The Earth is nearly 4000 million years old. The evolution of its crust shows four stages.
Evolution of Earth's crustThe fourth stage is called the Quaternary, which is divided into Pleistocene (most recent) and Holocene (present); the former lasted between 1,000,000 and 10,000 years before the present and the latter began about 10,000 years ago.
Man is said to have appeared on the earth in the early pleistocene, when true ox, true elephant and true horse also originated. But now this event seems to have occurred in Africa about 2.6 million years back.
The fossils of the early men have not been found in India. A hint of the earliest human presence is indicated by stone tools obtained from the deposits ascribable to the Second Glaciation, which could be dated around 250,000 B.C.
However, recently reported artefacts from Bori in Maharashtra take the appearance of man as early as 1.4 million years ago.
2. The first phase may be placed broadly, between 250,000 B.C. and 100,000 B.C. The second between 100,000 B.C. and 40,000 B.C. The third between 40,000 B.C. and 10,000 B.C. on the basis of scientific datings available so far.
3. The Early Old Stone Age sites are found in the valley of river Soan or Sohan in Punjab, now in Pakistan. Several sites have ,been found in Kashmir and the Thar Desert.
4. The Lower Palaeolithic tools have also been found in the Belamvalley in Mirzapur District in Uttar Pradesh.
5. Those found in the desert area of Didwana in Rajasthan, in the valleys of the Belam and the Narmada, and in the caves and rock shelters of Bhimbetka near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh roughly belong to 100,000 B.C.
6. The Upper Palaeolithic phase was less humid. It coincided with die last phase of the Ice Age when climate became comparatively warm.
7. In the world context it marks die appearance of new flint industries and of men of the modern type (Homo sapiens).
8. In India, we notice the use of blades and burins, which have been found in Andhra, Karnataka Maharashtra, central Madhya Pradesh, southern Uttar Pradesh, south Bihar plateau and the adjoining areas.
9. 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
1. The Upper Palaeolithic Age came to an end with the end of the Ice Age around 9000 B.C., and the climate became warm and dry. ln 9000 B.C. began an intermediate stage in stone age culture, which is called the Mesolithic Age.
2. It intervened as a transitional phase between the Palaeolithic Age and the Neolithic or New Stone Age.
3. The mesolithic people lived on hunting, fishing and food gathering: at a later stage they also domesticated animals.
4. The first three occupations continued the palaeolithic practice, while the last was interrelated with the neolithic culture.
5. The characteristic tools of the Mesolithic Age are microliths The mesolithic sites are found in good numbers in Rajasthan, southern Uttar Pradesh, central and eastern India and also south of the river Krishna Of them Bagor in Rajasthan is very well excavated.
6. It had a distinctive microlithic industry, and its inhabitants subsisted on hunting and pastoralism. The cultivation of plants around 7000-6000 B.C. is suggested in Rajasthan from a study of the deposits of the former Salt Lake,Sambhar.
7. The mesolithic culture continued to be important roughly from 9000 B.C. to 4000 B.C. There is no doubt that it paved the way for the rise of the Neolithic culture.
8. The people of palaeolithic and mesolithic ages practised painting. Prehistoric art appears at several places, but Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh is a striking site.
9. Situated in the Vindhya range, 45 km south of Bhopal, it has more than 500 painted rock shelters, distributed in an area of 10 sq km.
10. The rock paintings extend from the palaeolithic to the mesolithic period and in some series even up to recent times.
11. Perching birds, which live upon grain, are absent in the earliest group of paintings, which evidently belongs to the hunting/gathering economy.
The Neolithic Age
1. In the world context the New Stone Age began in 9000 B.C.
2. 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 are found in south India are not older than 2500 B.C., in some parts of southern and eastern India they are as late as 1000 B.C.
3. The people of this age used tools and implements of polished stone. They particularly used stone axes, which have been found in large numbers in a good part of the hilly-tracts of the country. This cutting tool was put to various uses by the people, and in ancient legends Parashurama became an important axe-wielding hero.
Based on the types of axes used by neolithic settlers, we notice three important areas of neolithic settlements- northwestern, north-eastern and southern.
The north-western group of neolithic tools represents rectangular axes with curved cutting edge.
The north¬eastern group shows polished stone axes with rectangular butt and has occasional shouldered hoes.
The southern group is distinguished by axes with oval sides and pointed butt.
4. In the north-west, the Kashmiri neolithic culture was distinguished by its dwelling pits, the range of ceramics, the variety of stone and bone tools, and the complete absence of the microliths.
5. An important site is that of Burzahom, which means ‘the place of birth’ and is situated 16 km north-west of Srinagar.
6. Neolithic tools are also found in the Garo hi in Meghalaya on the north-eastern frontiers India.
7. Some of the important neolithic sites or those with neolithic layers that have been excavated include Maski, Brahmagiri, Hallur, Kodekal, Sanganakallu, T. Narsipur and Takkalakota in Karnataka, and Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu. Piklihal and Utour are important neolithic sites in Andhra Pradesh.
8. The neolithic phase in south India seems to have covered the period from about 2000 B.C. to 1000 B.C. The neolithic settlers were the earliest farming communities. They broke the ground with stone hoes and digging sticks at the end of which ring stones weighing one to half a kilogram were fixed. They produced ragi and horsegram (kulathi). The neolithic people of Mehrgarh were more advanced. They produced wheat, cotton, and lived in mud-brick houses.
9. Neolithic celts, axes, adzes, chisels, etc., have also been found in the Orissa and Chotanagpur hill areas.
10. The period between 9000 B.C. and 3000 B.C. saw a remarkable progress of technology in western Asia, because the people developed the arts of cultivation, weaving, pot making, house building, domestication of animals, etc. But the Neolithic Age in the Indian subcontinent began around the sixth millennium B.C.