I.1.8.b.i Paleolithic culture

I. Lower Paleolithic

5,40,000-1,20,000 years ago

  • Occurs in Pliestocene epoch.
  • Rugged tools which were heavy and unsophisticated.
  • First tools found in oluvian region of East Africa.

Tool Culture:

1. Chellean, Abbevellian and Acheulianculture

  1. Hand axes:

Pear shaped tools with cutting edge narrower than the butt. The evidences of Chou-kou-tian show that the tools must have been used for hunting big animals. Chellean, Abbevellian and Acheulian are the three kinds of hand axes found. Abbevellian and Acheulian were later in time to chellean hand  axes.

  1. Cleavers:

They have a broader cutting edge and are generally found along with Acheulian culture region

  1. Pebble tools:

Chopper and chopping tools which were used for cleaning the hides and scrapping the barks for covering bodies.

Chopper tools have unifacial cutting edge whereas chopping tools are bifacial.

Found in Burma, east Africa and India.

2. Oluvian culture: Coexistence of pebble tools and hand axes.

Materials used:

Hand axes were made with pressure flaking of quartzitein India, china and Java.Further, Metamorphic rocks in India, sedimentary rocks in Europe.


Biological evolution during this period was Homo erectus.  Emergence of perfect bipedalism aided the manufacturing of tools and big game hunting.

Social aspects:  Glynn Issac opined that enculturation process continued as in Great apes with more details.

“Man and Hunter model” proposed by Issac and Leaky propounded that factors like physical strength and requirement of long duration of time for hunting made man involved in big game hunting. The female was involved in child care and thus institution of family evolved.

Jane Goodall rejected the man the hunter model and gave examples of chimpanzees, Gllanas of Kalahari where female were involved in food collecting.

II. Middle Paleolithic

70,000-30,000 years ago

Tool culture: Moustrian culture

Flake tools

  1. Burin: used for engraving
  2. scrapper: scrapping barks of tree and dressing the hides
  3. Points: Manufactured by levallosian method or simple pressure flaking. are or various shapes and sizes. Large sized points were used as arrow head and small ones for fishing.
  4. Borer: to drill holes.


  • Biological evolution was Neanderthal man who lived in rock shelters and caves for the access of stone.
  • Belief in supernatural powers evident from burial practices.
  • Belief in after life as skulls were places in particular directions along with tools
  • In shanidar fossils were found along with flowers indicating intentional burial.

III. Upper Paleolithic

30,000-20,000 years ago

occurs in Holocene

Tool culture

  1. Aurignatian or Blade-Burin culture:
  • Discovered at La Aurignae.
  • found knife blades, engraved blades, burin
  • Sub species associated with this culture was Cromagnon.
  1. Solutrian or Needle culture:
  • discovered at Solutre
  • flakes and needles both eyed and uneyed
  • Cromagnon
  1. Magdalanian culure or Art form culture:
  • La Magnalene
  • flake tools made of bones with art forms engraved which indicate their beliefs and lifestyle
  • Ivory and horn were used extensively
  • many of the evidences were in colder climate and there was dependence on reindeer.


Blade tools and use of non-lithic material. Tool material was bone and ivory along with stone.


  • emergence of hunting and fishing societies
  • use of animal hides to cover bodies
  • building of shelters using bones and horn
  • It is believed that language in a rudimentary form emerged
  • social political life resembled band organisations.

I.1.6.a Australopithecines


The fossils of Australopithecus were found at different places in Africa and outside Africa. It is a small brained bidep with a number of species within the same genus. Most of these variants are associated with savanna living.

Divided into two groups

I. Gracile:

It is considered to be an ancestor of Homo

Small and gracile in terms of body weight, skeletal features like dentition, facial musculature and cranial capacity.

Omnivore and probable tool maker. Feebly developed supra orbital ridges proves his diet

It includes

1. A. Anamensis:

  • Earliest Australopithecus species found in Northern Kenya

2. A. Afarensis:

  • Found at Lateoli in Tanzania and Hadar in Ethiopia
  • Human like footprints found at lateoli which confirm them to be bipedal
  • Large ape like canines but did not fit into diastema. Thus side to side movement of lower jaw was possible
  • A complete skeleton of gracile female called Lucy fossil was discovered by Donald Johnson at Hadar(Ehtiopia)

3. A.Africanus (Southern ape of Africa)

  • First Australopithecus to be discovered. Raymond Dart
  • Taung fossil: Juvenile fossil, Foramen Magnum located underneath the skull indicating bipedalism and erect posture, incisors and canine teeth were short like humans
  • Initially it was difficult to conclude on Australopithecus Africanus features based on child  fossil but later discoveries by Robert Broom at Sterkfontein and others at Makapansgat helped in deriving a complete picture:
  • Brain case is rounded, well developed forehead, moderate brow ridges.
II.  Robustus or Paranthropus

·         Large and robust with features such as supra orbital ridges and sagittal crust

·         Larger dentition

·         considered to be extinct with changing climate

It includes

1.A. Aethiopicus:

  • Earliest known robustus found in North Kenya and South Ethiopia

2.A. Robustus:

  • Discovered by Robert broom at Kromdraai. It is found to be living at the same time of A.Africanus though they have marked different hominid features.

3.A. Boisei or Zizanthropus:

  • Discovered by Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.The discovery demonstrated the presence of early hominids in east Africa.


Geographical disrtibution:

South Africa:   

1.Taung – A.Africanus

2.Sterkfontein – Plesianthropus Transvellenis

3.Makapansgat – A.Prometheus 


4.Kromdraai – A.Robustus

5.Swartkrans – Paranthropus Crassidens

East Africa:  1.Omo(ethiopia) – both gracile and robustus 

2. Hadar(Ethiopia) – A.Afarensis

3. Laetoli(Tanzania) – A.Afarensis


4.Olduvai(Tanzania) – A.Boisei





I.1.3 Main branches of Anthropology

There are four branches of anthropology:

  1. biological/physical anthropology,
  2. sociocultural anthropology,
  3. archaeological anthropology and
  4. linguistic anthropology.

It highlights the holism of the discipline and how these parts with their uniqueness still manage to retain an analytic connectivity.

Anthropology studies humankind in its totality taking into consideration both the past and present. And in this pursuit to comprehend the intricacies of human life, anthropology assembles knowledge from humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and physical sciences.

The various branches of anthropology  highlight the fact that the subject with its four branches is a holistic science of human beings in all aspects.

On the one hand, physical/biological anthropology guides us about human evolution, our place in the animal kingdom as primates, our genetic conditions, variability in people, etc., and on the other hand socio-cultural anthropology tries to explore the social and cultural life of human beings in society. For this anthropology as a discipline takes help of societal aspects like religion, economy, polity, power, kinship, marriage, family, gender behaivour, and try to understand why and how humans behave in different situations to live their lives in order.

Archaeological-anthropology is peninent in anthropology as it involves both physical and social aspects of human lives but of what is bygone. It clearly deals with reconstruction of whatever has occurred in an era where evidences are not very concrete but it is with them, that archaeologists along with the use of various methods try to decipher the past.

Linguistic anthropology is a branch, which is closely associated with social anthropology and it tries to understand human society with the help of languages of the past, languages of the present, gestures, symbols, etc.

To sum up anthropology as a subject is completely unique for it being able to take into consideration all facets of human life and provide knowledge and generate thought for deliberation.

Strategy- Anthropology optional for UPSC

Anthropology is a subject which is currently proving to be remunerative for the UPSC aspirants. Besides being scoring and less time intensive it is an extension of GS preparation for around 30-40% of its syllabus. Before selecting this optional for UPSC please go through the syllabus (Paper-I, Paper-II )  in a comprehensive manner. Continue reading “Strategy- Anthropology optional for UPSC”