The Mesolithic Period extends between 12000 and 8000 BC. With the last of the Ice Age's retreat, the planet's climate gradually warmed; the rising abundance of plants and animals played a pivotal role in influencing humanoid subsistence strategies. Adaptation was key; communities adjusted to the changing landscapes by diversifying their subsistence methods. To improve hunting, fishing and gathering, composite tools like harpoons and bows emerged as effective aids. An expanding range of tools and implements became available.
Shifts in settlement patterns produced sedentism, or the establishment of permanent settlements, as resources in some areas become more predictable. The extinction of many large animals pushed communities to adapt to diverse ecosystems — coastal, forested and in arid environments — that relied upon hunting smaller game and growing plants.
With a rise in small-scale societies came hierarchical structures for leadership and decision-making, largely by groups of elders. Cultural and spiritual leadership was carried on by shamans, enhanced by the rise of animism. Small, disconnected human communities were taking shape throughout the north temperate zone, in both the Old and New Worlds.
- Main Article: Humans in the Mesolithic-Neolithic Period
The Natufian culture of the Levant exhibited early signs of sedentism and early agriculture. With advances in art and symbolism, burial practices and the harvesting of wild cereals, the Natufian culture would eventually pave the way for the Neolithic way of life. Villages founded at Amman, Edessa and Gafsa in the 9th millennium made their mark as the world's oldest continuously occupied settlements.
In Mesopotamia, Mesolithic societies originated at Hassuna, Halaf and Ubaid. These were also marked by the development of early agricultural practices. The Jomon culture in Japan was at a very early stage, though distinct pottery styles began to emerge with the transition into the Neolithic.
Northern Cave Peoples
At the same time, various new goblinish and orcish cultures began to establish themselves — goblins along the Ob river, orcs clustering along water courses and marsh areas in the steppe lands to the south. Larger orcs, haruchai, occupied parts of modern day Mongolia. Bugbears, hobgoblins and ogres created lasting cultures in the forests surrounding Lake Baykal, reaching as far north as the Arctic Ocean.
- Main Article: Gnollish History
In the Barents and Kara forest parts of present day Bjarmaland arose a gnollish culture known as the Gunda. With wolf-liked heads and large, powerful humanoid bodies, presumably these had their origin in the Kodar Mountains of central Asia. Though smaller than giants, they have many their characteristics, including that of frost giants in that gnolls are utterly unaffected by brutally cold weather. By the 9th millennium BC, a somewhat sparse but active gnollish culture reached from the White Sea to Samoyadia.
Further east, a distant relation of gnolls, the flinds, settled along the shores of the Okhotsk Sea and the Pacific.
- Main Article: Dwarven History
As the glaciers along the Tien Shan and Altai ranges retreated, dwarves moved south and east into the lands of Croftsheim and Tuvath, where they still dwell. Rudimentary agriculture was taking place in the Khath basin also.
- Main Article: Gnomish History
Between 10,000 and 9,000 BC, svirfneblin tribes began to emerge in the Dovrefjell, in modern Scandinavia, living in villages poised along the higher slopes. A change in diet and exposure to sunlight brought rapid changes in their appearance, as they grew slighter and less rough hewn. Calling themselves "gnomes," these people moved down into the valleys, where they began to cooperate with a human people called the "Maglemosians."
Steadily the gnomish people would spread outward, so that by the end of the Mesolithic there were communities throughout Scandinavia.
- Main Article: Halflingen History
From the start of the Mesolithic, a small-statured people descended from human stock formed a sustainable culture along the northern edges of Eire, when that region was part of Britain's single land mass. Unusually short, but more inventive and clever than their human neighbours, the halflings nonetheless lived in peace and thrived, with settlements appearing in modern Cumberland, Stirling, Yorkshire and from thence, into the fen country of Doggerland.