- The Paleolithic Period is an ancient cultural stage of human technological development, characterized by the creation and use of rudimentary chipped stone tools.
- The Paleolithic Period was also characterized by the manufacture of small sculptures (e.g., carved stone statuettes of women, clay figurines of animals, and other bone and ivory carvings) and paintings, incised designs, and reliefs on cave walls.
- The Palaeolithic Age in India is divided into three phases in accordance with the type of stone tools used by the people and also according to the nature of climatic change:
- First phase may be placed broadly between 600,000 and 150,000 BC
- Second between 150,000 and 35,000 BC
- Third between 35,000 and 10,000 BC.
Lower Paleolithic Age
- The Lower Palaeolithic or the Early Old Stone Age covers the greater part of the ice age.
- The Early Old Stone Age may have begun in Africa around two million years ago, but in India it is not older than 600,000 years. This date is given to Bori in Maharashtra, and this site is considered to be the earliest Lower Palaeolithic site.
- This age consists of two principal tool-making or cultural traditions:
- The Soanian tradition forming part of the East and Southeast Asian chopper chopping tool tradition, and
- The Handaxe-cleaver or biface assemblages constituting the Acheulian tradition, which is widely known from the western half of the Old World (African, Western Europe, West and South Asia)
- People used hand axes, cleavers, and choppers. The axes found in India are more or less similar to those of western Asia, Europe, and Africa. Stone tools were used largely for chopping, digging, and skinning.
- Early Old Stone Age sites have been found in the valley of river Son or Sohan in Punjab, now in Pakistan.
- Several sites have been found in Kashmir and the Thar desert.
- Lower Palaeolithic tools have also been found in the Belan valley in UP and in the desert area of Didwana in Rajasthan
- Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh is an important site, and the caves and rock shelters of Bhimbetka near Bhopal also show features of the Lower Palaeolithic age.
- The rock shelters may have served as seasonal camps for human beings.
- The people of the Lower Stone Age seem to have principally been food gatherers. They took to small game hunting and lived also on fish and birds.
Middle Paleolithic Age
- The Middle Palaeolithic industries were largely based upon flakes or small pieces of stone which have been found in different parts of India with regional variations.
- This culture consists of a variety of tools made on flakes; and these flakes are produced by specialized techniques. Therefore, it is widely referred to as flake tool industry
- The artefacts of this age are found at several places on the river Narmada, and also at several places, south of the Tungabhadra river.
- The Belan valley (UP), which lies at the foothills of the Vindhyas, is rich in stone tools and animal fossils including cattle and deer. These remains relate to both the Lower and Middle Stone ages.
Upper Paleolithic Age
- This age, in the world context, marks the appearance of new flint industries and men of the modern type.
- The Upper Palaeolithic is marked by technological advances in stone tool manufacture by the production of parallel sided blades which are finished into a variety of tools by blunting one side or by backing.
- In India, we notice the use of blades and burins, which have been found in AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, central MP, southern UP, Jharkhand and adjoining areas.
- Caves and rock shelters for use by human beings in the Upper Palaeolithic phase have been discovered at Bhimbetka
- An Upper Palaeolithic assemblage, characterized by comparatively large flakes, blades, burins, and scrapers has also been found in the upper levels of the Gujarat sand dunes.