The term Mesolithic is the combination of two words, meso and lithic. In Greek ‘meso’ means the middle and ‘lithic’ means stone. Hence, the Mesolithic stage of prehistory is also known as the Middle Stone Age. It was the transitional phase between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic Ages.
On the basis of archaeological discoveries, the beginning of the Mesolithic Age in Indian subcontinent is dated to around 10,000 BC. This period witnessed the rise in temperature, as a result of which the climate became warm. These changes further resulted in melting of ice of the earlier period and brought about changes in flora and fauna.
Though man was still in hunting-gathering stage, he now started fishing and some domestication of animals. The main tools they used are called the microliths or small stone tools.
The Rock paintings found at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) belonging to the period indicate the artistic taste of the people.
The microliths used during the mesolithic period were very small in size varying in lengths from 1 to 8 centimeters and were largely made out of chipped or flaked pieces.
Some of these tools have geometric forms such as triangles, lunates and trapezes. There tools could be tied or fixed in other objects to form an arrow or a spear.
The distribution of Mesolithic sites indicates that the Mesolithic cultures covered almost the entire India from north to south and east to west.
Important sites of this culture are Langhnaj (District Mehsana) in Gujarat; Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) in Madhya Pradesh; Chopani Mando (near Allahabad in Belan Valley) in Uttar Pradesh; Birbhanpur (District Burdwan) in West Bengal; Sanganakallu (District Bellary) in Karnataka; and Tuticorin in southern Tamil Nadu.
The Mesolithic people still subsisted on hunting and gathering, but now there was shift in the pattern of hunting from the big animals in the Palaeolithic period to the smaller animals which could be attacked with the help of bows and arrows.
In addition to this, fishing and fowling also became important. The faunal remains of cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo, pig, rat, bison, hippo, dog, fox, lizard, tortoise and fish etc. have been found from different Mesolithic sites.