The term "prehistory" is used to refer to those groups of people across time who did not rely on written documents to record information about their society. Instead, these peoples often used other tools like oral tradition or pneumonic devices to forge a collective memory. Prehistory does not occur in one particular time or place. In parts of the Near East, one must go back deep into the B.C. period to talk about prehistory, while in others like the Northeastern U.S. prehistory continues until the 16th century with the coming of Europeans. Prehistory is not only used to talk about the lives of fully modern humans but is also applied to early hominids like Homo erectus and Neandertal who have been shown to engage in cultural expression (e.g. build shelters, use fire, tool making, ritual, etc.)
The Mesolithic is a chronological period beginning around 10,000 years ago, situated between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic, and associated with the rise to dominance of tiny stone tools known as microliths.
Neolithic: a chronological period characterized by the development of agriculture and, hence, an increasing emphasis on sedentism. The phrase "Neolithic Revolution" was coined by V.G. Childe in 1941 to describe the origin and consequences of farming and the development of settled village life.
The Paleolithic is the archaeological period before c.10,000 years ago, characterized by the earliest known stone tool manufacture.