000 – 1000 BC)
Post-archaic stage (c. 1000 BC – present)

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

Archaic (c. 8000 – 1000 BC)
Formative (c. 1000 BC – AD 250)
Classic (AD 250 – 900)
Post-Classic (900 – 1515)

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

Archaic (c. 8200 – 1000 BC)
Formative (c. 1000 BC – AD 500)
Classic (c. AD 500 – 1200)
Post-Classic (c. 1200 – 1900)

Australasia Australia Australia Pre-European Contact Period (60,000 BP - 1606 AD)

Post-Contact Pre-Settlement Period (1606 - 1788AD)
Settlement / Pre-Industrial Period (1788 - 1820 AD)
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 infers indigenous Australians had no history, despite having a strong oral tradition.

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

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

Oceania Oceania
Europe Northern Europe Northern Europe Nordic Stone Age

Nordic Bronze Age
Pre-Roman Iron Age
Roman Iron Age (c. AD 1 – 400)
Germanic Iron Age (c. AD 400 – 800)
Viking Age (c. AD 800 – 1066)
Medieval period (1066 – c. 1500)
Post-medieval period (c. 1500 – c. 1800)

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

Mesolithic (c. 8800 – 4900 BC)
Neolithic (c. 4900 – 2000 BC)
Bronze Age (c. 2000 – 800 BC)
Iron Age (c. 800 – 1 BC)
Roman (c. AD 1 – 400)
Early medieval period (c. AD 400 – 800)
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