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Paleolithic Age

Updated on June 30, 2017


The history of mankind is very old. It has been roughly divided into 3 stages on the basis of its technical progress-1)Stone Age 2)Copper Age 3)Iron Age. The stone age is further divided into Old Stone Age(Palaeolithic Age), Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic Age) and New Stone Age(Neolithic Age). Later came the Copper Age, Bronze Age and the Iron Age. In this hub, we will discuss the palaeolithic age or the Old Stone Age in detail.

Paleolithic Age developed during Pleistocene Period. This period existed from 10,000- 2 million years ago. It is further divided into 3 phases on the basis of tool making tradition and changes in climatic conditions:

  • LOWER PALEOLITHIC AGE - Characterised by the use of handaxes, cleavers, choppers and chopping tools. This age existed around 1 lakh years ago.
  • MIDDLE PALEOLITHIC AGE- Characterised by the use of tools based on flake industries. This age existed around 40,000 years ago.
  • UPPER PALEOLITHIC AGE- Characterised by the use of burins and scrapers. Existed around 10,000 years ago.

The primitive man did not lead a settled life as he had no home and knew no cultivation. He depended entirely on fruits, berries and ate raw meat. As he could not produce his own food, he was always in search of new places where he could get food easily. The primitive man was hunter and wanderer. At this stage, his main concern was survival only.

Did you know?

The term 'Paleolithic' was coined by an archaeologist John Lubbock. It is derived from Greek words 'palaios' meaning 'old' and 'lithos' meaning 'stone' representing 'Old Stone Age'.

Tools used by early man
Tools used by early man

TOOLS AND IMPLEMENTS- Man started using crude stone weapons to kill the animals as well as to protect himself. He also used pebbles of quartz known as chopping tools. Later, he discovered Flint - a hard grey stone that could be chipped and chiselled easily. It was used by early man to make sharp knives, choppers, hand axes and other sharp tools and weapons. During the middle palaeolithic age, there was regional and local diversity in stone technology and tool types. A variety of blades, points, borers, scrapers made of flakes came to be used. During the upper palaeolithic age, there was innovation in stone tool making. Lighter and smaller tools were used to make weapons. Profound development was made in blade making technology. Long parallel side blades, burins etc were used. There was an increase in the use of bone tools like harpoons and needles.

Primitive man hunting for food
Primitive man hunting for food

FOOD- The primitive man had no idea of agriculture. They were hunter-gatherers. They obtained food through a number of ways such as gathering, hunting, scavenging and fishing. They ate a variety of seeds, berries, roots and nuts. They also ate fish and seemed to have an abundant supply of freshly caught fish.

CLOTHES- The Old Stone Age man was guided purely by his physical needs. He covered his body to protect himself against cold weather and rain. He wore the skin of animals or sometimes covered his body with the leaves and barks of trees.

Cave Paintings of Palaeolithic Age
Cave Paintings of Palaeolithic Age

PLACES OF SHELTER- Primitive men were ignorant to the art of making houses. They never made their permanent dwelling places as they often roamed far and wide in search of food. They used to live in caves or on the banks of rivers and lakes. Later on, they began to make huts to live in.

CAVE PAINTINGS-Paintings and drawings found in several caves in different parts of the world speak of the artistic skills of the early man. Drawings have been found in the caves of Lascaux and Chauvet, both in France and Altamira in Spain. These include depictions of bison, horses, ibex, mammoth, rhinos, lions, bears, panthers, hyenas and owls. Most cave paintings focused on hunters and animals.These early men used natural colours.In India, beautiful cave paintings have been found at Bhimbhetka In Madhya Pradesh. These pictures give an idea of the aesthetic sense of the early man.

DISCOVERY OF FIRE- In course of time, probably at the end of Old Stone Age, man discovered fire. This probably came about by chance. Fire brought a great change in the life of early man. It gave him not only fire and heat but also helped to scare the wild animals away. The discovery of fire was one of the most important discoveries of early man.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS- Man of the Old Stone Age had no religious beliefs as such. But he was scared of the powers of nature. He did not know what caused thunder, lightning and thought them to be an expression of some divine anger.

SITES- The remains of palaeolithic age have been found in different areas of Asia, Africa and Europe. In India, evidences have been found in the following regions:
Hand axes and cleavers are found in Tamil Nadu, Sind, parts of Rajasthan. Few sites are quite large and people lived and made tools. Caves and rock shelters found here provides evidence of continuous occupation and tool making. Few caves are rich in rock art.
Other sites include marble rocks near Jabalpur, Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Pawagarh hill in Central Gujarat, Mayurbhanj District in Orissa, Krishna River Valley, Aurangabad, etc.

Have you seen cave paintings of palaeolithic age?

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