The term "prehistory" can refer to the vast span of time since the beginning of the Universe or the Earth, but more often it refers to the period since life appeared on Earth, or even more specifically to the time since human-like beings appeared.
Stone Age has been divided into three parts. These are:
- Palaeolithic Age (Early Stone Age)
- Mesolithic Age (Middle Stone Age)
- Neolithic Age (New Stone Age)
Palaeolithic Period: "Palaeolithic" means "Old Stone Age", and begins with the first use of stone tools. The Palaeolithic is the earliest period of the Stone Age. In the Palaeolithic Age (which lasted 1 million and 10,000 year ago) the human beings used stone tools, roughly dressed by the crude chipping, which has been discovered throughout the country except the alluvial plains of the Indus, Ganga and Yamuna rivers. They barely managed to gather their food and lived on hunting. They had no knowledge of cultivation and house building. This phase continued till about 9000 BC.
The lower (early) Palaeolithic Age covers the greater part of the Ice Age ; its characteristic tools are hand axes, cleaver and choppers. In this period climates became less humid. The Middle Palaeolithic industries are mainly based upon flakes ; the principal tools are varieties of blades, points, borer and scrapers are made of flakes. In the upper Palaeolithic phase, the climate became warm and less humid. This phase is marked by buris and scrapers.
Mesolithic Period: The "Mesolithic", or "Middle Stone Age" (from the Greek "mesos", "middle", and "lithos", "stone") was a period in the development of human technology between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods of the Stone Age.
The Mesolithic period began around 9000BC and ended with the introduction of agriculture, the date of which varied by geographic region. In some areas, such as the Near East, agriculture was already underway by the end of the Palaeolithic.
Remain from this period are few and far between, often limited to middens. In forested areas, the first signs of deforestation have been found, although this would only begin in earnest during the Neolithic, when more space was needed for agriculture.
The Mesolithic is characterized in most areas by small composite flint tools — microliths and microburins. Fishing tackle, stone adzes and wooden objects, e.g. canoes and bows, have been found at some sites. These technologies first occur in Africa, associated with the Azilian cultures, before spreading to Europe through the Ibero-Maurusian culture of Northern Africa and the Kebaran culture of the Levant. Independent discovery is not always ruled out.
Neolithic Age: "Neolithic" means "New Stone Age." The only Neolithic settlement in the Indian subcontinent attributed to 7000 BC lies in Mehrgarh in Baluchistan. Some Neolithic sites found on the northern spurs of the Vindhyas are as old as 5000BC. The tools are implements were now made of polished stone. Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 6,900–6,400 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.
The Neolithic period saw the development of early villages, agriculture, animal domestication, tools and the onset of the earliest recorded incidents of warfare. The Neolithic era commenced with the beginning of farming, which produced the "Neolithic Revolution". It ended when metal tools became widespread. Settlements became more permanent with some having circular houses with single rooms made of mud brick. Settlements might have a surrounding stone wall to keep domesticated animals in and protect the inhabitants from other tribes. Later settlements have rectangular mud-brick houses where the family lived together in single or multiple rooms.