Our Earth is 4600 million years old. The earliest human fossils found in Africa is about 2.6 million years old. The prehistoric man started living in the Indian subcontinent later than Africa. The prehistoric period of ancient Indian history is about 500,000 – 200,000 years old.
First modern human set foot on Indian subcontinent anywhere between 200,000 BC and 75,000 BC or with the early hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The earliest archaeological site in the Indian subcontinent is the Paleolithic hominid site in the Soan River Valley.
Early prehistoric period of ancient Indian history (Stone Age):
The prehistoric man began to use tool for the utilitarian purpose. On the basis of the specialization of the stone tool used, the stone age can be classified into three broad divisions.
- Paleolithic Age or Old stone age ( from unknown – 8000 BC)
- Mesolithic age or Middle stone age (8000 BC – 4000 BC)
- Neolithic age or New stone age (4000 BC – 2500 BC)
1. Paleolithic Age/Old Stone Age:
‘Paleo‘ means ‘old‘ and ‘lithic‘ means ‘stone‘. ‘Paleolithic‘ is a Greek term and the term ‘Paleolithic Age‘ was coined by archaeologist John Lubbock in 1865.
- The first prehistoric culture is known as Paleolithic Age.
- The first Paleolithic stone was discovered in India by Robert Bruce Foot in 1863.
- Time period: From unknown – 8000 BC
- Old stone age was developed in the Pleistocene period of the ice age.
- Animals were found in the Belan Valley in Mirzapur district in UP.
- Humans were essentially food gatherers and depending on nature for food.
- Crudely carved out stones were used. After that people began to make more specialized tools by flaking stones (pointed on the end)
- People had come to make and use fire.
Divisions of Paleolithic Age:
Between 500,000 BC to 50,000 BC
Between 50,000 BC – 40,000 BC
Between 40,000 BC – 10,000 BC
Use of hand axes, cleavers, choppers.
Use of flake tool, included handaxes, cleavers and scrapers, knives
Use of blades and burins.
Pahalgam in Kashmir,
Belan valley in Allahabad,
2. Mesolithic Age/Middle Stone Age:
- ‘Meso‘ means ‘middle‘ and ‘lithic‘ means ‘stone‘.
- Time period: 8000 BC – 4000 BC
- The living communities were essentially hunters, food gatherers, and fishermen.
- They also knew agriculture.
- Stones were attached to the branches of trees and ropes were made from animal skin. These tools were known as hand axes.
- The most important characteristic is the use of microliths (parallel-sided blades took out from prepared cores of such fine material as chert, crystal etc.)
- Microliths were discovered by A.C.L. Carlyle in 1867 from the Vindhya Rock Shelters.
- The painting was an important part of this age. Bhimbedka near Bhopal contains more than 500 painted rock shelters.
- Natural white and red pigments were used for rock paintings.
- First animals to be domesticated were dog, cattle, sheep, and goat.
- First cultivated plants were wheat and Barley.
- Bagor in Rajasthan
- Bhimbetka & Adamgarah in Madhya Pradesh (MP)
3. Neolithic Age/New Stone Age :
‘Neo‘ means ‘New‘ and ‘lithic‘ means ‘stone‘. The term ‘Neolithic‘ was first coined by Sir John Lubbock in 1865.
- Time period: 4000 BC – 2500 BC
- This was the last stage of stone age.
- With the end of the Pleistocene age, climatic conditions became more or less similar to today’s western and southern Asia. The human life was most affected by the domestication of a large number of animals and plants.
- Evidence suggests that wheat and Barley were cultivated by 7000 BC.
- Very finely flaked, small stone tools known as blades & burins were used.
- Kili Ghul Mohammad
Prehistoric period Rock Art:
There was some clear evidence of the prehistoric period rock art found in Murhana Pahar in Uttar Pradesh, Bhimbetka, Adamgarh & Kupagallu in Karnataka.
Drawing of human figures was quite common in the rock paintings. The humans were shown in various activities, like dancing, running, hunting and doing battles.
Animals were the most frequently depicted either alone or in groups.
Begining of Chalcolithic Age:
End of the Neolithic period saw the use of metals. After the end of the Neolithic age, a number of small cultures were born which was highly technical and modern. These people used copper & bronze to make their utilitarian tools. This phase of the period is called Chalcolithic Age (1800 BC – 1000 BC). The first metal to be used was copper and the culture based on the use of stone and copper was known as Chalcolithic Age.
- The Chalcolithic farmers had made great progress in metal technology. There was well made painted pottery fired in a kiln at the temperature between 500 – 700 Celcius.
- Axes, bangles, hooks were discovered, mostly made of copper.
- Copper was obtained from the Khetri mines of Rajasthan.
- Lime was prepared out of Kankar and used for painting houses.