History: The Geographical Setting and Pre-Historic Cultures of India: The Mesolithic Cultures

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Geographical Distribution of the Palaeolithic Sites

In the north, Kashmir Valley and the Sohan Valley in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) have yielded Palaeolithic tools. In Rajasthan, Palaeolithic tools were found at the sites along the river Luni. In Western India, the Palaeolithic tools were also discovered from the sites of the rivers Sabarmati, Mahi and their tributaries in Gujarat. In Maharashtra, the most important sites are Nevasa on a tributary of Godavari and Patne in the Tapti river system. In Madhya Pradesh, the rock shelters at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) and Adamgarh in the district Hoshangabad have yielded tools from the Palaeolithic to the Mesolithic period.

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Assam and neighbouring areas including Meghalaya (Garo Hills) have yielded prehistoric artifacts. Palaeolithic tools have also been found at various sites in Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. In Peninsular India, Palaeolithic tools have been reported from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In Tamil Nadu, an important site is Attirampakkam in Chingleput region.

Subsistence Pattern

The Palaeolithic people practised hunting and food-gathering for their subsistence. They made simple stone tools for hunting, cutting, digging and other purposes. They led a nomadic life and migrated to places where plant and animal resources along with water were easily available.

The Mesolithic Cultures

This period witnessed the rise in temperature, as a result of which the climate became warm. These changes further resulted in melting of ice of the earlier period and brought about changes in flora and fauna. Though man was still in hunting-gathering stage, he now started fishing and some domestication of animals. The main tools they used are called the microliths or small stone tools. The Rock paintings found at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) belonging to the period indicate the artistic taste of the people.

Tools of the Mesolithic Period

The microliths used during the Mesolithic period were very small in size varying in lengths from 1 to 8 centimetres and were largely made out of chipped or flaked pieces. Some of these tools have geometric forms such as triangles, lunates and trapezes. There tools could be tied or fixed in other objects to form an arrow or a spear.

Geographical Distribution of the Mesolithic Sites

The distribution of Mesolithic sites indicates that the Mesolithic cultures covered almost the entire India from north to south and east to west. Important sites of this culture are Langhnaj (District Mehsana) in Gujarat; Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) in Madhya Pradesh; Chopani Mando (near Allahabad in Belan Valley) in Uttar Pradesh; Birbhanpur (District Burdwan) in West Bengal; Sanganakallu (District Bellary) in Karnataka; and Tuticorin in southern Tamil Nadu.

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Subsistence Pattern

In addition to this, fishing and fowling also became important. The faunal remains of cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo, pig, rat, bison, hippo, dog, fox, lizard, tortoise and fish etc. have been found from different Mesolithic sites.

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