How to read and What to read from this chapter?
You need not to read this chapter deeply, in depth study is not required at all. Focus on two things from this chapter,i.e.,
- time table of the evolution of the ages, evolution of tool technology and
- retain which technology (chips, microliths and flint etc) compares to which age.
Below a brief note and important points are mentioned along with a table which will be helpful for your UPSC preparation.
The stone age is the ancient time frame, i.e. the period before the improvement of the script, consequently the principle wellspring of data for this period is the archeological unearthings. The first Palaeolithic tool was discovered in India by Robert Bruce Foote and the tool was Pallavaram handaxe.
Indian stone age can be classified into three types on the basis of geological age, types and technology of stone tools.
- Palaeolithic Age (Old Stone Age)
- Mesolithic Age (Late Stone Age)
- Neolithic Age (New Stone Age)
The time frame of this age are given in the following:
- Palaeolithic Age: 500,000-10,000 BCE
- Mesolithic Age: 10,000-6000 BCE
- Neolithic Age: 6000-1000 BCE
Evolution of tools
Tools were made by keeping one stone fixed and hitting it with another stone. These tools can be categorised into Core tools and Flake tools. If the tools were made from the large stones , it is called Core tools. However, tools made from the stone of small size were called Flake tools as it was flaked out from the small stones.
The word Palaeolithic has been derived from two words; ‘palaeo’ (which means old) and ‘lithic’ (which means stone). Hence, the term Palaeolithic refers to the old stone age. The Palaeolithic age in India is divided into three phases according to the stone tools used by the people and nature of change in the climate. The phases are given below:
- Lower Palaeolithic Age
- Middle Palaeolithic Age
- Upper Palaeolithic Age
Overall features of Palaeolithic age were:
- Paleolithic people were hunters and food gatherers.
- They had no knowledge of agriculture, house and pottery.
- The Indian people were believed to have belonged to the “Negrito” race.
- In India, Palaeolithic men were also called Quartzite men as they used stone tools made from Quartzite.
Lower Palaeolithic Age
- It covers the greater part of the ice age.
- The Lower Palaeolithic age sites are found in the valley of river Soan or Sohan in Punjab (now in Pakistan).
- Tools used: Core tools were used.
- Hand axes: The axes found in India are much similar to those of Western Asia, Europe and Africa.
- Cleavers: These are different from hand axes as these have horizontal or transverse working edges.
- Choppers: It was a unifacial tool as its only one side was worked on. It was created by using a bowl shaped piece of stone. It was a heavy and bold tool.
- Sites: One of the earliest lower Palaeolithic sites is in Bori, Maharashtra. Other early stone age sites Indian subcontinent are given below
- Thar desert
- Belan valley, Mirzapur
- Deccan Plateau
- Narmada valley
- Didwana, Rajasthan
- Bhimbetka, Madhyapradesh
- Human beings used to take shelter in the caves for seasonal purposes.
Middle Palaeolithic Age
- Mainly flakes were used in middle palaeolithic industries and these flakes showed regional variations.
- Tools were lighter, smaller and thinner and the use of stone axes went reduced compared to other tools.
- Important sites:
- Soan Valley: There was a pebble industry in strata contemporary with the third Himalayan glaciation.
- Belan valley
- Narmada river
- Bhimbetka, MP
- Sanghao caves, Peshawar (Pakistan)
- Potwar plateau (between Jhelum and Indus)
- Tools used:
Upper Palaeolithic Age
- This phase was less humid and coincided with the last phase of the ice age.
- This phase is known for the emergence of modern men; Homo Sapiens.
- It is also known for the appearance of flint tools.
- Important sites:
- Bhimbetka: Hand axes and cleavers, blades, scrapers and a few burins have been found there.
- Gujarat Dunes: An upper palaeolithic assemblage, characterised by massive flakes, blades, burins and scrapers has been found here.
- Kurnool and Mucchatala Chintamani Gavi, Andhra Pradesh: Bone tools have been found here.
- Tools used:
- Bone tools: Harpoons used for fishing.
The Upper Palaeolithic Age came to an end with the end of the ice age around 8000 BC. Climate was changing that time and it brought changes in fauna and flora and made it possible for human beings to move to new areas. From then a phase came which is considered to be an intermediate phase between the old stone age or the Palaeolithic age and the new stone age or the Neolithic age.
- The people of this age lived on hunting, fishing and food gathering initially but later on they also domesticated animals and cultivated plants, thereby paving the way for agriculture.
- The culture is assigned to pre-agricultural times in certain areas.
- The first animal to be domesticated was the wild ancestor of the dog. Apart from dogs, sheeps and goats were the most domesticated animals.
- Mesolithic people used to bury the dead with food and other goods. This shows that they believed in the next life or life after death.
- Tools used: The characteristic tools of this era is microliths. Microliths are small tools which were often used for beautification. Usually these were made of chert, silica, chalcedony. It was used for various purposes such as making composite tools like spearheads, arrows and arrowheads.
- The first human colonisation in the Ganga plain happened in this age.
- Art was an integral part of human existence. Mesolithic people loved arts and they initiated rock art. These rock paintings depicted hunting, dancing and food gathering.
Important sites of Mesolithic culture
- Adamgarh, MP: Earliest evidence for the domestication of animals.
- Bagor, Rajasthan: One of the biggest and best-documented sites in India. Microliths of bones and shells have been excavated from here. It is situated on the river Kothari.
- Other sites: Biharanpur in West Bengal, Langhnaj in Gujarat, Kaimur in UP. Mesolithic sites have also been found in the river bank of Tapi, Sabarmati, Narmada and Mahi.
- There are more than one hundred and fifty mesolithic rock sites across India. Most of it is concentrated in Central India.
- Bhimbetka, MP; Kharwar, Jaora, Kathotia, MP; Sambalpur and Sundargarh, Odisha.
- Ezhuthu Guha is a mesolithic site situated in Kerala.