Palaeolithic period is a prehistoric period of human activity who used stone as weapons and tools. Palaeolithic men were hunter gatherers. “Paleo” means old and “lithic” means stone. The Paleolithic Age in India is divided into three phases in accordance with the type of stone tools used by the people and also according to the nature of climatic change.
The first phase is called Early or Lower Paleolithic, the second Middle Paleolithic, and the third Upper Paleolithic.
The oldest recognisable tools made by Paleolithic people were stone choppers such as those discovered at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The prehistory of India goes back to the Old Stone Age (Palaeolithic). While India lies at the eastern part, there are numerous Acheulean (relating to typical lower Palaeolithic culture of middle Pleistocene Epoch characterised by large hand axes and clevers ) spots like Hathnora, in the Narmada Valley.
The broken skull specimen of Homo erectus is the first and only of its kind discovered in India so far of Palaeolithic Age. This skull was discovered on 5th December, 1982 in the middle of the Narmada valley in Hathnora, Madhya Pradesh. It is the most ancient human remanant so far discovered in Indian subcontinent. It was discovered in-situ which allows a precise determination of its stratigraphic, paleontological and cultural context that is clearly attributable to the Middle Pleistocene (around 500,000 years ago) age in the geological time scale. This age covers one of the longest time span as well as represent major climatic changes occurred during this period.
Lower Palaeolithic Age
The early Stone Age may have begun in Africa around 2 million years ago but in India it began much earlier than in Africa and is expected to have occurred 600,000 million years ago. One of such oldest sites is located in Maharashtra at Bori.
The hunting and gathering was usually dependent mainly on the seasons. The vegetation also varied according to the season. During this period people were not aware of cooking and fire. People of lower Palaeolithic Age ate all food in raw condition without being cooked as the fire was not known to them. These people were wanderers and hence moved from one place to another in search of food.
Early old Stone Age excavation have been found in places like valley of river Son or Shown in Punjab, now in Pakistan. Several sites have been found in Kashmir and Thar Desert. The tools have been also been excavated in places like Belan valley in UP and in certain parts of deserts of Rajasthan like Didwana. Other places where the traces of early Stone Age were found are Nagajunkunda in AP, caves and rock shelters in Bhimbekska near Bhopal. Rock paintings and carvings have been founded in Bhimbekska from different periods. The animals that are carved in these paintings are mostly bison, elephants, tigers, rhino, boars etc. As on today about 750 caves have been discovered in Bhimbekta where such paintings are found. The cave paintings on the rocks makes one wonder that if the animals themselves evolved out of these paintings or were people were better artists. The paintings also showed the child birth, community dancing, drinking, religious rites, burials etc. The usual colours used were red and white with occasional colour of green and yellow. The themes were usually of everyday activities like hunting, dancing, masking, household scenes.
All these breathtaking paintings that they have survived the time and weather till now demonstrate skills of people of Palaeolithic Age.
During the lower Palaeolithic era various culture and traditions can be observed.
This culture prevailed during lower Palaeolithic period in Pakistan. It was in 1928 where tools were discovered by Dr D.N. Wadia and Dr Helmet de Terra. Extensive pebbles and flakes are found in this area.
Mr Robert Bruce foot found hand axes near chennai and called it as madrasain culture.
This is one of the longest cultures of the paleolathic
people. They are found in the terrace gravel of the Somme. This culture was
named after a French site of Acheulean of the Indian subcontinent. Most of the
sites in India include Rajasthan, Deccan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, east and north
east have been categorised in a]Acheulian culture. In general this culture can
be divided into lower middle and upper culture. This culture continued
basically with bifacial core tools and primarily focused on hand axe. The hand
axes marked with sinuous edge. The lower paleolatic people slowly started to
give way to Middle Palaeolithic Age
Middle Palaeolithic Age:
People of middle Palaeolithic age started using more sophisticated tools during this period . The tools became more sharp and neat. The core tools completely changed into flake tools in this Age. Both Levalloisian and Mousterian culture was developed on the flake tool tradition involving higher technology. Levalloisian culture which was started in the name of Porto Mousterian began in the middle Acheulean stage. With the advent of flake tools this era is also called as flake tool age. While quartile, Quartz and basalt still continued to be used, many tools was replaced or supplemented by siliceous Rock. Important place in India of middle paleolatic are Didwana Buddha Puskar in Rajasthan, valleys of the Belan, Son river Narmada River, Deccan plateau and Eastern Ghats.
Upper Palaeolithic age:
The upper paleolatic age shows more specialised tools made on blades of the hand axes and flake tools of earlier periods. In this not only flint and similar rocks were used but also ivory and antler were also used. One of the important discovery was the eggs of ostrich shells at over 40 sites in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra which shows that ostrich is a bird which adjusted to different climates was widely present in western part of India. During later part of Pleistocene due to climate change, vegetation became sparse. The tools were further refined in upper paleolatic period. The refined tools are evident from the bores in stones grinding slabs etc. The bored stones are still used by fisherman as net sinkers in fishing and marine fishing. Some of the important places of paleolatic sites in India are Lidder river in Pahalgham currently in Jammu and Kashmir (India), Sohan valley in Punjab (India), Belan valley river, Ghataprabha river in Karnataka, Attirpakkam in Tamil Nadu.
Due to harsh and arid climate the vegetation was sparse. The fossils of flora and fauna show the presence of grass land. The tools of the upper paleolatic people were made by blade and they showed a marked regional diversity with respect to refinement of the tools and standardisation of finished tools.
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