Stone Age- 99Notes

Stone Age – Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic History

What is Stone Age?

The Stone age refers to the prehistoric period during which stone tools were the most prevalent form of articles used by early man. The use of stone tools started about 2.5 million years ago with the arrival of the early humans (‘Homo Habilis’ and Australopithecus). They were one of the earliest bipedal primates and used tools to hunt primarily.

Classification of Stone Age:

The Stone age is classified as following based on the type and technology of stone tools used –

1.Paleolithic Stone age (Old Stone Age)from 2.5 million years ago to 12,000 years ago. Based on stone tools used by humans and changes in climate, it is further divided into the followings: –

  • Lower paleolithic (Early paleolithic age)– dating 2,500,000 to 300,000 years ago
  • Middle paleolithic – dating 300,000 to 30,000 years ago
  • Upper Paleolithic – dating 30,000 to 12,000 years ago

2. Mesolithic Stone age (Middle Stone Age) – dating from the Last glacial maximum till the final period of hunter-gatherer culture

3. Neolithic Stone age (New Stone Age) – dating 12,000 years ago to around 6,500 years ago

Timeline Of Stone Age

Stone Age Timeline

Explore the Stone Age timeline, an epochal period spanning millions of years, where early humans crafted tools from stone and laid the groundwork for civilization through innovation and adaptation.

1. Early Stone Age (Paleolithic Period):

  • Dates: Approximately 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 BCE
  • Characterized by the use of simple stone tools by early human ancestors such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus.
  • Nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, reliance on natural resources for survival.

2. Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic Period):

  • Dates: Around 10,000 BCE to 5,000 BCE
  • Continued development of stone tools, with more sophisticated techniques.
  • Emergence of early forms of art, symbolic expression, and social structures.
  • Transition towards more settled lifestyles and exploitation of a wider range of resources.

3. Late Stone Age (Neolithic Period):

  • Dates: Approximately 5,000 BCE to 2,000 BCE (varies by region)
  • Significant advancements including the domestication of plants and animals, leading to agriculture and the rise of farming communities.
  • Development of pottery, weaving, and other crafts.
  • Establishment of permanent settlements and the emergence of complex societies with social hierarchies.

Making of stone tools-

A stone was shaped using an edge, a point, or a percussion surface, to make it usable. 

    • Firstly, a base is formed to allow the worker to place the rough stone flat on a surface. 

    • Then, blade flakes are removed to sharpen the stone from one end. In the end, after some retouching, the stone tool is ready to be used.

Manufacturing Process Of A Stone Tool In Stone Age

Manufacturing process of a stone tool

Now let’s see the features of each age in some detail.

Everything You Need To Know About Stone Age

1. The Paleolithic age (Old Stone Age)

Paleolithic is made from two Greek words, palios and lithos, meaning old and stone, respectively. Paleolithic age dates from 2.5 million years ago to 12,000 years ago. Around 2.5 million years ago, the earliest form of the genus homo, such as homo habilis, started using stone tools.

Features of Paleolithic age –

    • Shelter: Humans lived in open or in caves.

    • Hunting and Gathering: They hunted wild animals for meat and gathered food from plants. 

    • Tools: Unpolished tools made of stone, wood and bone.

Palaeolithic Stone Tools

Paleolithic stone tools

Classification of the Paleolithic Age

    1. Lower Paleolithic Age: It dates from dating 2,500,000 to 300,000 years ago. We see the following developments in this age.
        • Tools used – Tools were rough and heavy. Tools-Hand axes, Cleavers and choppers.

        • Communication – Advent of verbal and non-verbal communication. Humans were now capable of making a small number of animal-like sounds.

        • Major sites include – Didwana (Rajasthan), Bhimbetka (M.P), Belan valley (UP), Soan river valley (Punjab).

Paleolithic Sites In India
Paleolithic Sites In India

    1. Middle Paleolithic Age: It dates from 300,000 to 30,000 years ago.
        • The Flake tool industry sets this age apart from the lower Paleolithic age. These tools were smaller, lighter and thinner, for example, blades, pointers, scrapers and borers.

        • Technology – People learned fire.

        • Food- They started to cook food before eating due to the invention of fire. This enabled a greater consumption of calories to satisfy the needs of a larger brain.

        • Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis appeared in the Middle Paleolithic age.

        • Major sites in India- Luni valley (Rajasthan), Potwar Plateau (between Indus & Jhelum), Bhimbetka (M.P), Tungabhadra river valley, Chirki- Nevasa(Maharastra).

    1. Upper PaleolithicAge: It dates from 30,000 years ago to 12,000 years ago.
        • It coincided with the last phase of the last ice age; therefore, the climate became comparatively warmer and less humid. 

        • Communication – Spoken language could develop in the Upper Paleolithic age due to the larger brain and an improved vocal cord.

        • Tools used – We see several innovations in bone tools. More sophisticated and distinct tools were used, such as projectile points, engraving tools, knife blades, drilling and piercing tools, bone tools, needles, harpoons, parallel-sided blades, fishing tools and burin (a handheld tool used for engraving).

        • Art – We see a large number of wall paintings with human figurines. With this, Magic and religion entered human life.

        • Major sites in India- Bhimbhetka, Belan, Chota Nagpur plateau (Bihar), Renigunta in Chittoor and Kurnool, Muchchatla Chintamani Gavi in Andhra Pradesh and Imamgaon in Maharashtra.

  1. Everything You Need To Know About Stone Age

2. The Mesolithic Age (Middle Stone Age)

‘Mesolithic’ comes from two Greek words, ‘mesos’ and ‘lithos’, meaning middle and stone, respectively. It starts from the Last glacial maximum till the final period of hunter-gatherer culture

Features of the Mesolithic age

    • In the Holocene era, there was an abrupt rise in temperature, which resulted in changes in flora and fauna. This led to various changes in human settlements, marking the Mesolithic age.

    • Tools – The use of microliths was prevalent in the Mesolithic age. These are miniature stone tools, generally 1cm to 8cm long and made of crypto-crystalline silica, chalcedony or chert, both geometrical and non-geometrical shapes.

Microliths - Mesolithic Age

Microliths – Mesolithic age

    • Food – The Mesolithic age ended with the starting of the cultivation of plants and the domestication of animals. The first animal domesticated was an ancestral dog.

    • Shelters and clothing – They lived in semi-permanent homes such as caves and started to wear animal skin as clothes..

    • Religion – The burial practices indicate a belief in the afterlife, as the dead were often buried with some food items and other goods.

    • Art – Cave painting in this age is a widespread phenomenon. There is some evidence of the use of pottery too.

    • Important sites in India- Adamgarh (M.P) and Bagor in Rajasthan – earliest domestication of animals. Bhimbetka caves (Madhya Pradesh), Kharwar, Jaora and Kathotia (M.P), Sundargarh and Sambalpur (Odisha), Ezhuthu Guha (Kerala). Langhnaj (Gujarat), Sarai-Nahar-Rai (Pratapgarh U.P), Paisara (Munger Bihar).

Mesolithic Sites In India
Mesolithic Sites In India

3. The Neolithic Age (New Stone Age)

‘Neolithic’ comes from two Greek words, neos and lithos, meaning new and stone, respectively. It dates from 12,000 years ago to around 6,500 years ago. This age also coincided with the Holocene era. This age marks a profound change in the culture and behaviour of humans, such as humans starting to produce food.

Features of Neolithic age: –

    • Tools – polished or ground stone tools replaced the flaked tools. We find microlith-blades, polished stones, and weapons made of bones – such as needles, scrapers, borers, and arrowheads.

A Neolithic Knife And Blades - Neolithic Age

A Neolithic knife and blades

    • Food – People started cultivating lands. They grew fruits and domesticated cattle, goats and sheep. 

    • Art – A larger variety of scenes were depicted in cave paintings.

    • Shelter – People started a settled life. We find evidence of rectangular or circular houses. 

    • Clothing – Clothes were made of animal skin; in later stages, wool might have been used.

Important Neolithic sites in India – 

Sites Region Features
Koldihwa and Mahagara  South of Allahabad Evidence of circular huts; evidence of rice
Mehrgarh  Balochistan  Houses built of sun-dried bricks and crops like cotton and wheat
Burzahom Kashmir Graves of people with their domesticated dogs;People lived in pits
Gufkral  Kashmir Pit dwelling  
Chirand  North of Patna A continuous settlement from the Neolithic age to the Iron age.
Piklihal, Brahmagiri, Maski, Takkalakota, Hallur Karnataka Domestication of sheep and goats; we also find Ash mounds; 
Belan Valley Mirzapur Cave Paintings in the hills of Vindhya Range 

Neolithic Sites In India
Neolithic Sites In India

Conclusion: The stone age ends with the discovery of copper in certain regions of the world. This is referred to as the Chalcolithic Age or the copper stone age which we shall understand in the next article.

Frequently asked Questions related to Stone Age

1. What is stone age?
The stone age is a prehistoric period when humans mainly used stone tools and weapons, before the discovery of metals.

2. What are the 3 stone ages in UPSC?

The 3 Stone ages are the Paleolithic stone age, Mesolithic stone age, and Neolithic stone age. Each stone age representing periods in early human development.

3. Which is the first phase of stone age?

The first phase of the Stone age is the Paleolithic Stone age, characterized by the use of rudimentary chipped stone tools.

4. Who is the father of Stone Age?

John Lubbock, a British archaeologist is often referred to as the father of the Stone Age for his contributions to classifying the period into the Paleolithic and Neolithic


Everything You Need To Know About Stone Age

Explore additional significant articles on Ancient Indian History listed in the table below:

Age of Satvahanas Copper Age
Harappan Civilisation Vedic Culture
The Mahajanapadas Persian and Greek Invasions
Mauryan Empire Gupta Empire

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