The final era of the Late Stone Age was ushered in by significant milestones of human development. This period is most typically called the Upper Paleolithic Period and begins at 40,000 years ago until 10,000 years ago when the Paleolithic Period, as well as the Pleistocene Period, came to a close. Exciting, significant changes were taking place all across humanity of the planet. The Upper Paleolithic is most famous for the FIRST occurrence of modern humans, Homo sapiens, in the form that we are today. The fossil record shows that they lived for a period, alongside Neanderthals, until Neanderthals died out or were genetically assimilated into the Cro-Magnon (modern human) populations. This period is the first time in archaeology where humans exhibit a creative mind and one that displays self worth. Famous to this period are the many magnificent caves filled with art showing incredible imagery of animals, hunting groups and story-telling. We see the first evidence of body adornment and religion by the carving in stone, bone and ivory of mother goddess figures. Many famous sites of this period show ritual care of the dead never seen before. Numerous skeletons have been found covered in ochre and wearing jewelry, indicating increased evidence of human belief in an afterlife.
The most notable milestone in tool production of the Upper Paleolithic Period is the extensive use of the BLADE TECHNIQUE. Blades of long, narrow flakes with parallel sides are found struck from prepared cores and then modified into a variety of specialized tools. Many of the flaked blades are modified into other tools with an increasing refinement of all flaked tools such as wafer-thin projectile points and very small prismatic blades, possibly used as replaceable inserts in larger composite tools. We also see the first use of bone and ivory for use in new inventions such as fish hooks and harpoons indicating the first evidence of fishing. Probably the monumental invention of this period is that of the atlatl (spear-thrower) which revolutionized hunting of large game. This final period of the Old Stone Age marks the final retreat of the ice from Europe and with it, a warming period that gave rise to large populations of megafauna to support an increasing population of advanced hunters. By these advanced hunter we also see the first evidence of communal cooperation by the images of hunting parties as seen in many cave paintings of this period. Another interesting concept we see boldly emerge in the human mind is the concept of something with value. This is demonstrated in many of the fantastic knapped and carved artifacts, done so in excess of what would be needed for their purely utilitarian purpose. The level of craftsmanship in flaked tools of this period rose to level never before found in previous older periods.
The cause of the Upper Paleolithic explosion of human creativity and invention is still somewhat of a mystery and there are many theories why it came about. Some attribute it to an "arms race" of sorts where human groups were vying for intense competition amongst each other in their survival. Others theorize that increasing human populations allowed increased interaction of concepts and ideas among people that were previously isolated by their scarcer numbers.