Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic period

What is history?

  • History is the period of human existence on this planet for which written evidences are available to understand the various aspects.


Pre history: period prior to invention of writing (e.g. very ancient period before the emergence of civilizations)

Proto history: period belongs during writing invented but we are unable to read (e.g.Harappan civilization)

History: period after the invention of writing. We mainly depends on written sources to the reconstruction for this period.





Paleolithic Age

  • The term Palaeolithic was coined by archaeologist John Lubbock in 1865.
  • Palaeolithic Age spanned from 500,000 years ago till 10,000 BC.
  • During these years humans were hunter gatherers who roamed from location to location in the pursuit of animals used for food and clothing.
  • It is divided into three period’s viz. lower Palaeolithic, middle Palaeolithic and upper Palaeolithic ages.


Early Paleolithic Age

  • Early Paleolithic Age mainly spread in Western Europe and Africa and early human lived a nomadic lifestyle.
  • No specific human group was the carrier of Early Paleolithic period, but many scholars believe that this era was a contribution of Neanderthal-like Palaenthropic men (Third stage of hominid evolution).
  • The early paleolithic age is also covers greater part of ice age.




  • In lower Paleolithic phase, the tools were mainly hand axes and cleavers with some flakes also.
  • Tools used in Lower Paleolithic era were mainly cleavers, choppers, and hand axes. These tools were mainly used for cutting, digging, and skinning the prey.
  • These tools were found from Belan Valley of Mirzapur (U.P.), Didwana in Rajasthan, Narmada Valley, and from Bhimbetka (near Bhopal, M.P.)
  • These tool making techniques were based on direct percussion, indirect percussion and pressure application.



Early Paleolithic Site

  • Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh has given evidence of lower palaeolithic to the historic period.
  • The river valleys and foothills of the Chhotanagpur plateau, Orissa and Karnataka also show evidence.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, lower palaeolithic tools have been found in inland areas as well as the coastal areas.
  • In Tamil Nadu, there is a stratigraphic sequence from the early Paleolithic to the Mesolithic in Attirampakkam near Chennai.
  • In Rajasthan, lower, middle, and upper palaeolithic tools have been found around Ajmer and stray finds of lower palaeolithic tools occur in Luni valley.
  • In the Belan valley in Uttar Pradesh, detailed studies have revealed a sequence of stone age industries from the lower palaeolithic to protohistoric period.
  • Pebble tools of later date are found from various other regions such as Jhelum basin (Dina and Jabalpur), The river terraces of Beas and Benganga (Himachal Pradesh) and Ladakh and Pahalgaon in Kashmir valley.
  • In lower Sindh, stone tools belonging to the lower, middle and upper palaeolithic were found at sites such as Jerruck and Milestone.


Middle Paleolithic Age

  • The Middle Paleolithic Age began around 150,000 BC and ended in 40,000 BC. It was during these years that the tools and weapons used became a bit more advanced.
  • Homo Neanderthal is from this period.
  • Tools were made from flakes which were thin pieces of stone that had been sheared away from material using a striking method, probably with another piece of stone.
  • The lower Paleolithic cultures slowly transformed into the middle Palaeolithic by shedding some of the tool types; and by incorporating new forms and new techniques of making them.
  • In comparison to the lower Palaeolithic era, the tools in middle Palaeolithic became smaller, thinner and lighter.
  • The tools were made from quartzite, Flint, chert and Jasper stone.
  • Middle Paleolithic-Hashmukh D Sankalia



Upper Paleolithic Age

  • It is described as last phase of ice age.
  • Appearance of Homo sapiens
  • Upper Paleolithic culture developed during the later part of the upper Pleistocene.
  • The Upper Paleolithic period notices a further reduction in size and weight of tools.
  • The tool types can be described as flakes and burins.
  • The Upper Paleolithic period notices a further reduction in size and weight of tools.
  • The use of bone tools formed an important feature of the Upper Paleolithic period, mainly in Europe.
  • Painting and carving begins in this age.
  • In India, these are only reported from the cave called Muchchatta Chintamani Gavi at Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.



Mesolithic age

  • Mesolithic period in human cultural history is defined as the earliest Holocene culture that occurs before agriculture was started.
  • The Mesolithic people lived on hunting, fishing and food- gathering.
  • During the Mesolithic period, important large-scale changes took place on our planet.
  • As the climate was getting warmer and the ice sheets were melting, some areas in the northern latitudes rose as they were being freed from the weight of the ice.
  • In India during the Paleolithic Age, early humans lived in cave- like dwellings. By the Mesolithic Period, Indians were creating structures to express their religion and culture.
  • Caves were still used as dwellings, but by the time the period was over, they had progressed into much more sophisticated constructions.



  • Tools are characterised by parallel-sided blades taken out from prepared cores of fine-materials as chert, crystal, chalcedony, jasper, carnelian, agate etc. and were generally one to five centimeters long.
  • They were fitted into grooves in bone, wood and reed shafts and joined together by natural adhesives like gum and resin.
  • These new technological elements led to enhanced efficiency in hunting, collection and processing of wild plant foods.




  • The lithic repertoire at Bagor, South Rajasthan, is perhaps one of the richest in the world.
  • Sarai Nahar Rai, Morhana Pahar and Lekhahia are significant sites in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • In Maharashtra, some Mesolithic site have been found in Kasushoal, Janyire, Babhalgo and Jalgarh in Konkan and the districts of Dhulia and Pune.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, Bhimbetka along with Adamgarh, Chaturbhujnath Nala are major Mesolithic sites.
  • In Jharkhand Chhota nagpur plateau is a major Mesolithic site in India.
  • In Odisha, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundergarh are major mesolithic sites.
  • In South India, Mesolithic sites are abundant in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh
  • An analysis of the Mesolithic sites in India shows that although the basic pattern of life remained more or less the same, the customs and traditions differed from one settlement to another.



Change in lifestyle

  • Nomadism to Sedentary settlements
  • Domestication of Plants and Animals
  • Disposal of dead and making of Graves



Mesolithic Art

  • At various sites in Bhimbetka, Adamgarh, etc. rock and cave paintings have been discovered.
  • In these paintings, various subjects including animals and human scenes have been found. Animals are the most frequently depicted subjects either alone or in large and small groups and shown in various poses




Neolithic Age

  • Neo meaning New and lithic meaning stone.
  • In Indian context, the Neolithic age dating between 8000 BC to 4000 BC is characterized by the cultivation of plants and domestication of animals.
  • This period is considered as one of the significant cultural stages when man started producing food and shifted to production economy from their previous hunting-gathering stage.
  • People used microlithic blades in addition to tools made of polished stone. The use of metal was unknown.




  • The Neolithic Age saw the man turning into food producer from food gatherer. It also witnessed the use of pottery for the first time.
  • People used microlithic blades in addition to tools made of polished stone. The use of metal was unknown.
  • Human now could keep cattle, sheep and goats and protect crops from pests.
  • Human transformed to food cultivator from hunting-gatherer.
  • The Neolithic people did not live far away from the hilly areas.
  • They habited mainly the hilly river valleys, rock shelters, and the slopes of the hills since they were entirely dependent on weapons and tools made from stone.
  • The Neolithic Age is significant for its Megalithic Architecture



Neolithic pattern in India may broadly be divided into three main broad groups:

Eastern Group:

  • Vindhyan region, middle Ganga plain, Chotanagpur plateau of Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa and Northeast India.


Southern Group:

  • Andhra pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu (South India)
  • Northern Group (Kashmir Valley): Burjhom



  • Mehrgarh is the oldest agricultural settlement in the Indian subcontinent Agriculture-based Neolithic settlements.
  • Mehrgarh is located on the Bolan River, a tributary of the Indus, at the eastern edge of the Baluchistan plateau overlooking the Indus plain.



Chalcolithic age

  • Chalcolithic or Eneolithic, which means use of stone and well as copper was prevalent in this period.
  • The end of Neolithic (8000BC-4000BC) period saw the start of chalcolithic culture.
  • Indian Chalcolithic called as 'Age of Early Farmers', running from 3000 BC to 700 BC.
  • The major crops which were cultivated were barley, wheat, lentil, bajra, jowar, ragi millets, green pea, and green and black grams.
  • The people of Chalcolithic Age were expert coppersmiths, ivory carvers, lime makers, and terracotta artisans
  • The presence of painted pottery is a hall mark of the Chalcolithic period.
  • The burial practice was another striking feature and the dead were buried in a particular direction all over a particular area.
  • The largest site of the Chalcolithic period is Diamabad situated on the left bank of the Pravara River.