The Palaeolithic Period extends between 200,000 years ago and 12,000 BC. The Lower period reaches from 200,000 to 40,000 years ago; the Upper period begins after that. Through most of the Lower Palaeolithic, only human race dwelt upon the game world's Earth, primarily in East Africa. Late in the Lower period, primeval elves began appearing in the lands of Anduin, in the far extreme of Siberia, sometime between 50 and 45 thousand BC.
After the outset of the Upper period, it's believed — but not known for certain — that the first svirfneblin began to spawn beneath Europe between 30 and 27 thousand BC. Ten thousand years later, sometime between 20 and 18 thousand BC, scattered cave peoples began to appear in east central Asia, radiating outwards from the Kodar Mountains — bugbears, ogres and orcs ... then, some 15 to 14 thousand BC, hobgoblins, goblins and xvarts.
About this time, some 14 thousand BC, dwarven cultures took shape and acquired life from the flesh of the Ymir, a primordial deity that was progenitor also to the "jotnar," or giants. Primitive forms of these humanoids arose more or less at the same time as the dwarves.
Ice ages occurred throughout the Palaeolithic, though the effect of the last glacial period (25,000 to 12,000 BC) is known.
- Main Article: Humans in the Palaeolithic Period
Humans as we know them began to appear in Africa at the start of the Lower Palaeolithic, though proto-humanoid cultures had spread into what is now China, Sumatra and Java, and around the Mediterranean. Anatomically modern humans exhibited more advanced cognitive abilities, complex tool making and art. Between 70 and 60 thousand BC, advanced humans began migrating out of Africa and populating other parts of the world; at that time, they were primarily hunter-gatherers, relying on fishing, stone tools and creating cave art.
For a time, humans and neanderthals co-existed, sharing similar environments and competing for resources. Conflict did occur between the two races, with the neanderthal virtually disappearing ... though tribes of "cavemen" have been found in the remotest parts of the world. It's not probable that early neanderthals escaping into the earth's caves brought about the beginnings of svirfneblin culture, though the fall of one culture and the rise of the other do suggest the possibility.
With the Upper Palaeolithic came advancements in tool technology and an emergence of symbolic thinking and art (intricate cave paintings and figures). Expansion into Polynesia (40,000 BC) and the New World (15 to 16,000 BC) led to the present day extent of humans around the globe. Populations during the time period were small; it's been estimated that following the maximal height of the last glacial period, the population of humans may have dipped as low as 30,000 individuals.
Human culture remained shamanistic and therefore animistic throughout the Upper Palaeolithic.
- Main Article: Ancient Beringia
The first elves in the game world were of extra-planar origin, originally from the Land of Silvanie in Outer Earth, a great flat disc adrift in the Astral Sea. While also hunter-gatherers, legend tells that four great grey elves led one tribe from thence to Earth, known as the Anduin People, some 35,000 years ago.
They were refugees from Silvanie who had been harried by drow elves, who wouldn't appear in the world until after the Palaeolithic had passed. Under the Anduin, elvish civilisation thrived. Human-elf relations were friendly and various tools and technology would be shared back and forth. The spread of archery is attributed to the elves, while it's said that human shamanism contributed much to the grey elvish discovery of magic.
There arose the ancient kingdom of Beringia that lasted for five thousand years, until it and all established elvish civilisation was destroyed in the last glacial period. Thereafter, Elvin culture fell into a dark age. Of the "nine tribes" of Beringia, eight survived; the ninth, the "grey," was lost. It's told that they held back the growing ice sheet for 25 generations, until a cataclysm brought about the end. Some believe the Grey Shamans tried to return to Outer Earth in those last moments and died, for no knowledge has ever been gained of them on the other side.
During the middle Upper Palaeolithic, the remaining elvish tribes migrated into the New World, when the glacial ice had withdrawn and permitted travel over the ice bridge that had been a part of ancient Beringia. Some grey elves remained, carefully guarding ancient traditions and magic. Some elves settled in the north ("winter elves"); others settled in the deciduous forests beside the Mississippi valley and Great Lakes. These tribes became known as "wood elves." These elves would trade and shepherd human tribes who followed them. Like humans, their culture was primarily animistic, though as Palaeolithic waned, a pantheon of Elvish ancestor gods began to take shape.
- Main Article: Svirfneblin History
These subterranean peoples began to occupy deep caves in the earth in the early Upper Palaeolithic, hardly venturing to the surface even once a generation. They learned to mine and smelt base metals, skills that would be passed on to gnomes, a biological offshoot of svirfneblin at a much later time. Worshipping a bear god, the svirf were monotheistic in nature; through communication with elemental creatures, however, as the Palaeolithic closed they would develop some rudimentary magical abilities.
Kodar Gate Cultures
With the glacial ice sheet's cocooning of the Eurasian continent, a rift in natural space occurred that opened the Kodar Gate, an Astral Gate between Outer Earth and the Prime Material Plane. For generations until the gate closed, some thousands of years later, various humanoid peoples — orcish and goblinish — spread outwards into the Asian continent.
Consisting of hundreds of tribes, these formed a string of non-human cultures stretching from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Many formed complex social structures that would later threaten to destroy human lands much nearer to the modern day. Their belief systems depended largely upon totemism and animal worship.
- Main Article: Dwarven History
According to dwarven myth, the Kodar Gate would ultimately be closed by Ymir, three millennia after his arrival into the game world (c.17,500 BC). During his travels, he established giantish clans in many parts of the world. By— by which time he had seen all and was determined to sacrifice himself in order to bring a new people forth. He determined that by closing the gate, he would gain the enmity of three brothers, lesser gods named Odin, Vili and Ve. These three slaughtered Ymir, whose blood caused an immense flood that warmed the land and ended the Ice Age. From the melting of the ice there appeared a great lake in central Asia.
The god Odin, repentent after his committing of murder, brought the dwarves out Ymir's blood and gave them the breath of life. Together with Ve and Vili, they gave great wisdom to the dwarves — and later to humans, gnomes and other races. The dwarves meanwhile settled by the lake in central Asia and rapidly expanded their culture, destroying the orcs, hobgoblins and goblins all about, in many great wars. Though legend, this is all true in the game world.