Mesolithic Age – Prehistoric India

In India, it spanned around 10,000 B.C. to 6,000 B.C. This age was a transitional phase between the Paleolithic Age and the Neolithic Age.

Mesolithic Age – Prehistoric India (10,000 B.C. – 6,000 B.C.)

  • In India, Mesolithic Age spanned around 10,000 B.C. to 6,000 B.C. This age was a transitional phase between the Paleolithic Age and the Neolithic Age.
  • The people of this age lived on hunting, fishing, and food gathering initially but later on they also domesticated animals.
  • The characteristic tools of this age were Microliths.
  • The people of this age practised painting. The paintings depicted birds, animals, and human beings.
  • A considerable number of painted rock shelters have been found in Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Bagor in Rajasthan and Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh are examples of Mesolithic sites in India.

Read More: Paleolithic Age – Prehistoric India

The time period between 12,000 and 2,000 B.C. in India is marked as Late Stone Age, Mesolithic, or in other words, Microlithic period. Mesolithic is basically the period between the Upper Paleolithic and the Neolithic.

John Lubbock introduced the terms “Paleolithic” and “Neolithic” in his work Pre-historic Times in 1865. The additional “Mesolithic” category was added as an intermediate category by Hodder Westropp in 1866.

The Mesolithic Age, which means Middle Stone Age, was the second part of the Stone Age. This age is characterized by the introduction of Microliths (small bladed stone tools).

Various tools of the Mesolithic Culture

A different type of stone tool known as microlith, is found which are tine artifacts of stone, often not more than 5 cm in size. The tools of Mesolithic Culture were characterized by −

  • Parallel-sided blades which are taken out from prepared cores of such fine material as chert, chalcedony, crystal, jasper, carnelian, agate, etc.;
  • Stone size (of tools) decreased;
  • Tools were shafted in wood and bones;
  • The size and shapes of the tools used as composite tools; and
  • Some new tool-types namely lunates, trapezes, triangles, arrow-heads, etc. were developed.

The archaeological studies reflects the continuity from the Upper Palaeolithic age to the Microlithic age and it proved that the Microlithic industry is rooted in the preceding phase of the Upper Palaeolithic industry.

The C-14 dates available for the Mesolithic culture illustrate that this industry began around 12,000 B.C. and survived up to 2,000 B.C.


Various Sites of Mesolithic Culture

The various sites of the Mesolithic period were located in −

  • Langhnaj in Gujarat;
  • Bagor in Rajasthan;
  • Sarai Nahar Rai, Chopani Mando, Mahdaha, and Damdama in Uttar Pradesh;
  • Bhimbetka and Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh; (Earliest evidence of domestication of animals)
  • Orissa, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Brahmagiri (Mysore)
  • Sojat (Rajasthan)
  • Godavari Basin
  • Sarai Nahar Rai, Uttar Pradesh
  • Narmada and Vindhya region

The inhabitant community of the sites in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh were essentially hunters, food-gatherers, and fishermen. However, some of the agricultural practice also evidenced at these sites.

The sites of Bagor in Rajasthan and Langhnaj in Gujarat explain that these Mesolithic communities were in touch with the people of the Harappan and other Chalcolithic cultures and traded various items with each other. Burials of dogs along with some microliths also practiced.

About 6,000 B.C., the Mesolithic people may have partly adopted the settled way of life and started domestication of animals. Animals during this period include dog, deer, boar, ostrich, sheep and goat.

Read More: Pre-Historic Era | Ancient Indian History

Prehistoric Rock Art

The rock-shelters in India were mainly occupied by the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic people. The rock-paintings depict a variety of subjects related to animals and the scenes including both people and animals. Besides animals and birds, fishes have also been depicted in the rock paintings.

Following were the important rock-painting sites −

  • Murhana Pahar in Uttar Pradesh
  • Bhimbetka, Adamgarh, Lakha Juar in Madhya Pradesh
  • Kupagallu in Karnataka

The rock paintings portrayed human-beings involved in various activities, such as dancing, running and hunting, playing games, and engaged in battle. The colors used in these rock paintings are deep red, green, white and yellow.

The rhinoceros hunting scene from the Adamgarh rock-shelters reveals that large number of people joins together for the hunt of bigger animals.

Some other key points about Mesolithic Age:

  • During this period major climate change took place.
  • With the advent of Mesolithic age, climate became warmer and more humid.
  • During this period, rainfall increased and so more availability of flora and fauna.
  • Domestication of animals were seen for the first time.
  • First animal to be domesticated was the wild ancestor of the dog.
  • Sheep and goats were the most common domesticated animals.
  • However, even during this period the hunting and food gathering continued.
  • First human colonization of the Ganga plains.
  • Microliths have been excavated.
  • They are small stone tools that were probably stuck to stones to be used as saws and sickles.

Tools used were blades, crescents, triangles, trapezes, spearheads, knives, arrowheads, sickles, harpoons and daggers.

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