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(Paleo = old; Lithos = stone)
Our eyes are pointed at early life, always changing, growing. And again we follow a trace which finally leads us to early man, who has to cope with his changing and hostile environment with limited means. His most important asset is his intellect. And while the animals around him have to bow to the vast climatic changes, man adapts himself.
As a hunter he roams through the region, at first hunting large game like mammoths, later hunting reindeer.In the second room the visitor can see how the first hunter-gatherers lived in these environs. You will see hand-axes made by Neanderthals, replicas of the weapons that they used, the remains of hunted mammoths, photos and drawings.
You will also see how different tools were made out of flintstone. At the end of the ice-ages, during the so-called Upper Paleolithic, reindeer-hunters camped near the site "De Waag", which is now between Hamont and Achel. Paintings, a maquette and stone implements give the visitor an idea of how these people lived. You can see the tools that were made by these people on the spot (arrow-heads, awls, scrapers, spear-heads, ...) and the flintstone flakes that they produced at this.
A reconstruction shows how archeologists found their implements, traces of their fires (charcoal spots), and flintstone-scraps..
The Paleolithicum ( 1.500.000 B.C tot 11.000 B.C.)
The oldest period of the Stone Age is called the Paleolithic. The first traces of human presence in this country are dating back to 350,000 B.C. Some specimens of hand-axes and flintstone flakes were found along the river Meuse. Man had already discovered fire and used the most primitive tools, which he made from wood, bone and stone.
In the Grevenbroek Museum a plaster-cast from the skull of Pithecanthropus is on display, which was a very ‘primitive’ human being from 300,000 B.C. And also the skull of Neanderthal man is shown, who lived here between 150,000 and 50,000 B.C. The latter period is also called The Mousterian, a period of robust and squat hunters of large game. From the skulls one can see that a clear adaptation, a development or an evolution had taken place in this period.
From this period we see some flintsone-arrows in the museum, a hand-axe, flintstone scrapers, and other implemements from early hunters. These artefacts are just loose finds from the region, which possibly came here by a coincidence. But it is certain that groups of early hunters roamed through this region, looking for large game like mammoth, cave-bear, aurochs and reindeer, which lived here as can be deducted from bone remnants.
A real local discovery from the the Mousterian may well be mentioned here: this concerns a scraper from ochreous flintstone of 9 cm across, which was found near the Abbey at Achel.
The successor of this type of man is Homo Sapiens Sapiens, or recent man. He appears in this region from 45,000 B.C. in periods that are called the Aurignacian, the Solutrean and the Magdalenian, the period of the cave paintings in Spain (Altamira)and France (Lascaux). This is the coldest period of the latest ice age. A thick ice-cap was covering large parts of present-day Europe. The polar cap reached the place of present-day Drenthe, in The Netherlands. In this region the climate resembled that of present-day Lapland, which also accounts for the presence of reindeer. The end of the Paleolithic is dated around 10,000 B.C. and is called the Upper Paleolithic.
The Upper Paleolithic (11,000 B.C. to 8,000 B.C.)
The oldest traces of clear human activities in the environs of present-day Achel are dating back to about 11,000 B.C., at the end of the most recent ice age. This period is called the Upper Paleolithic, or the ‘period of the reindeer hunters’, a period which is situated more than 5,000 years before the building of the earliest pyramids! Human beings in that age lived from hunting reindeer, from fishing and from gathering edible plants, roots and berries. They followed the reindeer herds across the tundra. Their tents and clothes were made of skins (leather).
Small family tribes roamed through a tundra landscape, which was scarcely covered with plants and shrubs. Always looking for food, they lived like nomads. They followed the yearly migrations of the reindeer. They hunted these reindeer and completed their menu with fish, eggs, edible tubers, wild vegetables and berries. They lived in leather tents, made from reindeer skins. The skins were worn with the fur on the inside and thus offered an ideal protection against cold and wet weather, especially if they were used in double layers. Self-pulled sledges were used for transportation.
They made their hunting tools from wood, bone and flintstone, the latter of which is a hard stone from which they could strike flakes to further tool knive blades, arrow heads, drills, awls, and scrapers. The scrapers were used to work on skins and wood. Drills and awls were used for making holes in leather or wood. Stone implements of course preserved well in the ground and metal was not known yet. They also knew the bow, the boomerang and the bola as ‘high reach’ weapons. Big stones and thick branches were used to make clubs. Also heavy bones were used for this purpose. Flintstone heads were also used to make spears. To catch animals they also used snares and traps.
They buried their deads with care, and provided them with food and weapons for the afterlife. To master the force of nature, they practised a cult of magic and sacrifices.
From this period, the time after the Paleolithic, artefacts were found at Achel, namely at the location De Waag and Het Elsbroek