The earth is over 4,600 million year old. The evolution of its crust shows four stages. The fourth stage is called the Quanternary, which is divided into Pleistocene (most recent) and Holocene (present); the former lasted between 200,000 and 10,000 years before the present and the latter began 10,000 years ago. Man is said to have appeared on the earth in the early Pleistocene, when true Ox, true Elephant and true Horses also originated. The early man seems to have moved around in Africa. The fossils of the early men have not been found in India. It appears that India was settled later than Africa, although the lithic technology of the subcontinent broadly evolved in the same manner as it did in Africa. The Old Stone Age or the Paleolithic culture of India developed in the Pleistocene period of the Ice Age.
Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age): Man in the Paleolithic age in India used tools of stone roughly dressed by crude shipping, which have been discovered thought the country except the alluvial plains of Indus, Ganga, and Yamuna rivers. These tools were used for hunting, gathering as man has no knowledge of cultivation. The Paleolithic age continued till 9,000 BC and is divided into three phases according to the nature of the stone tools used by the people. The phases of the Paleolithic age are as below:
Early or Lower Paleolithic age: 5,000,000 BC - 50,000 BC.
Its characteristic feature is the use of Hand-axes, cleavers and Choppers.
Stone tools were used mainly for chopping, digging and skinning.
Early Old Stone Age sites have been found in the valley of river Soan or Sohan in Punjab (now in Pakistan). Several sites have been also found in Kasmir, Thar Desert, Belan Valley of Mirzapur district Uttar Pradesh and in the Narmada Valley, and in the caves and rock shelters of Bhimbetka near Bhopal.
Middle Paleolithic age: 50,000 BC – 40,000 BC.
The Middle Paleolithic industries are mainly based upon flakes. These flakes show many regional variations in different parts of India.
The principal tools are verities of Blades, Paints, and Scrapers of flakes.
The artifacts of this age found at several places on the river Narmada and also at several places, south of the Tungabhadra River.
Upper Paleolithic age: 40,000 BC – 10,000 BC.
In this age the climate became comparatively warm. This phase is marked by the appearance of new flint industries and of men of the modern type (Homo Sapiens).
Blades and bruins have been found in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Central Madhya Pradesh, Southern Uttar Pradesh, South Bihar, Caves and Rock Shelters in upper Paleolithic phase have been discovered at Bhimbetka near Bhopal.
Mesolithic Age : 9000 BC – 4000 BC.
This phase intervened as the transitional phase between Paleolithic age and Neolithic age.
Climate change around 9000 BC broughtabout changes in fauna and flora, which made possible for human beings to move to new areas. Since then there have not been any major changes in climatic conditions.
The characteristic tools of the Mesolithic age are Microliths.
The Mesolithic people lived on hunting, fishing and food gathering and at latter stage they also domesticated animals.
The Mesolithic sites are found in good numbers in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Central and estern India and also south of river Krishna. Adamgardh in Madhya Pradesh and Bagor in Rajasthan provide the earliest evidence for the domestication of animals around 5000 BC. The cultivation of plants was possibly around 7000 BC to 6000 BC.
Rock paintings from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic ages have been found from Bhimbetka near Bhopal. Many birds, animals and human beings are painted.
Neolithic Age: 5000 BC – 1800 BC.
This phase is characterized by the cultivation of plants and domestication of animals.
The development of agriculture and cultivation of cereals transformed the nomadic hunters into sedentary farmers. This led to the beginning of village settlements, manufacture of new types of tools and greater control over nature for exploitation of natural resources.
Neolithic tools such as ground stone, celts, adzes, chisels, axes, saws, and burins have been found across India.
Chalcolithic Age: 1800 BC – 1000 BC.
The Neolithic age was followed by the Chalcolithic or stone-copper age, which generally occurred from 1800 BC – 1000 BC. This period was marked by the use of copper (the first metal used in India) as well as stone. They extend geographically from the Banas and Berach basins northeast of Udaipur through Malwa and into Western Maharashtra upto the Bhima Valley.
Megalith Age: 1000 BC
Megaliths usually refer to burials amidst stones in graveyards away from the habitation area. In South India this kind of elaborate burial came with Iron Age.
The material remains of Iron Age are represented by pottery with certain specific features, besides Iron age other metal objects Megalith burials have been reported from Maharashtra around Nagpur, Karnataka in sites like Maski, Andhra Pradesh in sites like Nagarjunkonda, Tamil Nadu in sites like Adichanallur and Kerla. The pottery that discovered from the excavated graves is Black and Red Ware.
Iron Objects have been found universally in all the megalithic sites right from Japani near Nagpur down to Adichanallur in Tamil Nadu with use of identical tools which testifies to the movement of a fairly tightly knit group of iron workers.
The settlements found near the Megalithic complexes have very thin debris of occupation. This would indicate that these people were living in one area for a very short time. May be with the knowledge of iron they could colonize areas. Thus, some of the population was nomadic and some settlements might indicate colonization of new areas. Where the settlements continue from the preceding period, people continued to live in their graves. It is these agro-pastoral groups that enter the historical phase in the early centuries of the Chirstian era. They have been mentioned in the Sangam literature. Some of the graves have yielded Roman coins which suggest their entry into history and their participation in trade networks spread over a large area.
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