iii. In rock shelters in Central India;
iv. In the open, along perennial as well as seasonal streams; and
v. On gravels in peninsular rivers.
Similarly, the regional variations in Acheulian hunter gatherers did also come about based on the raw material used for tool making. While quartz and quartzite were the most preferred material, use was also made of dyke basalt as in western Maharashtra and even limestone as in Karnataka and coarse grained granite as in northern Bundelkhand.
The middle Palaeolithic stage developed at a time when glaciations in high northern altitudes were taking place. This had given rise to conditions of strong aridity in regions bordering the cold northern altitudes.
Rajasthan, Mewar and Gujarat had come under the spell of aridity and therefore show sparsely located sites belonging to the hunter-gatherers. The valleys of central Indian rivers, Chambal, Narmada and Son along with their tributaries abound with camping sites of hunting- gathering communities.
Some notable changes in tool making technology also took place during the Middle Paleolithic stage. The use of bifaces declined and flakes and blades took over. “These were made by the application of retouch, that is, by finely trimming the edges of parent flakes by the removal of tiny thin flakes or chips.”
The use of quartz and quartzite, and basalt was slowly shifted to include the use of chart and jasper and fine-grained siliceous rocks. An important point to remember here is that transport of raw material over long distances for tool making had come to be practiced even if in rudimentary form.
The hunting-gathering communities regularly visited the sites of tool factories from where they collected finished tools. The regional variation became more clearly discernible during the Upper Paleolithic stage as they got associated with some significant environmental changes in the Indian sub-continent. A major part of Rajasthan suffered from the drying up of Himalayan drainage.
Except for the north-western corner of the state between Jaisalmer and Ramgarh there developed sand deposits and sand dunes. Similar aridity engulfed the other northern and north-eastern areas. The green environment now survived in the peninsular India. There was thus a notable shift in the hunting-gathering communities’ camping sites towards south.
The main stone tools from this stage were scrapers, burins and retouched blade tools. From a site in Kurnool Caves an assemblage of bone tools have also been found. The ecosystems in South were rich in plant foods like fruits, nuts, bamboo shoots and grain and leafy vegetables and mushrooms. Another significant feature of these sites is that some of them yield evidence on fishing, both riverine and marine and the exploitation of other aquatic foods such as prawns, crabs, tortoises etc.
The distribution of sites belonging to the hunting-gathering communities of this stage has been quite wide and a large number of these sites have also been investigated. The principal regional variants come from the Thar Desert Aravalli Hills area in north-west, and Gujarat – Central India, Ganga plain in Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in peninsular India. We shall briefly discuss here the principal sites belonging to these regional variants.
Budha Pushkar and Bagor are two most important sites from the Rajasthan area. Budha Pushkar is a fresh water lake and has a unique distinction of supporting habitation beginning with the harbouring of a concentration of microlithic sites to the present day.
Analysis of the finds indicates that the microlithic sites here were primarily living or camping sites. It also suggests an overlap with the subsequent semi- urban chalcolithic stage. Bagor site is to the east of the Aravalli hills situated on a dune on the bank of a seasonal tributary of Chambal. The key findings from this site are:
i. A distinctive mincrolithic factory;
ii. Human burials of the dead;
iii. Evidence of huts with paved floors;
iv. Evidence of domesticated sheep and goat, different species of deer, wild boar, jackal, rat, monitorizard, river turtle and fish;
v. Pottery and three copper arrow heads.
It is also suggested that over a period of time the hunting-gathering communities associated with this site shifted to crop based agriculture as their mode of living.
The Gujarat region site is at Langhnaj. It shows a cultural sequence similar to the Bagor site. The Central India sites are located on small hills and give evidence on the making of tools and implements and waste material left after finishing the tools. There are several larger sites which fit the size and features of factory sites.
Perhaps these larger sites were serving the communities coming there from distant places. The situation in the Ganga plain in Uttar Pradesh was different. An important site located at Sarai Nahar Rai appears to have been a site under occupation by communities that lived there permanently.
It is suggested that such communities received their supplies of tools and implements from central India sites and had thus developed a pattern of relationships between two geographically different regions.
The peninsular sites in Raichur and Bellary districts of Karnataka yield interesting evidence. They seem to use raw material predominantly consisting of milky quartz. It is argued by Allchins that this was “in part due to the granite rocks underlying so much of the country, in which quartz veins and dykes are readily found.
The jaspers and chalcedonies so common in the volcanic rocks farther north are in short supply, but they do occur in places and they are present in some river gravels. Both earlier and later peoples undoubtedly found these sources, but many of the southern microlithic assemblages are almost a hundred per cent quartz”.