Homo erectus and Neanderthals migrated from Africa to Europe before the emergence of modern humans. The bones of the earliest Europeans are found in Dmanisi, Georgia, dated at 1.8 million years ago.
The earliest appearance of anatomically modern people in Europe has been dated to 35,000 BCE. Some locally developed transitional cultures (Szletian in Central Europe and Chatelperronian in the Southwest) use clearly Upper Paleolithic technologies at very early dates and there are doubts about who were their carriers: H. sapiens, Neanderthal or the intermarried population.
Nevertheless, the definitive advance of these technologies is made by the Aurignacian culture. The origins of this culture can be located in what is now Bulgaria (proto-Aurignacian) and Hungary (first full Aurignacian). By 35,000 B.C., the Aurignacian culture and its technology had extended through most of Europe. The last Neanderthals seem to have been forced to retreat during this process to the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula.
Around 24,000 BP two new technologies/cultures appeared in the southwestern region of Europe: Solutrean and Gravettian. The Gravettian technology/culture has been theorized to have come with migrations of people from the Middle East, Anatolia, and the Balkans
Around 19,000 BP, Europe witnesses the appearance of a new culture, known as Magdalenian, possibly rooted in the old Aurignacian one. This culture soon supersedes the Solutrean area and also the Gravetian of Central Europe. However, in Mediterranean Iberia, Italy and Eastern Europe, epi-Gravettian cultures continue evolving locally.
Around 12,500 BP, the Würm Glacial age ends. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rise, changing the environment of prehistoric people. Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persists until circa 10,000 BP, when it quickly evolves into two microlithist cultures: Azilian, in Spain and southern France, and Sauveterrian, in northern France and Central Europe.
Evidence of permanent settlement dates from the 7th millennium BCE in the Balkans. The Neolithic reached Central Europe in the 6th millennium BCE and parts of Northern Europe in the 5th and 4th millennium BCE. The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture 5508-2750 BCE was the first big civilization in Europe and among the earliest in the world.
Starting from Neolithic we have the civilization of the Camunni in Valle Camonica, Italy, that left to us more than 350,000 petroglyphs, the biggest site in Europe.
Also known as the Copper Age, European Chalcolithic is a time of changes and confusion. The most relevant fact is the infiltration and invasion of large parts of the territory by people originating from Central Asia, considered by mainstream scholars to be the original Indo-Europeans, although there are again several theories in dispute. Other phenomena are the expansion of Megalithism and the appearance of the first significant economic stratification and, related to this, the first known monarchies in the Balkan region. The first well-known literate civilization in Europe was that of the Minoans of the island of Crete and later the Mycenaens in the adjacent parts of Greece, starting at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE.
Though the use of iron was known to the Aegean peoples about 1100 BCE, it didn't reach Central Europe until 800 BCE, giving way to the Hallstatt culture, an Iron Age evolution of the culture of the Urn Fields. Probably as by-product of this technological peculiarity of the Indo-Europeans, soon after, they clearly consolidated their positions in Italy and Iberia, penetrating deep inside those peninsulas (Rome founded in 753 BCE).