Chapter 2: On the trial of the earliest people (Notes) Posted on : 19-11-2017
Posted by : Admin
The people who lived in the subcontinent as early as two million years ago are called hunter-gatherers as they hunted wild animals, caught fish and birds, gathered fruits, roots, nuts, seeds, leaves, stalks and eggs to gather food.
The Ancient man moved from place to place mainly for four reasons,
If he had stayed in the same place for the longer time, he would have used up all the resources like animals, plants, water of that place. So they have to go to other places in search of food.
Plants bear fruits, grains in particular seasons. So man moved to fetch his food accordingly.
Animals do not stay in one place but they move in search of prey. Hence man moved along with the animals as the animals formed the food of man.
Man needs water to perform almost all of his functions. Though some rivers were perennial (flow throughout the year) some were not so. Hence man had to move even in search of water.
According to archeologists, hunters and gatherers probably made and used tools made of stone, wood and also bone. Out of these tools only the ones made from stone have survived.
Ancient man used stones to cut meat, bone and hides (animal skin), scrape tree bark, chop fruits, dig plant roots, hunting, stitching clothes from animal skin etc.
They even chopped wood with stone tools. Wood was used for fire and also to make huts and tools.
The places where the ancient man made tools with the stones are called as Factory Sites. Usually, at these sites we find blocks of stone, tools that were made and discarded because they were not perfect and chips of waste stone left behind. Sites may be found on the surface of the earth, buried under the earth, or sometimes even under water.
Some people also used to live there for longer spells of time. And these kind of places were called Habitat cum factory sites
Bhimbethka, Madhya Pradesh is a very famous Habitation site. It consists of caves and rock shelters close to Narmada valley. People chose these natural caves because they provided shelter from the rain, heat and wind. Caves of this kind are also found close to Narmada valley in Vindhyas and Deccan plateaus.
Two methods were used to make the stone instruments,
In stone on stone method the stone which is to be sharpened was held in one hand and the other stone which was used as the hammer was held in other hand. The second stone was used to strike off/flake the other stone.
In pressure flaking the edges of the stone to be sharpened were trimmed by pressing on the stone with a sharp stone rather than striking.
All the sites with the evidences of hunters and gatherers are found near the sources of water like rivers and lakes.
Traces of ash are found in Kurnool caves of Andhra Pradesh. This suggests that people were familiar with the use of fire. They must have used the fire of many things like cooking, lightening the house and scaring the animals away.
Around 12, 000 years ago with shift of the climate to a relatively warm conditions led to the development of grasslands and in turn increase in the animal population which feed on grass and ultimately increase in the animals which feed on this grass eating animals.
Ancient people followed these animals and learned about their food habits and breeding seasons. This has helped them to think about herding and rearing the animals. During this time fishing also became important.
Even the grain bearing grasses like wheat, barley and rice grew naturally in parts of Sub continent. Men, women and children collected these seeds and learned about their growth, ripening, taste etc. This helped them to grow plants on their own.
The earliest period is called as the Paleolithic age. It is a Greek word. Paleo=old & lithos=stone
It extends from 2 million to 12,000 years ago. This covers about 99% of Human history. This is divided into lower, middle and upper Paleolithic ages.
The time period when we see the environmental changes beginning about 12,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago is called as the Mesolithic age. It is a Greek word Meso=middle & lithos=stone. The stones used during this period were very tiny and were called Microliths and these microliths were stuck onto handles of bone or wood.
The next stage from 10,000 years ago was called as Neolithic age. It is a Greek word Neo=new & lithos=stone.
The caves in which these early people lived have paintings on the walls. Some of the best examples are from Madhya Pradesh and southern Uttar Pradesh. These paintings show wild animals, drawn with great accuracy and skill.
There is no clear evidence but it is proposed that both men and women may have done their work together or they may be some tasks which were to be performed only by men or women alone. There may have been different practices in different parts of the sub-continent.
Ostriches were found in India during Paleolithic age. Large quantities of ostrich egg shells were found in Pune, Maharashtra. Designs were engraved on it and also beads were made out of the shell.
Large numbers of Paleolithic sites were found in Hunsgi, Karnataka. These include both Habitat sites and also habitat cum factory sites. These sites were closer to the springs. Tools during this period were made of lime stone.
Some other Paleolithic sites were also found in France discovered by four school children. These sites contained paintings which are made some 20,000 to 10,000 years ago. These paints included animals like horses, aurochs (old cattle form), bison, rhinoceros painted in bright colors
These colors were made of ochre/iron ore and charcoal. These paints are expected to be painted on special ceremonies or for special rituals made by the hunters before they went to hunt for the prey.