The Palaeolithic Age in India is divided into three phases according to the type of stone tools used by people and also according to the nature of climatic change.
- Early or Lower Palaeolithic (500,000 – 150,000 BC)
- The Middle Palaeolithic 150,000 – 35,000 BC
- The Upper Palaeolithic (35,000 – 10,000 BC)
Lower Palaeolithic Age
The Early Old Stone Age may have begun in Africa around two million years ago, but in India, it is not older than 500,000 years. The first stone tool fabrication started and was called the Oldowan tradition which refers to a pattern of stone-tool manufacturing by Hominid (Homo habilis).
Splintered stones called eoliths have been considered as one of the earliest tools. People used hand axes, cleavers, and choppers. The axes that were found in India are more or less similar to those of western Asia, Europe, and Africa. Stone tools were used mostly for chopping, digging, and skinning. The population largely preferred to live near the water source because the stone tools are abundant near the river valleys.
Important Sites: Lower Palaeolithic sites have been found in the Son (or Sohan) river valley in Punjab, now in Pakistan. Several other sites have been found in Kashmir and the Thar Desert.
Belan valley in UP and Didwana in Rajasthan is one of the major sites where tools related to this age were discovered. More than 2000 tools were discovered in Chirki-Nevasa in Maharashtra.
Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh and Bhimbetka near Bhopal show features of the Lower Palaeolithic age. The people of the Lower Stone Age seem to have principally been food gatherers and hunters. They lived also on fish and birds. The Early or Lower Stone Age in India may be associated with people of the Homo sapiens group.
Middle Palaeolithic Age
The Middle Palaeolithic Age was largely based upon flakes or small pieces of stone that have been found in different parts of India with regional variations. The principal tools comprised of blades, points, borers, and scrapers, all made of flakes. The geographical horizon of the Middle Palaeolithic sites coincides with that of Lower Palaeolithic sites.
The artifacts of the Middle Palaeolithic age were found at several places on the bank of River Narmada, and south of the Tungabhadra River. The Belan valley (UP) is rich in stone tools and animal fossils including cattle and deer. These remains are related to both the Lower and Middle Stone Ages.
Upper Palaeolithic Age
There are 566 sites in India being marked as the Upper Palaeolithic sites. The climate was less humid, coinciding with the last phase of the ice age when the climate became comparatively warm. This era marks the appearance of new flint techniques and men of the modern type (Homo sapiens).
In India, the use of blades and burins was noted and it was found in AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, central MP, southern UP, Jharkhand, and adjoining areas. Caves and rock shelters for use by human beings in the Upper Palaeolithic phase have been discovered at Bhimbetka. An Upper Palaeolithic assemblage, characterized by comparatively large flakes, blades, burins, and scrapers has also been found in the upper levels of the Gujarat dunes.