From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Protohistory refers to a period between prehistory and history, during which a culture or civilization has not yet developed writing, but other cultures have already noted its existence in their own writings. For example, in Europe, the Celts and the Germanic tribes may be considered to have been protohistoric when they began appearing in Greek and Roman texts.
Protohistoric may also refer to the transition period between the advent of literacy in a society and the writings of the first historians. The preservation of oral traditions may complicate matters as these can provide a secondary historical source for even earlier events. Colonial sites involving a literate group and a non-literate group, are also studied as protohistoric situations.
It can also refer to a period in which fragmentary or external historical documents, not necessarily including a developed writing system, have been found. For instance, Oracle bones in the Chinese Shang Dynasty period, the Proto-Three Kingdoms of Korea and the Yayoi are protohistoric.