PALAEOLITHIC AND MESOLITHIC CULTURES

DISCUSS THE SITE DISTRIBUTION AND SETTLEMENT/SUBSISTENCE PATTERNS OF PALAEOLITHIC AND MESOLITHIC CULTURES.

Prehistory refers to that phase of human history when earth was still taking shape and man was evolving biologically through various extinct species from the primates to its present form. It is a history of early man’s struggle for survival in adverse environment and is marked by his steady progress from an animal hunting and wild food collecting wandering life to that of a food producing and cattle herding settled life.

Prehistory in India deals with Early Stone Age when man was a savage, a hunter, and a nomad. Based on the ‘tool making’ traditions, the entire Stone Age culture has been divided into 3 main stages i.e. Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic. Robert Bruce Foote established the science of pre-history in India. The first evidence of Stone Age culture in India surfaced in Karnataka in 1842 when Dr. Primrose discovered polish stone knives and arrowheads at Lingsugur in Raichur district in Karnataka.

PALAEOLITHIC
The Palaeolithic (old stone) Age constitutes the longest phase of prehistory and covers the whole range of the Pleistocene epoch from about 2 mya – 10,000 B.C. Palaeolithic Age has been divided into three phases - Lower Palaeolithic, the tools included handaxes, cleavers, choppers and chopping tools; Middle Palaeolithic, the tools largely had flakes; and Upper Palaeolithic, the tools mainly included burins and scrapers. This division is based on progressive improvement in tool types which gradually came to acquire better efficiency in their cutting edge and operating phase. The majority of tools found were made of quartzite. These tools, with some regional variations, exhibit remarkable similarity in their form, technique and raw material all over the Indian suB.C.ontinent.

Tapi. at Sanghao caves in the North West Frontiers Province and in the Potwar plateau of the northern Punjab. Anagawadi and Bagalkot are two most important sites on Ghatprabha where both Early and Middle Palaeolithic tools have been found. . Middle Palaeolithic artefacts are found at several places on the river Narmada. Penniyar and Kaveri in Tamil Nadu are rich in Palaeolithic tools. Chittoor. lower. cleavers. Bhima and Krishna have yielded a large number of Palaeolithic artefacts and tools. In the Peninsular region. borers. chopper. The river valleys and foothills of the Chotanagpur plateau in Jharkhand and the adjoining areas of W. and Nalagonda. from parts of South India. Rivers such as Sabarmati. scrapers.PALAEOLITHIC SITES Lower Palaeolithic stone tools have been found in the Sohan valley (Pakistan). and it is reported mainly from the districts of Kurnool (where bone tools are discovered in limestone caves). Andhra Pradesh was also found. Brahmani and Mahanadi rivers. and points have been discovered. The Buharbalang Valley in Orissa has many Lower and Middle Palaeolithic tools. The Wagaon and Kadamali rivers in Mewar are rich in Middle Palaeolithic tools where a variety of scrapers. Attirampakkam (Tamil Nadu) have yielded both Early and Middle Palaeolithic artefacts. In Bihar. many Palaeolithic sites have been reported and the main artefacts are handaxes and choppers. Bengal have yielded lower Palaeolithic tools. In Singhbum. Some Palaeolithic tools have been found in the deltaic region of Orissa formed by the Baitarani. and borers have been reported in Chirki (Maharashtra). In Rajasthan. The rivers Palar. The presence of Upper Palaeolithic artefacts has been reported in the Thar regions. Mahi. and at several sites. Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) is a site in which tools representing the Acheulian tradition were replaced at a later stage by the Middle Palaeolithic Culture. middle and upper Palaeolithic tools have been found around Ajmer and stray finds of lower Palaeolithic tools occur in the Luni valley. broken pieces of stone and anvils. Acheulian handaxes have been found in large numbers in Ghatprabha basin in Karnataka. a lower Palaeolithic living and working floor was excavated at Paisra in the Kharagpur forests where the area was rich in finished and unfinished artefacts. central Gujarat and north-western Kathiawar. These were known as the Sohanian industries and were dominated by pebble or core tools and characterized as chopper/chopping tools. Palaeolithic tools like handaxes. An Upper Palaeolithic blade and burin industry from a group of sites near Renigunta in Chittoor district. A handaxe was discovered near Pahalgam in Kashmir on the River Lidder. south of the Tungabhadra River. Godavari. Andhra Pradesh is rich in Palaeolithic material.

The use of animal bones. The technology of producing tools also underwent change. black buck. gazelle. Bhimbetka is well known for continuous season of paintings of different periods. However. wild boar. MESOLITHIC AGE The Mesolithic Age represent a phase of transition from the preceding hunting and food gathering stage of the Palaeolithic period to that of farming and herding in the succeeding Neolithic period. The beginning of the art of making clay pots is also a significant development of the Mesolithic age. a variety of birds. The paintings are predominantly of bisons. Microlithic or small . The earliest paintings belong to Upper Palaeolithic. enough plant and animal food and the raw material for making tools.000 BP or 8. There was a significant growth in population and the change in demographic profile. Faunal remains give us some idea about the relationship between Palaeolithic human beings and their resources about their subsistence pattern. along with stones. These paintings also reflected that Palaeolithic people lived in small band societies whose subsistence economy was based on exploitation of resources in the form of both animal and plant products. It coincides with the beginning f the Holocene age. rhinos and boars. around 10. It seems that the subsistence patterns of hunter-gatherers were geared to a dry season/wet season cycle of exploitation of plant and animal foods.SUBSISTENCE PATTERNS An analysis of the Palaeolithic sites in India indicates that human ancestors generally lived in open air sites or in rock or cave shelters. This age witnessed a change in climate from cold and arid to warm and wet on account of the gradual recession of the glaciers. there was shift in pattern of hunting from big game to small game hunting. The craft activity of the Palaeolithic people is demonstrated in the growing skill in making finer and sharper stone tools and in the selection of better and more compatible raw material. This change led to the melting of snow and the formation of rivers resulting in the growth of forests and vegetation. tigers. It is likely that the Palaeolithic people subsisted on animals such as ox. Although the Mesolithic man was still in hunting and gathering stage of subsistence. now small stone tools were being used increasingly. Rock paintings and carvings also give us an insight into the subsistence pattern and social life of the Palaeolithic people. and fowling. there is no evidence of selective hunting in this period. bison. These people lived in a group of 20 or 25 and their movement was determined by the seasonal availability of food resources. The sites were mostly closer to the higher river banks or the hill terraces and their location was governed by the consideration of easy availability of perennial water. fishing. antelope. These remains suggest that the people were primarily in a hunting and gathering stage. tortoises and fishes and on honey and plant foods.000 BC. elephants. marked the biggest change in the life of man from the Palaeolithic age to the Mesolithic age.

in Goa. flakes. Baghai Khor is another rock shelter site in the same area where two extended burials were identified. Keonjhar. Microliths have been found in the valleys of Tapi. Microlithic sites found in the vicinity of Mumbai seem to represent coastal Mesolithic communities who exploited marine resources for food. Meoslithic tools like blades and geometric Microliths made of chalcedony have been found at Bhimbetka. Mahi. Bagor on the river Kothari is the largest Mesolithic site in India where geometric Microliths are found along with shells and animal bones. triangles. In Eastern India. the Microliths are mostly made out of milky quartz. querns and mullers. Rock shelters excavated at Lekhakia (in Mirzapur district of southern UP) have yielded blade tools and Microliths. One of the important site is Langhnaj. Microliths generally occur on the surface of laterite plains and forests in Orissa.stone tools (their length ranging from 1 to 8 cm) comprised of tools made on blades and include burins. etc. and the Chota Nagpur Plateau and on the rocky (sandstone) hillocks of Mirzapur. Paradesipalem. Burials and pottery was also found. chert. Mayurbhanj. Microliths have been reported from the Kurnool area and Renigunta in Andhra Pradesh. Bengal. They have been found at Jalahalli and Kibbanhali near Bangalore in Karnataka. crescents. The tools were generally made of milky quartz. and Sabarmati. Birbhanpur located on the river Damodar in West Bengal seems to have been both a habitation and a factory site. have been found on teris (old sand dunes). patches of burnt floor plaster. and at Nagarjunakonda (in southern Andhra Pradesh). Kuchai and Sundergarh in Orissa. There were hearths. and animal bones. though crystal. points and crescents. stone tablets and ring stones have been found at sites such as Chandrampalem. mostly of quartz and chert. Being located at the juncture of arable and fertile lands and being rich in quartz Bagor was an ideal location for the Mesolithic man whose subsistence pattern relied on his surroundings. MESOLITHIC SITES The Pachpadra basin and the Sojat area in Rajasthan are rich in Microliths with Tilwara and Bagor being the most important sites. and hammer stones have been discovered. and Rushikonda. charred wild grains. points. trapeze. Narmada. In peninsular India. In the south of Chennai. At Damdama near Sai River. chalcedony. anvils. tiny stone tools. quartzite and fossil wood tools have also been found. SUBSISTENCE PATTERN . lunettes. Sebalgiri in the Garo hills of Meghalaya have also yielded Microliths. Microliths. Sagan Kullu in Karnataka has yielded cores. bone objects. Further south. On the Vishakapatnam coast.

bison. social organization had become more stable as the paintings and engravings depict activities like sexual union. which the Mesolithic people used. At Bagor. porcupine. hits. Sometimes. and fish. The early Mesolithic sites have yielded the faunal remains of cattle. mongoose. black buck. N. food gathering. give us considerable idea about their social life and economic activities. It can be suggested that hunting provided significant portion of the food resource. fishing and other human activities. and the most common form of burial was the extended burial. seeds. and burial ceremonies. The paintings and engravings found at the rock shelters. the dead were buried in a flexed position with arms and legs folded as if in sleeping position. buffalo. and goat. rearing of child. It is difficult to establish co-relation between the animal meat and vegetal food in the context of Mesolithic age because the plant remains are perishable in nature. pig. having only a few bones. The dead were buried inside the habitation area. a body lying on the back with face upward. The Mesolithic people also collected wild roots. The economy was primarily based on hunting and gathering. Pratapgarh and Mirzapur are rich in Mesolithic art and painting and they reflect Hunting. Some areas seem to have been rich in grass. sheep or goat were domesticated in this period. trapping of mice. nuts and fruits. . The appearance and disappearance of the animals has to be understood in the context of changing climatic and environmental conditions. and people would have used them as food resources. and Sarai Nahar Rai. Sites like Bhimbetka. fishing. and nilgai have been found from different Mesolithic sites like Langhanaj and Tilwara and it seems these were consumed as food. According to Allchin. The animal bones and stone tools found at various sites form the chief evidence of the subsistence pattern of the Mesolithic people. This direct evidence is supplemented by the depiction of scenes of hunting. and these constituted important elements in the overall dietary pattern. Men lived along the banks of the rivers and foothills where raw material was easily available. sheep. tortoise. It could also be said that during the Mesolithic period. honey etc. and plant food collection in the contemporary rock paintings. There is evidence of human burials in India at various sites such as Langhanj. edible roots. sheep. hare. elephant. deer.Floral and Faunal remains gives us ideas about the subsistence pattern whereas the burials and rock paintings gives us ideas about the development of religious practices. cheetah. a paved floor littered with bones has been identified by V. Adamgarh. There is also evidence of secondary or fractional burials. The remains of fish. Mishra as a place for butchering animals or a slaughter house. Bagor. there is evidence of domestication of cattle. hippo. wolf. tubers. At Bagor and Adamgarh. The diet of the people during Mesolithic Age included both meat and vegetal food. childbirth.

Beads of semi precious stones such as jasper and agate have been reported from Bagor. The Mesolithic phase of prehistory was characterized by the introduction of new technology in the form of material and composite tools as well as by some progress towards the domestication of animals and plant collection. and cultural life of the people. there seems to have been a shift from big animal hunting to small animal hunting and fishing. The grave goods (like microliths and bone ornaments) obtained from the graves gives us an important insight into the material culture of the Mesolithic people. social. From the Palaeolithic age to Mesolithic Age. CONCLUSION The Pre-historic societies of hunter-gatherers are studied based on archaeological remains with the help of anthropological theories. they also exploited the plant foods. The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic ages represent the hunting-gathering stage of social evolution. people were primarily in the hunting and gathering stage. The hunting-gathering pattern continued during Mesolithic age. a grave contains 4 individuals in 2 pairs of a male and a female each. Bhimbetka.At Sarai Nahar Rai. People seem to have hunted large and middle-sized mammals. The meticulous way in which the burials were made and the way in which the dead bodies and grave goods were placed clearly indicate the performance of some ritual at the time of death and the emergence of belief in life after death. and Adamgarh. one skeleton is wearing an earring along with a necklace of beads made of antler bone. the male being placed on the right of the female. During the Palaeolithic age. This period reveals the earliest use of ornaments and sheds enough light on the craft activity and aesthetic sensibility of the Mesolithic people. Faunal remains give us considerable idea about the subsistence pattern of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic people. At the same time. The pre-historic paintings give us insight into the economic. At Mahadaha. .

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