Stone Age

 Stone Age

Archaeological excavations are the primary source of information for the stone age because it is a prehistoric era or the time before the development of writing.The Pallavaram handaxe, the first palaeolithic tool found in India, was uncovered by archaeologist Robert Bruce Foote.


The Indian Stone Age is primarily divided into three types based on the geological age, the type and technology of stone tools, and the subsistence level:

  • Between 500,000 and 10,000 BCE is the palaeolithic age, also known as the old stone age.
  • Between 10,000 and 6000 BCE is the Mesolithic Age (Late Stone Age).
  • Between 6000 and 1000 BCE is the Neolithic age (new stone age).


Palaeolithic Age (Old Stone Age)

The word "Palaeolithic" comes from the Greek words "palaeo," which means "old," and "lithic," which means stone. The old stone age is therefore referred to as the Palaeolithic age. India's old stone age, or palaeolithic culture, emerged during the Pleistocene epoch, also known as the Ice Age, a geological era when the earth was covered in ice, and the climate was so chilly that neither human life nor plant life could survive. However, the earliest species of men could have lived in a tropical area where ice had melted.

Main characteristics of the Palaeolithic age –

  1. The Native Americans are thought to have been members of the "Negrito" race and lived outdoors, in river valleys, caves, and rock shelters.
  2. They foraged for food, consumed wild fruits and vegetables, and relied on hunting to support themselves.
  3. It was only in later stages that they learned about houses, pottery, and agriculture.
  4. Paintings from the upper palaeolithic period prove the existence of art.
  5. People used unpolished, rough stones to make hand axes, choppers, blades, bruins, and other tools.  

Because the stone tools were crafted from hard rock quartzite, the Paleolithic men are known as "Quartzite" men in India.

According to the type of stone tools used by the people and the nature of the climatic changes, India's palaeolithic or old stone age can be divided into three phases.

  1. Up to 100,000 BC is the Lower Palaeolithic Age.
  2. 100,000 BC to 40,000 BC is the Middle Palaeolithic Period.
  3. Age of the Upper Palaeolithic: 40,000 to 10,000 BC

Lower Palaeolithic Age (Early Palaeolithic Age)

  • It mainly encompasses the Ice Age.
  • Tools used by hunters and food gatherers included hand axes, choppers, and cleavers; they were coarse and heavy.
  • The Maharashtra site of Bori is among the earliest lower Palaeolithic sites.
  • Tools were also crafted from limestone.
  • significant Lower Palaeolithic sites
    • Gujarat
    • Central India
    • Deccan Plateau
    • Chotanagpur plateau
    • North of the Cauvery River
    • Belan valley in UP
    • Soan valley (in the present Pakistan)
    • Sites in the Thar Desert
    • Kashmir
    • Mewar plains
    • Saurashtra
  • Rock shelters and caves are examples of places where people have lived.
  • Bhimbetka, in Madhya Pradesh, is a significant location.

Middle Palaeolithic age

  • Flakes, blades, pointers, scrapers, and borers were used as tools.
  • The implements were thinner, lighter, and smaller.
  • In comparison to other tools, the use of hand axes decreased.
  • Vital sites from the middle Palaeolithic period
    • Son and Narmada rivers
    • Bhimbetka
    • Tungabhadra river valleys
    • Potwar Plateau (between Indus & Jhelum)
    • Sanghao cave (near Peshawar, Pakistan)
    • Belan valley in UP
    • Luni valley (Rajasthan)


Age of the Upper Paleolithic

  • When the upper palaeolithic age began, the climate was getting slightly warmer and less humid because it was the end of the ice age.
  • Homo sapiens' emergence.
  • Technology and tool innovation are prominent during this time. There were many bone tools, such as burin tools, harpoons, parallel-sided blades, and needles.
  • Major Upper Palaeolithic archaeological sites
    • Chota Nagpur plateau (Bihar)
    • Maharashtra
    • Orissa and
    • The Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh
    • The only sites where bone tools have been found are in the Andhra Pradesh caves at Kurnool and Muchchatla Chintamani Gavi.
    • Hand axes, cleavers, blades, scrapers, and a few burins have been discovered in Bhimbhetka (south of Bhopal).
    • Belan
    • Son

Age of Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age)

Greek words "meso" and "lithic" are the source of the word "mesolithic." Meso means in the middle, and lithic means stone in Greek. As a result, the Mesolithic period of prehistory is also known as the "Middle Stone Age."

Both the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras are regarded as belonging to the Holocene. During this time, the climate warmed, the temperature rose, the ice melted, and alterations in flora and fauna resulted.

The Mesolithic Period's defining characteristics 

  • As time went on, the people of this era also domesticated animals and cultivated plants, laying the foundation for agriculture. At first, they survived on hunting, fishing, and food gathering.
  • Sheep and goats were the most popular domesticated animals, and the first domesticated animal was the dog's wild ancestor.
  • In addition to residing in caves and open spaces, the Mesolithic people maintained semi-permanent settlements.
  • People back then buried the deceased with food and other items because they thought there was life after death.
  • This period was characterized by the production of microliths, small stone tools, usually of chert, chalcedony, or crypto-crystalline silica, with geometric and asymmetrical shapes. They were also hafted onto wooden or bone handles to make composite tools, such as sickles, spearheads, and arrowheads. These microliths allowed Mesolithic man to hunt smaller creatures and birds.
  • Animal skin clothing first appeared on Mesolithic men.
  • Rock art was created by the Mesolithic people, who loved art. These paintings primarily featured wild animals, though they also included hunting, dancing, and food-gathering scenes. The gender-based labour division is also depicted in these rock paintings, providing insight into religious practices' evolution.
  • During this time, the Ganga Plains were first settled by humans.

Mesolithic sites of significance

  • One of India's largest and best-documented Mesolithic sites is Bagor in Rajasthan. Microliths and animal bones and shells have been discovered in Bagor on the Kothari River.
  • The earliest examples of animal domestication are at Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh.
  • A rich concentration of Mesolithic rock art sites can be found in Central India, including the Bhimbetka caves (Madhya Pradesh), Kharwar, Jaora, and Kathotia (M.P. ), Sundargarh and Sambalpur (Odisha), and Ezhuthu Guha (Kerala).
  • A few valleys of Tapi, Sabarmati, Narmada, and Mahi have also yielded microliths.
  • Important Mesolithic sites include Langhnaj in Gujarat and Biharanpur in West Bengal. Wild animal bones, including those of a rhinoceros and a blackbuck, have been found in Langhnaj. These locations have yielded numerous human skeletons as well as numerous microliths.
  • Despite being uncommon at most Mesolithic sites, pottery has been discovered in Langhnaj (Gujarat) and the Kaimur region of Mirzapur (U.P).

New Stone Age, or Neolithic Period

The Greek words "neo" (new) and "lithic" (stone) are combined to form the term "Neolithic." The phrase "Neolithic Age" thus refers to the "New Stone Age." Since it brought about many significant changes in man's social and economic life, it is also known as the "Neolithic revolution." The man began to produce food instead of just gathering it during the Neolithic period.

Neolithic Age Identifying Characteristics

  • Weapons and Tools - In addition to tools made of polished stones, the people also used microlithic blades. For ground and polished hand axes, using celts was particularly crucial. These included arrowheads, scrapers, needles, and other weapons and tools made of bone. With the aid of newly refined tools, humans were better able to hunt, cultivate, and carry out other tasks.
  • Agriculture – Neolithic farmers cultivated land and raised crops like ragi, horse gram (kulati), and fruits and corn. Cattle, sheep, and goats were also brought under domestication.
  • Pottery – People had to store their food grains after agriculture was developed in addition to cooking, eating, and other related tasks. It is because of this that it is claimed that the widespread use of pottery began during this phase. Grayware, black-burnished ware, and mat-impressed ware are the categories used to describe the pottery from this time. Pottery was made by hand in the early Neolithic period, but later pots were made on foot wheels.
  • Housing and Community - The Neolithic inhabitants of Europe lived in rectangular or circular mud and reed houses. In addition to building boats, Neolithic men were skilled weavers and spinners of cotton and wool. Neolithic era inhabitants lived more settled lives and helped pave the way for the emergence of civilization.

The hilly regions were close from where the Neolithic people lived. Since they relied solely on stone-made tools and weapons, they mostly lived in rocky shelters, the hills' valleys, and the hills' slopes.

Key Neolithic Sites


  • Burzahom (Kashmir) – People used polished stones and bones and polished stones for tools and buried domesticated animals alongside their owners in graves.
  • Gufkral (Kashmir) – This Neolithic site's pit dwellings, stone tools, and indoor cemeteries are well known.
  • Chirand (Bihar) – Neolithic men used bone-made implements and weapons.
  • Koldihwa and Mahagara (lying south of Allahabad) – Circular huts and crudely made pottery can both be seen at this location. The earliest rice evidence has been found not just in India but throughout the entire world.
  • Mehrgarh (Balochistan, Pakistan) – The first Neolithic site, where people resided in homes made of sun-dried bricks and raised crops like cotton and wheat.
  • Piklihal, Brahmagiri, Maski, Takkalakota, Hallur (Karnataka) – Ash mounds have been discovered, and the inhabitants were cattle herders who also tamed sheep and goats.
  • The Belan Valley is situated in the middle of the Narmada Valley and on the northern spurs of the Vindhya Mountains. The three phases—the palaeolithic, mesolithic, and neolithic ages—are all present in chronological order.

Stone Copper Age, or Chalcolithic Age

The Chalcolithic Age marks the beginning of using metal tools alongside stone tools. Initially, copper was used as a material. Although the Chalcolithic period was often thought to have started before the Harappan civilization in the Bronze Age, it started much later in many parts of the country.

Attributes of the Chalcolithic Age

  • Agriculture & cattle rearing – The people living in the stone-copper age domesticated animals and cultivated food grains. They domesticated cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and buffaloes and hunted deer. It is not clear whether they were acquainted with the horse or not. People ate beef but did not take pork on any considerable scale. The people of the Chalcolithic phase produced wheat and rice. They also cultivated bajra. They also produced pulses such as lentils (masur), black gram, green gram, and grass peas. Cotton was produced in the black cotton soil of the Deccan, and ragi, bajra and several millets were cultivated in the lower Deccan. The people belonging to the stone-copper phase in the eastern regions lived mainly on fish and rice, which is still a popular diet in that part of the country.
  • Pottery – When people were living in the stone-copper phase, they used a variety of pottery types, with black and red pottery being one of them. There was also a lot of interest in pottery in ochre. The potter's wheel was used, and it was also painted with linear white patterns.
  • Rural communities - Rural settlements and a lack of knowledge of burned bricks were characteristics of the people who lived in the stone age. Their homes were made of mud bricks and had thatches. Due to the fact that chiefs lived in rectangular homes while the common people lived in circular huts, this period also saw the start of social inequality. Their settlements comprised over 35 different-sized, circular or rectangular-shaped homes. A village economy is what is thought of as the chalcolithic economy.
  • Crafts and the Arts: Coppersmithing was an art practised by the Chalcolithic people. In addition to being skilled stone masons, they were also skilled in copper smelting. They were knowledgeable about the processes of spinning and weaving and were skilled in the creation of cloth. They lacked knowledge of writing techniques, however.
  • Worship - Chalcolithic sites contain tiny clay images of earth goddesses. So, one could say that they revered the Mother Goddess. The bull served as a religious cult in Malwa and Rajasthan, as evidenced by the stylized bull terracottas.
  • Infant mortality - The burial of numerous children in West Maharashtra indicates that infant mortality was high among the Chalcolithic people. Despite having a food-producing economy, infant mortality was extremely high. It can be concluded that the Chalcolithic social and economic structure did not favour long life.
  • Jewellery – The Chalcolithic people enjoyed adorning their homes and adding ornamentation. In addition to carrying intricately crafted combs in their hair, the women wore shell and bone ornaments. The semi-precious stones carnelian, steatite, and quartz crystal were used to make their beads.

Sites of Chalcolithic Importance

  • The inhabitants of Ahar (Banas valley, South Eastern Rajasthan) practised smelting and metallurgy and provided copper tools to other modern communities. On this land, rice was grown. 
  • It was found that there was a stone-blade industry in Gilund (Banas Valley, Rajasthan).
  • The largest Jorwe culture site in the Godavari valley is in Daimabad (Ahmednagar, Maharashtra). The bronze rhinoceros, elephant, two-wheeled chariot with a rider and buffalo are among the famous bronze items that have been recovered from there.
  • Madhya Pradesh's Malwa - On the Narmada and its tributaries, Malwa culture settlements are primarily found. In addition to spindle whorls, it provides evidence of the richest chalcolithic ceramics.
  • Kayatha (Madya Pradesh) – The Chambal River and its tributaries were primarily where the Kayatha culture was settled. Mud-plastered floors were common in homes, and artefacts made of copper with cutting edges and pre-Harappan pottery were also discovered.
  • The well-known chalcolithic sites in these states are Chirand, Senuar, Sonpur (Bihar), and Mahishdal (West Bengal).
  • In the Maharashtra cities of Songaon, Inamgaon, and Nasik, extensive mud structures with ovens and circular pit homes have been found.
  • Navdatoli (on Narmada) – It covered a 10-hectare area, was one of the largest chalcolithic settlements in the nation, and grew almost all food crops.
  • Nevasa (Jorwe, Maharashtra) and Eran (Madhya Pradesh) – The non-Harappan culture at these locations are well known.

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