Hunter-Gatherers : Paleolithic & Mesolithic Age


This is the story of our fore fathers.Who used to hunt and gather foods , unlike us , who think that breakfast comes from the near by grocery store.Human societies during more than 99% of their existence on the earth have lived as hunters/gatherers. This means that before human beings started producing food about 10.000 years ago, they lived off the resources of nature.Lets explore what they did, when they did, how they did and where they did .

Paleolithic Age:-

  • Palaeolithic Culture developed in the Pleistocene period. The Pleistocene period (about 2 million years ago) is the geological period refe*ng to the last or the Great Ice Age. It was the period when ice covered the earth’s surface.
  • Palaeolithic Tools :- Palaeolithic Culture has been divided into three phases on the basis of the nature of stone tools made by human beings as well as due to the changes in the climate and environment.

    • Lower Palaeolithic tools -handaxes, cleavers, choppers and chopping tools.
    • Middle Palaeolithic tools- made up of flakes
    • Upper Palaeolithic tools – characterised by burins and scrapers
  • Palaeolithic Sites :-

    • Kashmir , Potwar region (Present day West Punjab and Pakistan) and Sohan valley
    • Luni river complex in Rajasthan
    • Chittorgarh (Gambhirs basin), Kota (Chambal basin), and Negarai (Berach basin)
    • Wagaon and Kadamali river basins in Mewar
    • Sabarmati, Mahi Complex in Gujarat
    • Bhandarpur near Orsang Valley
    • Bhader river valley in Saurashtra and Kutch region
    • Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) located in the Vindhyan range
    • The rivers-Tapti, Godavari, Bhima and Krishna have yielded a large number of Palaeolithic sites
    • Koregaon,Chandoli and Shikarpur in Maharashtra.
    • In eastern India, the river Raro (Singhbhum, Bihar) is rich in Palaeolithic tools
    • Palaeolithic tools have also been reported from the valleys of the Damodar and the Suvarnarekha
    • The Buharbalang Valley ‘in Mayurbhang in Orissa has many Early and Middle Palaeolithic tools
    • From Malprabha, Ghatprabha and the amuents of the Krishna a number of Palaeolithic sites have been reported.Anagawadi and Bagalkot are two most important sites on the Ghatprabha where both Early and Middle Palaeolithic tools have been found
    • The rivers Palar, Penniyar and Kaveri in Tamil Nadu are rich in Palaeolithic tools. Attirampakkam and Gudiyam (in Tamil Nadu) have yielded both Early and Middle
      Palaeolithic artefacts.
  • Palaeolithic Subsitence Pattern:-
    • Primates, many giraffe-liki forms, muskdeer, goats. buffaloes, bovines and pigs seem to be of indigenous origin. The camel and the horse had Horth-American connection. Hippopotamus and elephants migrated to India from Central Africa
    • Hunting practices were concentrated on large and middle sized mammals especially ungulates (a type of animal).
    • Rock paintings and carvings also,gve us an insight into the subsistence pattern and social life of the Palaeolithic people.
    • Bhimbetka located on the Vindhyan range, is well known for continuous succession of paintings of different periods. Period-I belongs to Upper Palaeolithic stage and paintings are done in green and dark red colours. The paintings are predominantly of bisons, elephants, tigers, rhinos and boars.
    • Paintings  also reflected that palaeolithic people lived in small band (small groups) societies whose subsistence economy was based on exploitation of resources in the form of both animal and plant products/

Mesolithic Age:-

  • The Mesolithic Age began around 8000 BC. It was the transitional phase between the Palaeolithic Age and the Neolithic Age. There was rise in temperature and the climate became warm and dry. The climatic changes affected human life and brought about changes in fauna and flora. The technology of producing tools also underwent change and the small stone tools were used.
  • Mesolithic tools:-The Mesolithic tools are microliths or small stone tools. Microliths are very small in size and their length ranges from 1 to 8 cm.Blade, core,
    point, triangle, lunate and trapeze are the main types of Mesolithic tools.
  • Mesolithic Sites:-
    • Pachpadra basin and the Sojat area (Rajasthan)
    • Tilwara is a significant site.
    • Bagor (Rajasthan) on the river Kothari is the largest Mesolithic site in India
    • Akhaj, Valasana, Hirpur and Langhnaj are situated east of the river Sabarmati
    • The Vindhyas and Satpura range are rich in Mesolithic sites
    • Morhana Palm (Uttar Pradesh) and Lekhabia (Uttar Pradesh) are two significant sites
    • Adamga& in Hosangabad and lying to the south of Bhimbetka is another significant Mdthic site
    • KonKan region
    • The Kriahna and Bhima rivers have produced my microliths
    • The Godavari delta is rich in microliths . Here the microliths are associated with the Neolithic Culture. The Kurnool area has many microliths.
  • Mesolithic Subsistence Pattern:-
    • The early Mamlithic sites have yielded the faunal reamins of cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo, pig, dog,boar, bison, elephant, hippo, jackal, wolt, cheetah, sambal, brasingha, black-buck, chinkara, hog deer, hare, porcupine, mongoose, lizard, tortoise and fish.
    • wild sheep, wild goat, ass, elephant, bison, fox, hippo, sambar, chinkara, hare, porcupine, lizard, rat, fowl and tortoise are  absent at the sites falling in the category of Mesolithic tradition
    • Bhimbetka is extremely ridh in paintings. Many animals like, boar, buffalo,monkey and nilgai are frequently depicted. The paintings and engravings depict activities like sexual union, child birth, rearing of child, and burial ceremony. All these indicate that during the Mesolithic period, social organization had become more stable than in paleolithic times. It seems that the religious beliefs of the Mesolithic people are conditioned by ecological and material conditions.

Radiocarbon dating method :-  One of the best known chronomatic dating techniques which can be used for dating of most organic material up to 70,000 years old. Plants and other living organs consume carbon from the atmosphere during this life time. This carbon also includes carbon 14 (14c) which is a radioactive element. After the death of plants and the living organs the accumulated 14c starts decaying and by measuring its present concentration we can determinethe age of the organisms which became extinct a long time ago.

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