The earliest traces of human existence in India, so far discovered,
go back to the second interglacial period between 400,000 and 200,000 BC. This is suggested by a large number of primitive
stone tools found in the Soan Valley and in south India, chiefly around Chennai (Madras).
Primitive man in the Paleolithic Age [Stone Age], which lasted
till 8000 BC, used tools and implements of rough stone. Flint was commonly used as it is hard and flakes easily. Man was essentially
a food gatherer and was dependent on nature for food.
As the men started to live in groups, the need for food increased
and they began to make specialized tools by flaking stones, which were pointed on one end. Tools were basically used to kill
small animals and tear their flesh.
Around this time, he learnt to control fire, which helped him
to improve his way of living. At the end of this age, the modern human being (Homo Sapiens) first appeared - around 36,000
From 8000 BC - the end of the Ice Age, began an intermediate
stage called as Mesolithic Age [Late Stone Age] which lasted up to 4000 B.C. in the subcontinent. The characteristic tools
of this time was sharp and pointed tools, which were used for killing fast-moving animals. The simple hand held stone tools
were now attached to branches with rope made from animal skins. The tools like axes and spears were the specialty of this
time. These tools also helped him to clear vegetation and the plant cultivation appeared.
As the man started to settle in tribes, he had more time for
other works. The prehistoric artist used natural white and red pigments in depicting the various themes, which were part of
their day-to-day life. Chotanagpur in central India, Bhimbetka Caves near Bhopal and south of the river Krishna are some of
the various Mesolithic sites.
Neolithic Age [New Stone Age], which lasted from 4000 B.C. to
2500 B.C, was the last phase of the Stone Age and is characterized by very finely flaked, small stone tools, also known as
blades and burins.
Man began to domesticate animals and cultivate plants, settling
down in villages to form farming communities. The dog, goat and sheep were probably first to be domesticated. Among the plants,
wheat and barley were the earliest cereals grown. The wheel was an important discovery. Traces of this period are found in
the northwestern region and the Deccan. The settlement in the Baluchistan (now in Pakistan) seems to be the oldest around
Towards the end of the Neolithic period, metals like bronze
and copper began to be used and these periods are known as Chalcolithic Age [Metal Age] and lasted from 1800 B.C. to 1000
B.C. These cultures extended from the Chotanagpur plateau to the upper Gangetic basin. Some of the sites of this era are Brahmgiri
(near Mysore) and Navada Toli on the Narmada.Around the beginning of the third millennium BC, a culture appeared
to the southeast of Baluchistan, which evolved into what is now known as the Indus Valley or Sindhu-Saraswathi civilization.