UPSC History The Stone Age NCERT Extracts - The Stone Age

NCERT Extracts - The Stone Age

Category : UPSC

The Palaeolithic Period: Hunters and Food Gatherers

  • The Earth is over 4000 million years old.
  • Man is said to have appeared on the earth in the early pleistocene,
  • The fossils of the early men have not been found in India.
  • The early man in India used tools of stone roughly dressed by crude chipping, which have been discovered throughout the country except the alluvial plains rivers.
  • In this period man barely managed to gather his food and lived on hunting.
  • He had no knowledge of cultivation and house building.
  • This phase generally continued till 9000 B.C.
  • Palaeolithic tools, which could be as old as 1,00,000 B.C., have been found in the Chotanagpur plateau. In association with them bone implements and animal remains have also been discovered.
  • Animal remains found in the Belan Valley in Mirzapur district in Uttar Pradesh show that goats, sheep and cattle were exploited.
  • However, in the earliest Palaeolithic phase man lived on hunting and food gathering.
  • In the Pleistocene period ice sheets covered a great portion of the earth's surface, particularly in the higher altitudes and their peripheries.
  • But the tropical regions, excepting the mountains, were free from ice. On the other hand, they underwent a period of great rainfall.
  • Phases in the Palaeolithic Age
  • The Palaeolithic Age in India is divided into three phases according to the nature of the stone tools used by the people and also according to the nature of change in the climate.
  • The first phase is called Early or Lower Palaeolithic, the second Middle Palaeolithic and the third Upper Palaeolithic.
  • The first phase may be placed broadly, between 5,00,000 B.C. and 50,000 B.C.; the second between 50,000 B.C. and 40,000 B.C.; and the third between 40,000 B.C. and 10,000 B.C. The Lower Palaeolithic or the covers the greater part of the Ice Age.
  • Its characteristic feature is the use of hand-axes, cleavers and choppers.
  • The Early Old Stone Age sites are found in the valley of river Soan or Sohan in Punjab, now in Pakistan.
  • The Lower Palaeolithic tools have also been found in the Belan valley in Mirzapur District in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Those found in the desert area of Didwana in Rajasthan, in the valleys of the Belan and the Narmada, and in the caves and rock shelters of Bhimbetka near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh roughly belong to 1,00,000 B.C.
  • The Middle Palaeolithic industries are mainly based upon flakes.
  • These flakes are 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 Upper Palaeolithic phase was less humid. It coincided with the last phase of the
  • Ice Age when climate became comparatively warm.
  • In the world context it marks the appearance of new flint industries and of men of the modem type (Homo sapiens).
  • Caves and rockshelters for use by human beings in the Upper Palaeolithic phase have been discovered at Bhimbetka, 45 km south of Bhopal.


The Mesolithic Age : Hunters and Herders

  • The Upper Palaeolithic Age came to an end with the end of the Ice Age around 9000
  • C., and the climate became warm and dry.
  • In 9000 B.C. began an intermediate stage in stone age culture, which is called the Mesolithic Age. It intervened as a transitional phase between the Palaeolithic Age and the Neolithic or new Stone Age.
  • The mesolithic people lived on hunting, fishing and food gathering: at a later stage they also domesticated animals. The characteristic tools of the Mesolithic Age are microliths.
  • The mesolithic site Bagor in Rajasthan is very well excavated. It had a distinctive microlithic industry, and its inhabitants subsisted on hunting and pastoralism.
  • Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and Bagor in Rajasthan provide the earliest evidence for the domestication on animals.
  • The mesolithic culture continued to be important roughly form 9000 B.C. to 4000 B.C.,it paved the way for the rise of the Neolithic culture.
  • Prehistoric Art
  • The people of palaeolithic and mesolithic ages practised painting.
  • Prehistoric art appears at several places, but Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh is a striking site. Situated in the Vindhyan range, 45 km south of Bhopal, it has more than 500 painted rock shelters, distributed in an area of 10 sq km.
  • The rock paintings extend form the palaeolithic to the mesolithic period and in series even up to recent times. But a good many rock shelters are associated with the mesolithic occupation.
  • Many birds, animals and human beings are painted.
  • Obviously most of the birds and animals that appear in paintings were hunted for the sake of subsistence.
  • Perching birds, which live upon grain, are absent in the earliest group of painting, which evidently belongs to the hunting/gathering economy.


The Neolithic Age: Food Producers

  • In the world context the New Stone Age began in 9000 B.C.
  • The only neolithic settlement in the Indian subcontinent attributed to 7000 B.C. lies in Mehrgarh, which is situated in Baluchistan, a province of Pakistan.
  • But generally neolithic settlements found in south India are not older than 2500 B.C.
  • The people of this age used tools and implements of polished stone. They particularly used stone axes.
  • An important site is that of Burzahom, which means 'the place of birch9. It is situated 16 km north-west of Srinagar (JK).
  • The neolithic people of Burzahom lived there on a lake-side in pits, and probably had a hunting and fishing economy.
  • The people of GufkraI (literally the 'cave of the potter5), a neolithic site 41 km south- west of Srinagar practised both agriculture and domestication of animals.
  • The only other place which has yielded considerable bone implements in India is Chirand, which is 40 km west of Patna on the northern side of the Ganga.
  • The people of Burzahom used coarse grey pottery. It is interesting that the Burzahom domestic dogs were buried with their masters in their graves.
  • The placing of domestic dogs in the graves of the masters do not seem to be the practice with Neolithic people in any other part of India.
  • The earliest date for Burzahom is about 2700 B.C.
  • The second group of neolithic people lived in south India.
  • The third area from which neolithic tools have been recovered is in the hills of Assam.
  • Neolithic tools are also found in the Garo hills in Meghalaya.
  • A number of Neolithic settlements have been found on the northern spurs of the Vindhyas in Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of Uttar Pradesh.
  • Neolithic sites in Allahabad district are noted for the cultivation of rice.
  • The Neolithic phase in south India seems to have covered the period from about 2000 B.C. to about 1000 B.C.
  • Neolithic sites situated in Kamataka are -Maski, Brahmagiri, Hallur, Kodekal, Sanganakallu, T. Narsipur, Piklihal and Takkalakota.
  • Paiyampalli is an important Neolithic site in Tamilnadu.
  • Utnur is an important Neolithic site in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The neolithic settlers in Piklihal were cattle-herders.
  • Both the ash mounds and the habitation sites have been found in Piklihal.
  • The neolithic settlers were the earliest farming communities.
  • The neolithic people of Mehrgarh were more advanced. They produced wheat, cotton, and lived in mud-brick houses.
  • Since in the neolithic phase several settlements came to be acquainted with the cultivation of cereals and the domestication of animals, they needed pots in which they could store their foodgrains. Hence pottery first appears in this phase.

NCERT Extracts - The Stone Age
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