Prehistory, in general, begins from the Old Stone Age(includes Paleolithic Age) and ends with the appearance of the art of writing. In India, there is evidence to show that writing was known and employed in the third and second millenniums B.C. But this script still remains undecipherable and hence the civilization which produced it is regarded as prehistoric. Western Asiatic prehistory generally ends with the appearance of writing in Mesopotamia about 3000 B.C.
Although certain phases of ancient Indian culture lie distinctly beyond any possible form of literary record, they cannot be fitted into any chronological order in recorded Indian history. At about the end of the sixth century B.C., North-Western India became a province of the Achaemenid Empire and got into unquestioned historical records. It is believed that there was a diffusion of writing in India about the middle of the sixth century B.C. Therefore, 600 B.C. in round number is taken as the dividing line between prehistory and history in India.
The Interpretation of Indian Prehistoric Age
The interpretation of India prehistory is difficult because fieldwork in archaeology has so far been inadequate. By way of caution, we must point out that prevailing theories about the early home zone of man, the evolution and diffusion of the Paleolithic man’s artifacts and the beginnings of civilization are still matters of dispute among experts themselves. Therefore this survey of India’s place in the Paleolithic should be regarded as only provisional.
The very first appearance of life dates back some hundreds of millions of years and it was preceded by a period of at least equal length during which the surface of the varying the earth was entirely occupied length by mineral substances at varying degrees of condensation and hardness.
According to modern computation human types have existed on the earth for something like five hundred thousand years. It is usual to subdivide this period into ages corresponding to the type of culture that predominated in each of them. Broadly stated,the period before 10,000 B.C., belongs to the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) when man was no more than a hunter and food gatherer, and used only rudely shaped stone-tools. The whole of this epoch falls into the geological period called the Pleistocene million years.
Appearance of Homo-sapiens
When and where the first homo sapiens appeared is still a matter of conjecture. In Northern India, particularly in the valley of the river Sohan or Span, ‘the evidences of four major glaciations have been equated tentatively with the addition of four major glaciations of the European series, with the addition of a fifth advance of ice in post-Pleistocene times’.
The early home zone of man which had at first been located somewhere at first been located somewhere at the foot of the Himalayas has been shifted to North Africa presumably because it was under more favorable climatic conditions. This is no place to enter into the complex problems of anthropology or glacial geology.
The Rise of Homosapiens, Image: I, Science
Where in this world the origin of the species of man may be located, the tool-making traditions in the Paleolithic indisputably have transcontinental distributions. The most remarkable thing about Paleolithic cultures is that they have had an enormous duration, at least 300,000 years.
Discarded stone-tools lying in river-gravels, an occasional human fossil, and frequently those of the animals hunted are almost all we have to rely on for our study of Lower Paleolithic man and his achievements. Indian stone-tools fall into two divisions according to the techniques employed. They are core and flake tools.
The core-tool is made by flaking or chipping away from a parent block until the resultant form is satisfactory. This process is somewhat akin to that of sculpture. In flake-tools the first process is to detach a large flake from a block of stone and then to work this into a finished tool. There is a third group called the chopper chopping tool. This is allied to the flake industry but is grouped separately as it is of particular importance to Asian Paleolithic culture.