The End of The Stone Age

According to Wikipedia, the Stone Age ended around 8,000 to 4,000 years ago (6,000 – 2,000 B.C.).  However, looking at these images below may make one think otherwise, right?

Stone Age
Clockwise from top left. Sunrise gold mine in Australia (Wikipedia), limestone quarry in Italy (Michael J. Zirbes), sand/gravel pit in New Jersey (Google Earth), Chuquicamata copper mine in Chile (Google Earth).

We still live in the Stone Age! We still live in the Bronze Age!  We still live in the Iron Age, Coal Age, Oil Age, Gas Age, and the Atomic Age!  In fact, given the billions of tons of soil, rock, minerals and fossil fuels that we move or extract each year, it seems as if humanity is living in these “ages” more than ever before.  Our current civilization has not moved past these ages, we have just added onto them with our technological advances.  We must remain humble, however, as these technological advances are the very reason why we are now even more inextricably linked to the materials of Earth than in all of human history.

Humans have created millions of amazing machines and other objects by extracting and cleverly rearranging naturally occurring elements from the Earth’s crust.  We even have technology (nuclear reactors) that can create elements from other elements (e.g. Americium in your smoke detector).  But come on! How do we get off saying that the Stone Age has ended?  Take a look inside your home or office and try to find something comprised of raw materials that do not include something taken from the Earth (soil nutrients, rock, minerals, fossil fuels, etc.).

Even if we develop asteroid mining operations in the future (it will be very difficult and expensive to do, I imagine) we will still be in a type of Stone Age (The Space Stone Age?).  Consequently, to think of ourselves as “above” or “past” the “primitive” Stone Age is quite arrogant and ironic, in my opinion (I know not everyone thinks that, but it seems to me that many do).

Historians and archaeologists in the year 3000 may look back and laugh at how we viewed our technological progression through history:

Speaker at a  future history/archaeology conference: “The people of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries actually told themselves the Stone Age ended 4,000 years before, even as they were blowing through the Earth’s ancient endowment of fossil fuels, metal ores, and topsoil in a matter of centuries.”

(Audience bursts into laughter)

“During this time period, some of these societies even described themselves with such words as ‘post-industrial’ or ‘sustainable’.”

(Audience falls out of their seats, tears of laughter streaming down their faces)

“While I must sincerely thank our ancestors for all of the wonderful technology they invented and their advancement of scientific knowledge, I have to ask:  did they really have to strip the Earth’s crust clean to do it? And did they have to do it with the hubris of saying they were past the Stone Age? I mean, really, what were they thinking?”


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