Chapter 1 | Stone Age – Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic


This topic is not one of UPSC’s favorites. A deeper understanding is not required. You need to make a note of 2 things.

1. Understand the evolution of tool technology, memorize which technology(flint, flakes, microliths) corresponds to which age.

2. Refer to the table at the end. Memorize what started in which age.

Paleolithic Age – It is the longest phase divided into 3 phases.

1) Early (lower) – 500K -50K BC

2) Middle – 50K – 40K BC

3) Late (upper) – 40K – 10K BC

Followed by the Mesolithic Age(9K to 4K BC) which is regarded as a transitory phase and then Neolithic Age. The Neolithic Age began at different times in different parts of the country. But generally Neolithic settlements found in India are no older than 2500 BC.


Tools were made by keeping one stone fixed and striking it with another stone. If the tools were made out of the larger leftover ‘core’, they were called core tools. If made using the smaller piece of stone ‘flaked’ out, they were called flake tools.

EARLY PALEOLITHIC AGE – Made of the core part.

1. Chopper: using a bowl-shaped piece of stone, a heavy and bold tool was created. Only one side was worked on (unifacial).

2. Chopping tool: same as the chopper but with 2 edges worked on (bifascial). Chopper and chopping tool are characteristic of lower palaeolithic.

3. Hand axe: A tool requiring much greater control than the chopper, a narrower tool with a vertical working edge.

4. Cleaver: cleavers are different from hand axes in having a transverse or horizontal working edge.

MIDDLE PALEOLITHIC AGEFlake tools. They are lighter, more precise.

1. Blades: Parallel working edges.

2. Scraper: parallel working edges on the sides, similar to the blade, with the difference being blades are much longer than they are wide. This is also a flake tool.

3. Points: sharpened up to a tip: like a point. 2 sideways working edges meet up to the tip. These are sometimes grafted onto a wooden handle, for which a shoulder is present.


1. Burins: unlike a point, the tip is flat like the end of a screwdriver.

2. Bone tools: Eg. harpoon: used for fishing as fishing hooks. May be one-sided or two-sided.


In this age, we get Microliths. These are very small tools (1cm to 8cm) often geometrical in shape, these were used for beautification (eg) tattooing, shaving etc.

Sometimes they were grafted onto wooden shafts: called composite tools.

Names were according to the shape of the tool: trapezoid, lunate, microlith points, microlith blades etc.

NEOLITHIC AGE – Polished Tools

We see remarkable Polished tools. Rounded heavy tools discovered, which could have been possibly used to level the ground. May have the provision for a handle as well.

1. Celt: used for digging the ground, like an edge.


 Early (lower) – 500K -50KMiddle – 50K – 40KLate (upper) – 40K – 10KMesolithic (9K to 4K)Neolithic
Technology FlakesFlintsMicrolithsPolished Tools.
Stone UsedQuartziteQuartziteChert, JasperAgateDyke, Basalt, Dolomite.
OccupationHunting, food gathering and fishing.Hunting, food gathering and fishingHunting, food gathering and fishing.

In the later phase, they start domesticating animals.

Hunting, food gathering and fishing.

In the later phase, they start domesticating animals.

Hunting, food gathering, and fishing came to an end.

Regular agriculture begins. Settled in smaller villages

Food producing age.

Mehrgarg – wheat, cotton

Mirzapur – cultivation of rice.

SitesSoan or Sohan Valley, Punjab

Belan Valley , Mirzapur District, UP (near Allahabad)

Didwana, Rajasthan

Bhimbetka, MP

Geography coincides roughly with the Lower Paleolithic sites.Upper levels of Gujrat Dunes.

Andhra, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Central MP, south UP.

Bhimbetka caves used as shelters.

Adamgargh, MP & Bagor, Rajasthan – earliest evidence of domestication of animals.

Salt Lake, Sambhar deposits suggest cultivation of plants.


Kashmiri – dwelling pits, range of ceramics, variety of stone and bone tools and absence of microlith. Burzahom, Gufkrul

Bihar – Chirand

SouthSouth of Godavari

EastAssam, Garo Hills

BurialNo burial foundBurzahom – Domestic dogs buried with their masters.
PotteryNo pottery foundFirst, reference of pottery.

Burzahom – coarse grey pottery.

Hand-made pottery found in this age. Later period – footwheel is also used.

Included black-burnished ware, greyware and mat-pressed ware.

PaintingBimbetka in Madhya Pradesh, Belan Valley in Uttar Pradesh and Narmada Valley have prehistoric art belonging to all the 3 phases.
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