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Stone Age

The first phase of human history is known as the stone age. It is known as 'the stone age' because of the following reasons:

  • Stone was the strongest material known to humans; metal was not known at that time.

  • Stone tools were used in almost every human activities.

  • Stone technology was the most advanced technology of that age.

  • Most of the information about this age comes stone tools.

Stone Tools

Phases of Stone Age

For the convenience of study, Stone Age can be classified into three:

  1. Old Stone Age (Paleolithic Age)

  2. Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic Age)

  3. New Stone Age (Neolithic Age)

  • Paleolithic Age refers to the period from 2 Million Years Ago (2MYA) to 10000 BC. It can be further classified into:

  1. Lower Paleolithic Age (2MYA to 37000 BC)

  2. Middle Paleolithic Age (37000 BC to 21000 BC)

  3. Upper Paleolithic Age (21000 BC to 10000 BC)

  • During excavations of Paleolithic sites, we get Upper Paleolithic tools from the upper layers and Lower Paleolithic tools from the lower layers of the ground.

  • Mesolithic Age refers to the period from 10000 BC to 5000 BC.

  • Neolithic Age refers to the period from 5000 BC to 2800 BC.

  • It is to be noted that, in different parts of Indian Sub Continent, the time period of each Age varies slightly.

Evolution of Human Beings During Stone Age

  • Human beings evolved from primates (apes).

  • During Lower Paleolithic age, the ancestors of humans were known as 'Homo Habilus' (hand using man). In this phase, apes started walking on two feet in a bent position; they started using their front legs as hands.

  • In the next phase, 'Homo Habilus' was evolved into 'Homo Erectus' (Upright man). From bent position, they started walking in upright position.

  • In the Middle Paleolithic Age, 'Homo Erectus' was evolved into 'Homo Sapiens Archaic' (brain using man).

  • During Upper Paleolithic Age, Homo Sapiens Archaic was evolved into 'Homo Sapiens Sapiens' (modern man). In this phase, the brain was fully developed.

Increase in brain size during human evolution

Evolution of Tool Technology During Stone Age

  • Stone Age man used stone tools. Tools were made by hitting one stone with another one.

  • During Paleolithic Age, sedimentary rocks (mainly quartz) were used to make tools; during Mesolithic Age, better varieties of quartz (chert, jasper, flint, etc.) were used; during Neolithic Age, igneous rocks were used to make tools.

  • During Lower Paleolithic Age, tools were made using 'core technology', i.e.. outer layers of the rocks were removed and inner core was used as stone tool. These tools were bigger in size and were unrefined.

Lower Paleolithic Tools
  • During Middle Paleolithic Age, flakes (outer layers of the rock) were used as stone tools. Because the flakes were more sharp and easy to use.

Flakes during Middle Paleolithic Age
  • During Upper Paleolithic Age, 'blade technology' was used to make tools, i.e.. tools were sharpened from one side so that cutting became easy.

Stone blades during Upper Paleolithic Age
  • During Mesolithic Age, microliths were used; they were very small tools of the size of around 3 cm. Microliths were used as arrow heads and spear heads. It indicates that man was aware of projectile technology during the Mesolithic Age.

Microliths (used as spear heads and arrow heads)
  • During Neolithic Age, 'celt tools' (tools with handles) were used; holes were drilled in the tools and handles were fixed. It indicates that the Neolithic Age man was aware of the principle of torque (longer the handle, more will be the torque and less will be the force required). Grinding and polishing techniques were used to make tools; so the tools were highly refined (polished).

Celt tool of Neolithic Age

Evolution of Economic Life During Stone Age

  • During Lower Paleolithic Age, man was vegetarian; he survived on roots and fruits. Because the anatomy of apes does not allow the digestion of meat.

  • As human anatomy evolved, man started consuming meat. So hunting activities began and as a result, the economy became 'hunting and food gathering economy'. Throughout the Paleolithic Age, the economy remained 'hunting and food gathering economy'.

hunter-gatherer economy

  • During the Mesolithic Age, the climate became warmer, so the survival rate of human beings increased. As a result, human population increased. It was no longer possible to meet the food needs from hunting and food gathering activities alone. So man started the domestication of animals. The economy became 'pastoral economy'. Goats and sheep were the first animals to be domesticated.

  • During Neolithic period, the climate improved and the population increased further. Domestication of animals was no longer sufficient to meet the food needs. So man started practicing agriculture. Rice, wheat, barley, etc. were cultivated.

  • Once agriculture was started, the need of pottery was felt to store food grains. Initially, the pots were handmade; later, wheel was invented and pots were made with the help of potters wheel.

  • Knowledge of the wheel resulted in the manufacture of carts. So man started using vehicles for the first time.

Evolution of Living Pattern During Stone Age

  • During Paleolithic Age, people lived in caves or rock shelters. Eg: Bhimbetka caves in Raisin district of Madhya Pradesh.

  • During Mesolithic period, man started making huts. The huts were made using bamboo, grass, etc. We can see the evidences of Mesolithic settlements at Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Bagor in Rajasthan, etc.

  • During Neolithic period, man started constructing houses using sun dried bricks, wood, etc. Eg: We can see the evidences of Neolithic settlements at Mehgarh in the Bolan Valley of Balochistan.

Evolution of Social Life During Stone Age

  • During Paleolithic Age, the population size was small. A few people (usually the members of a family) were living together. The concept of social life was absent at that time.

  • During Mesolithic period, the climate became warmer and as a result, the population size increased. People started living in groups and the concept of social life emerged for the first time. During this period, a number of families started living together in an area.

  • During Paleolithic and Mesolithic Ages, people were living a nomadic life. So stable societies were absent during these Ages. Because the practice of agriculture was absent at that time.

  • During Neolithic period, man started practicing agriculture. He started living at a particular place for a longer period of time. For the first time, stable societies emerged; man started sedentary life.

  • Villages came into existence during Neolithic period. The oldest evidence of village life in Indian Sub Continent is seen at Mehgarh in Bolan Valley of Balochistan.

Cultural Life During Stone Age

  • Paleolithic and Mesolithic people practiced painting. Paintings belonging to these periods are found from Bhimbetka caves of Madhya Pradesh. These paintings depicts scenes of day today life such as communal dancing, hunting scenes, etc.

Bhimbetka Cave Painting: Hunting Scene
  • From the cave paintings, we can assume that dancing was known to the Stone Age people. Since dancing is not possible without music, we can assume that music was also known to them.

Bhimbetka Cave Painting: Communal Dancing
  • Since Upper Paleolithic Age, people were burying dead bodies. This shows the emergence of religious life. Because people start burying dead bodies due to the belief in life after death. First evidence of burial practice was observed in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh.

  • Since Mesolithic Age, people started fighting for resources due to the scarcity of resources. In Sarai Nahar Rai of Uttar Pradesh, some graves were discovered; some of the skeletons in these graves were having arrow heads struck in them. It indicates that those people were attacked by some other groups.

Skull with arrow head



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