The main issues of this book begin in the next chapter with the discussion of the fundamental changes evident in the Balkans from 6500 BC. To fully appreciate their significance, however, it is important first to set the scene by examining the region before this date. In the present chapter, discussion focuses on the late Pleistocene and early Holocene and includes a brief introduction to the upper Palaeolithic which, as suggested below, runs from c. 50,000 BP. A complete discussion of the Balkans during this period requires a book of its own.1 Here, attention is restricted to a few key sites, the most important trends in climate, lithic acquisition networks and developments in human behaviour such as the spatial organization of activities within sites and early forms of expressive material culture. We turn first to the beginnings of the upper Palaeolithic and note differences between it and the core areas of the European Palaeolithic; then we examine the evidence for early symbolic expressions of individual and group identities.