Paleolithic Age in India: Sites, Characterstics and Tools

Paleolithic Age: Sites, Characterstics, and Tools
Bhimbetka Rock Paintings
The Paleolithic age is the time period in human history characterized by the development of stone tools. It began around 3.3 million years ago with the first stone tools and ends with the end of Ice Age around 10 thousand years ago. The Paleolithic age comprises almost 99 percent of the human history time.

The Paleolithic age is divided into three sub-periods: 1. Lower Paleolithic Age, 2. Middle Paleolithic Age, and 3. Upper Paleolithic Age.

Lower Paleolithic Age
Lower Paleolithic Age spans from the time around 3.3 mya when first stone tools were used, until around 300 ka when Oldowan and Acheulean lithics industries came into the existence.

The Lower Paleolithic men lived a nomadic lifestyle. They used to hunt for their food and also eat fruits and plant. They did not have the knowledge of agriculture, fire, or pottery. They prefer to live near a water source. The main tools of this age were hand axes and cleavers. These were rough and unpolished in nature and made up of quartz. Because of this, they are known as the ‘Quartzite Man’.

Contrary to popular belief, modern human first appeared in Africa, not in India. The footprints of modern humans in India can be traced back to 2.6 mya with findings of lower Paleolithic tools in the Shiwaliks. The Lower Paleolithic age in India is represented by Sohan culture and Madras culture.

Some of the major lower Paleolithic sites in India are Soan Valley (Punjab), Pahalgam (Jammu and Kashmir), Belan Valley (Uttar Pradesh), Didwana (Rajasthan), Narmada Valley (Maharashtra), Bhimbetka and Adamgarh (Madhya Pradesh), Hungi (Karnataka), Attirampakkam (Tamil Nadu) and rest of India except Ganga-Yamuna and Indus basin.

Middle Paleolithic Age

It spanned between 300 ka to 40 ka. The Middle Paleolithic men used flake-blades, points, borers, and scrappers. The tools are made on flakes obtained by striking them out from pebbles or cobbles. They are small and much sharper than the tools of Lower Paleolithic age. There was a regional variation in tools. The atmosphere was warmer. A crude pebble industry was observed. They still used to live in caves and hollow tree trunks

Most of the Middle Paleolithic sites overlap with the Upper Paleolithic sites in India. Some of the important Middle Paleolithic sites are Bhimbetka (Madhya Pradesh), Nevasa, Pushkar (Luni Valley, Rajasthan), Chhota Nagpur Plateau (Chhattisgarh), Rohiri hills (Sindh), Soan valley, Narmada valley, and Tungabhadra valley.

Upper Paleolithic Age

The Upper Paleolithic Age spanned between 40 ka to 10 ka. The important innovation of the Upper Paleolithic age is the method of producing parallel-sided blades from a carefully prepared core. Once a good core of this kind prepared, it can yield many parallel-sided blades with no or little preparation.

The main tools of this age are awls, scrappers, blades, knives, borers and burins. First composite tools were also seen during this age. The blade tools are comparatively large, up to 8 cm.

Also, the first signs of religion in India appeared during this age. A triangular piece of stone on a rubble platform was found in Baghor, Son Valley. The said stone is attributed to Shakti or Mother Earth.

Cave paintings became a tool of expression and started appearing in many parts of the country. The bone artefacts and cave paintings also appeared during this age. Bhimbetka cave paintings are one such example.

Some of the famous Upper Paleolithic sites are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, parts of the Ganga and Belan valleys, Central and Western India, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The Paleolithic Age At Glance
AgeToolsClimateMajor Sites
LowerHand Axes, cleavers and choppersHumidity decreasedSoan Valley, Shiwaliks
MiddleFlake-blades, points, borers and scrapersFurther decrease in humiditySoan Valley and Narmada Valley
UpperScrapper and burinWarm ClimateBhimbetka caves