The Earth is nearly 4000 million years old as supported by many evidences. The evolution of its crust shows four stages. The fourth stage is called the Quaternary, which is divided into Pleistocene (most recent) and the Holocene (the present); the former lasted between 1, 000,000 and 10000 years before the present and the latter began about 10000 years ago. Man appeared on the Earth on the continent of Africa about 2.6 million years ago.
The story of man’s evolution can be easily studied under three headings:
It refers to the stone-age when stone was the chief source of making implements and instruments. The special feature of this age is the use of hand-axes, cleavers and choppers, flakes, blades etc. The rock-shelters and caves at Bhimbetka near Bhopal are major sites of physical evidence from this age. Globally, the upper or the last Paleolithic age marks the appearance of the modern man (Homo sapiens) on the earth.
The Mesolithic Period is a transitional phase between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic ages. It is marked by warmer climates, hunting, fishing and food gathering and domestication of animals. The peculiar tool of the people was the microlith, found in Bogor in Rajasthan.
The New Stone Age began around 9000 BC. The people of these times used tools made of polished stone. The domestication of animals became a major economic activity. The only neolithic settlement in India is found in Mehergarh in Rajasthan.
The end of the neolithic phase saw metals, of which copper was the first to be used. Several cultures were based on the use of stone and copper implements. Such a culture is referred to as a Chalcolithic culture, referring to both copper and stone. Technologically, it is the pre-Harappan phase because the Harappan civilization was based on bronze. They domesticated animals and practiced agriculture (wheat, rice and bajra).