October 24, 2013

Pre-History: Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Ages

Paleolithic age or old stone age, when first stone tools were made by placing and men lived in hunting and food gathering stage.
Mesolithic age or the late stone age, when microliths tools were used; it was the transitional period between the Paleolithic and Neolithic age, Hunting and food gathering continued.
Neolithic age or the new stone age, when man made stone tools by grinding and polishing were used. Agriculture developed life became settled and sedentary, so it is sometimes called the Neolithic Revolution.

Paleolithic Age: The earth is nearly 4000 million years old. The evolution of its crust shows four states; the last stage is called Quaternary which is divided into Pleistocene (most recent) and Holocene (Present), the former lasted between 1,000,000 and 10,000 years before the present and the latter began about
years ago. Man is said to have appeared on the earth in the early Pleistocene. The cultural debris recovered from the entire period of Pleistocene in termed as Paleolithic culture.

The Paleolithic culture India developed in the Pleistocene period of the Ice Age. The period was characterized by major climatic plultnations.
The Paleolithic age in India is divided into three phases, according to the nature of the stone stools used by the people and also according to the anture of change in climate.
Lower Paleolithic culture [250,000-B. C.] - the main characteristic feature of lower Paleolithic is the use of hand axe and chapper chopping tools. Sites are found throughout India except the northern allevial corridor and Kerala, but the most prominent is the valley of river Soan or Sohan in Punjab, now in Pakistan and is sometimes termed as ‘Sohan Industry’. It reveals tools made of split pebbles and flakes of quartzite and greenish grey trap. These cond most important site of this industry has been found from Madras region, termed as Madrasian Industry.
Middle Paleolithic Culture [100,000 -B. C.] - It refers to stone age culture of the last phase of Pleistocene; its indusmis are mainly based upon flakes, found in different parts of India and show regional variations. The principal tools are varieties of blades, points, borers and scrapers made of flakes.
The most important stratified sites have been found from Maharashtra region and especially from Godavari Valley and its tributaries - Nevasa, Suregaon, Bel Pandhari and Nandur Madismmeshwar.
Other sites are found in the desert area of Didwana of Rajasthan and the cases and rock shelters of Bhimpetka near Bhopal in M. P. Among the southern sites are places on the river Narmada and also at several places south of the Tungabhadra river, Malaprabha and Ghatprabha basin of northern Karnataka.
More than 200 rock shelters and convis are located on Bhimbetka hills over 500 cavis are decorated - the total number of paintings ream into several thousands. Perhaps this is the richest rock painting site not only in India but possibly in the world.
Upper Paleolithic Culture [40,000-10,000 B. C.] - This phase was less humid, it coincided with the last phase of the Ice Age when climate became comparatively warm Principal tools were blades and burins which have been found in Andhra, Karnataka, Central Rajasthan, Gujarat.
The phase witnessed the emergence of a wide range of bone tools, including needles, fishing tools and harpoons.
Now socially, people began to organize themselves on the basin of kinship.

Mesolithic Age:
  1. The upper Paleolithic age came to an end with the end of the Ice age around 10,000 B. C. and the climate became warm and dry.
  2. Climatic changes brought about changes in Flora and Fauna and made it possible for human beings to move to new areas. Since then there have not been any major changes in climatic conditions.
  3. People lived on hunting, fishing and food gathering like previously. At a later stage they also domesticated animals — hunters and herders.
  4. The characteristic tools were microliths, ranging from 1 to 8 cm and could have been used only as composite tools hafted in wood or bovine jaws and not singly.
  5. The first microlithis were discovered by Carlyle in 1867 from the Vindhya rock shelters.
  6. The sites are found in good numbers in Rajasthan, Southern U. P., central and eastern India and also south of the river Krishna. The important sites -
  7. Bagor (Rajasthan) - a very well excavated site, had a distinctive microlithic industry, the main raw material being employed was quartz and cherts; followed geometric pattern geared to a hunting economy.
  8. Adamgarh and Bhimbheta (M. P) - are also two earliest sites; the latter has more than 500 painted rock shelters distributed in the area of 10 km.
  9. Langhraj in Gujarat - furnishes the evidence of use of bones like the shoulder blade of a Rhinoceros. The hunting implements were spears with multiple barbs apparently obtained easily by attaching microliths.
  10. Sarai Nahar Rai in U. P. - where inter group fighting is proved by the skeletons found with a microlith embedded into one of its ribs.
  11. Other sites are Teri in Tamil Nadu, Birbhanpur in West Bengal etc.
  12. The characteristics feature of Southern Microliths is that quartz was the main material which allowed only a crude blade technique; geometric element is either absent or very minor.
  13. The cultivation of plants around 7000-6000 B. C. is suggested in Rajasthan from a study of the deposits of the former salt lake Sambhar.

Neolithic Age: In the world context the Neolithic age or the new stone age began in 9000 B. C.
  1. The only Neolithic settlement in the Indian subcontinent, attributed to 7000 B. C. which furnishes the first clear evidence of agriculture and domestication of animals is Mehrgarh.
  2. Some neolithic sites found on the Northern spurs of the Vindhyas are considered as old as 5000 B. C. But generally Neolithic settlements found in South India are not older than 2500 B. C.; in some parts of Southern and Eastern India they are as late as 1000 B. C.
  3. The characteristic tools of this period were polished stones, particularly stone axes.
  4. Based on the type of axes used by Neolithic settlers, we notice three important areas of Neolithic settlements North Western, North Eastern and Southern.
  5. In the North West, the Kashmir Neolithic culture was distinguished by its pit dwelling. An important site is that of Burzahom, which means the place of birth and is situated 16 km north west of Srinagar ascribable to the period around 2400 B. C. People here lived on a lake side in pits and probably had a hunting and fishing economy with faint agriculture.
  6. Neolithic tools are also found in the Garo hills in Meghalaya.
  7. Neolithic sites in Allahabad district are noted for the cultivation of rice in the 6th millenium B. C.
  8. The Gangetic plains have not yielded any other Neolithic site except Chirand, 40 km west of Patna and it has been dated around 1600 B. C.
  9.  The earliest manifestation of neolithic culture in South India is seen at Sanganakallu. The pointed but polished axes seems to be the characteristic tool of the southern neolithic culture. They knew cattle rearing and agriculture. The C14 dating shows that the Southern neolithic phase seems to have the period from 2500-10 BC.
  10. The prominent southern sites include - Maski, Brahmagiri, Hallur, Kodekal, Sanganakallu, T. Narsipurand Takkalakota in Karnataka; Piklihal and Utnur in Andhra Pradesh.
  11. The Neolithic settlers were the earliest farming community. Their life had became settled and sedentary. Kinship became the basis of social organization and they owned property in common.
  12. The Neolithic people of Mehrgarh were more advanced and produced wheat, cotton and lived in mud brick houses.
  13. People needed pots for storing foodgrains, cooking, eating and drinking; hence pottery first appears in this phase; handmade pottery is found in the earliest stage, later footwheels were used to turn up pots. Food began to be cooked with the help of fire.
  14. The people of Neolithic age suffered from one great limitation. Since they had to depend entirely on tools and weapons made of stones, they could not found settlements far away from the hilly areas. Further, even with great effort they could not produce more than what they needed for bare subsistence a subsistence economy indeed.
  15. Chopani Mando provides the earliest evidence of the use pottery in the world.
  16. Mehrgarh has revealed a long cultural history for the region ranging from the pre pottery Neolithic to the mature Harappan Period.
  17. At Mahagara a large cattle with hoof-marks of cattle have been reported.
  18. Koldihawa provide the earliest evidence for the domesticated variety of rice (dated to 6500 B. C.) in the world.

Chalcolithic (Stone - Copper) Culture: By the end of the Neolithic phase metal started being used. The first metal to be used was copper by second millennium BC Several regional cultures sprang up in different parts of the Indian subcontinent characterized by the use of stone and copper tools. Hence these cultures are termed as Chalcolithic cultures.
Other distinctive features of this culture are
  1. Use of distinct painted pottery which is mostly black on red.
  2. A highly specialized stone blade industry of siliceous stone.
  3. Occasional and limited use of copper.
  4. Cultivation of both Kharif and Rabi crops.
  5. Development of religious beliefs.
  6. They found the first village communities in peninsular India.
  7. They were first to build fortified settlements.
  8. They were the first to produce cotton.

  1. The first reported discovery of a copper harpoon was made from Bithur in Kanpur district in 1822.
  2. The largest copper hoard has been found at Gungeria in M. P.
  3. The Bone female figures at Belan Valley Mirzapur in U. P. is the earleist dated art work of human origin in India.
  4. At Inamgaon, in the early Chalcolithic phase in western Maharashtra large mud houses with oven, and circular pit houses, have been discovered.


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