The compilation of these On the Trail of the Earliest People Notes makes students exam preparation simpler and organised.
Story of the Earliest People
In times like these everything is available at a click of a button, even the most basic aspects of human life like food and socializing. But our earliest ancestors were not so lucky. Back then, even before civilization took over the earliest people, i.e. the primitive man lived out in the open. Let’s understand more about our long-lost ancestors.
Hunter-Gatherer: Earliest People
Needless to say, the earliest people were hunter-gatherers. Because they lived out in the open, they had to hunt other animals, gather plants and fruits to produce food. Animals in that period were very fast and quick. To survive among them meant that the earliest people had to be as quick, alert and to have a good presence of mind.
As gatherers, they had a good knowledge of the plants and fruits. Considering these facts and the activities they performed, they moved from one place to another. The reasons for their nomadic life were:
- The resources such as food were exhausted in a particular place after some time. This made the people move from one place to another in search of a more flourishing place.
- As animals too migrated from a piece of land to another, so did the earliest people. Moving from a place to another was good for hunting.
- Vegetation was seasonal, to get a constant supply of food and plants they had to move.
- As rivers and ponds went dry in the summer heat, people had to move to have a supply of water.
The earliest people lived in the prehistoric period. The main material used then for making tools was stone. Undoubtedly because of the use of stones for making tools, this period is known as the Stone Age. Stone Age further is divided into three phases, namely
- Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age
- Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age
- Neolithic or New Stone Age
Palaeolithic Stone Age
The world ‘Palaeolithic’ is derived from two Greek words, ‘Palaeo’ and ‘Lithos’. The word ‘Palaeo’ means Old and ‘Lithos’ means Stone. Therefore this period is known as the Old Stone Age. Old Stone Age extends from 2 million years ago to 12,000 years ago. The tools during this period were made of stone and were blunt and no refinements.
We can see in this figure that these tools are big and blunt and lack refinements. Historians believe that these tools were made 2 million years ago. We also see the tools of later periods. They are smaller and much sharper. These were made many thousand years after.
Mesolithic Stone Age
These tools were developed 10,000 years ago. These are much smaller and show sharper edges. Apart from stones, harder objects like bones and woods were also used to make tools and multiple other purposes. In India, some of these stones are still in use for grinding wheat to make flour and grinding spices. These uses of these tools were multi-dimensional such as:
- For cutting meat and bones.
- For scrapping bark from trees and skin from animals.
- Chopping fruits and roots.
- Some stones were attached to wood and bones for them to work together like a hammer or ax.
Have you seen the movie called ‘Ice Age (part 1)’? You should. You will have a clearer idea of the climate during the Stone Age. During the Stone Age, ice was all around and there was almost no vegetation on Earth. After global warming, Ice age came to a stop as the ice began melting 12,000 years ago.
The end of the ice age paved a way for the clearance of vast spaces of land and warm temperature for the vegetation to grow. And more vegetation meant the better availability of food for animals and plants. This was the period during which our everyday mammals proliferated.
After the meltdown of ice, the grass families began to grow in most parts of the world. Wheat, Rice, and Corn are the parts of the grass family.
The earliest people were spread all over the world, even in India. Some major sites during which Stone Age people lived in India are:
- Bhimbekta (Madhya Pradesh)
- Hungsi (Karnataka)
- Kurnool Caves (Andra Pradesh)
The two most common distinctions between these sites were: River and the availability of Stones. Where there is water there is life, surroundings near the river are always flourished and the availability of natural vegetation is plenty. These sites are located on the Deccan Plateau, it has plenty of stones so the resources needed to make tools were easily available.
Discovery of Factory Sites
The places where the people could get all the resources for making tools such as stones and wood were used as sites for tool making. These places are called factory sites. In some locations, people also habituated on these sites. Such sites are called habitation cum factory sites. Historians have discovered larger stones and unfinished tools. These were the proofs that these were the location of factory sites.
Making of Stone Tools
Historians have guessed the derivation of the methods for making these tools. The possible methods of making tools back then are:
- Stone on Stone: In this method, the stone was taken in one hand and with another hand, the stone was hit with another stone to make the desired shape. The stone that was hit was called the core.
- Pressure Flaking: Here the stone was kept on a harder surface and was hammered with another stone to make the desired shape.
Discovery of Fire
The discovery of fire changed the very fabric of human living. It definitely changed human life dramatically. People might have learned to use fire after seeing the flares of a forest fire. It might also be possible that people have learned to produce fire by rubbing two stones together while shaping them. It was used for various purposes as cooking, clearing forest and protection from animals.
Many cave paintings have been found in cave dwellings of the Stone Age. For example, the caves in Bhimbhetka. The majority of these paintings portray animals and hunting. Historians believe these paintings might be made as a part of the ritual. Another possibility is that people had enough spare time to think about the nature around them.
They also portray that people used to live in the community as living together provided protection against predators, the herd can kill any big animal with their tools. Historians believed that men went hunting and women lived in the caves taking care of children and collecting plants, berries, and roots.
Why did the hunter-gatherers travel from place to place?
Hunter-gatherers travelled from place to place in search of food. Once food resources at a place were exhausted, they needed to go to a new place.