Paleolithic Age – Prehistoric India
- The Paleolithic also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers 99% of the time period of human technological prehistory.
- The Paleolithic period in India is further divided into three: Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic Period.
- Indians who lived during this period used very basic hand tools made of stone and wood, like axes and cleavers.
The Prehistoric Age in India basically refers to the period where there was no writing and development. It has five main period of evolution – Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic & Iron Age.
This topic is one of the most important and most twisting topic from which questions are framed in UPSC Prelims and Mains Examination. Therefore, we are going to look into each period of evolution one by one.
In this article we are going to cover the Paleolithic Age of India.
Also Read: THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION
PALEOLITHIC PERIOD (THE OLD STONE AGE)
The Paleolithic also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers 99% of the time period of human technological prehistory.
The Paleolithic period in India is further divided into three: Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic Period.
Lower Paleolithic Period (Age up to 100,000 BC)
Indians who lived during this period used very basic hand tools made of stone and wood, like axes and cleavers. Indians also used minerals like quartzite and basalt to make their tools due to the scarcity of stone.
Most of the homes Indians lived in during the period were also made of rock-like material and included industrial locations where raw materials would have been obtained and distributed.
- Hunters and food gatherers; tools used were axes, choppers and cleavers.
- Earliest lower Palaeolithic site is Bori in Maharashtra.
- Limestone was also used to make tools.
- Lower Paleolithic Age mainly spread in Western Europe and Africa and early human lived a nomadic lifestyle.
- No specific human group was the carrier of Lower Paleolithic period.
- Population preferred to live near the water source because the stone tools are abundant near the river valleys.
- In this era, the first stone tool fabrication started (including the earliest stone tools found today) and was called Oldowan tradition which refers to a pattern of stone-tool manufacturing by Hominid (Homo habilis).
- Splintered stones called eoliths have been considered the earliest tools.
- These tools were made from large and small scrapers, hammer stones, choppers, awls, etc.
- Hand axes and cleavers were the typical tools of these early hunters and food-gatherers.
- These tools were found from Belan Valley of Mirzapur (U.P.), Didwana in Rajasthan, Narmada Valley, and from Bhimbetka (near Bhopal, M.P.).
Read More: Pre-Historic Era | Ancient Indian History
PROMINENT SITES OF LOWER PALEOLITHIC PERIOD
- Soan valley (in present Pakistan) and Potwar Plateau (North-west India)
- Siwalik Hills
- Sites in the Thar Desert (Luni Valley, Jayal, Jaisalmer, Chambal Complex)
- Mewar plains
- Saurashtra, Gujarat
- Central India
- Deccan Plateau
- Chotanagpur plateau
- North of the Cauvery River
- Belan valley in UP
Middle Palaeolithic Period (100,000 BC – 40,000 BC)
The Middle Paleolithic Age (100,000 BC – 40,000 BC) was mainly associated with early form of man, Neanderthal, whose remains are often found in caves with evidence of the use of fire. He got his name from the valley of Neander (Germany).
Neanderthal was hunter of prehistoric time. The Middle Paleolithic man was scavenger but few evidences of hunting and gathering were traced.
- The dead were painted before burial.
- Tools used were blades, pointers, scrapers and borers.
- The tools were smaller, lighter and thinner.
- The earliest evidence of behavioral modernity first appears during the Middle Paleolithic; undisputed evidence of behavioral modernity, however, only becomes common during the following Upper Paleolithic period.
- Evidence indicates that Middle Paleolithic people lived in small, egalitarian band societies similar to those of Upper Paleolithic societies and some modern hunter-gatherers. Both Neandertal and modern human societies took care of the elderly members of their societies during the Middle Paleolithic.
- According to a belief, women gathered plants and firewood and men hunted and scavenged dead animals through the Paleolithic.
- The use of fire became widespread for the first time in human prehistory during the Middle Paleolithic and humans began to cook their food c. 250,000 years ago.
- Inter-group trade may have appeared during the Middle Paleolithic because trade between bands would have helped ensure their survival by allowing them to exchange resources and commodities such as raw materials during times of relative scarcity (i.e., famine or drought).
PROMINENT SITES OF MIDDLE PALEOLITHIC PERIOD
- Belan valley in UP
- Luni valley (Rajasthan)
- Son and Narmada rivers
- Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh
Upper Palaeolithic Period (40,000 BC – 10,000 BC)
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. According to some theories it dates about coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity in early modern humans, until the advent of the Neolithic Revolution and agriculture.
Upper Paleolithic Age was characterized by the appearance of new flint industries and Homo Sapiens (Modern type men) in world context.
This period covered approximately 1/10th time of the total Paleolithic Period but in short span of time, the primitive man made greatest cultural progress. The culture has been referred as the Osteodontokeratic culture, i.e. tools made up of bone, teeth, and horns. Lot of bone tools, including needles, harpoons, blades, fishing tools and buring tools.
PROMINENT SITES OF UPPER PALEOLITHIC AGE
Upper Paleolithic extended from Upper Paleolithic (40,000 – 10,000 BC). In India its sites were discovered in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Central Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, southern Uttar Pradesh, and South Bihar Plateau. Some of these sites are:
- Belan Valley (Uttar Pradesh)
- Son River
- Chota Nagpur plateau (Bihar)
- Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh
- Paintings at Bhimbetka site belong to this age.
Tools of this age was majorly large flake blades, scrapers, and burins. The lifestyle of this man was not different from that of Neanderthal and Homo erectus; the tools used were still crude and unsophisticated during early period of this age.
There are evidences of appearance of bone artifacts and the first form of art for the first time in Africa. From artifacts, the first evidence of fishing is also seen in places such as Blombos Cave in South Africa. The use of polished fine cutting edge tools and mortars and pestles used for grinding grain also came into existence.
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