Among the earliest fossils found in Pakistan are those of several ape species, including Ramapithecus and Sivapithecus, and the larger Gigantophithecus dating to the Miocene period, some 9 million years ago, unearthed on the Potwar Plateau. The region was also habitat for species of pigs, giraffes, antelopes, and other grazing animals. Boars the size of contemporary hippopotamuses, sheep larger that horses, and mastadons also roamed the landscape. In wet areas, crocodiles, turtles, and anthrocheres, a hippolike creature, ﬂ ourished.
Many of these creatures became extinct between 5 million and 1.5 million years ago, though humanoid apes thrived. But among the apelike creatures that thrived here, only Homo sapiens would survive the ice ages. Finding shelter in caves, they would learn to control ﬁ re and make tools, and they left records of their passage and way of life in cave paintings found in the central subcontinent.
In the Rawalpindi district, southwest of Islamabad, and the city of Rawalpindi near the Soan River, evidence of habitation by pre–Stone Age humans who lived between 3 million and 500,000 years ago has been found. They were likely hunter-gatherers whose pebble tools are the only trace of their existence. Extensive evidence of Stone Age, or Paleolithic, cultures has also been found. The most primitive tools found, dating to the early Stone Age, are eoliths, large stone-ﬂ ake tools labeled the “pre–Soan” type. Artifacts of the so-called Soan Culture have been found on the Potwar Plateau, in the Rawalpindi district, the Jhelum River, and tributaries of the Chenab River.
Middle Stone Age sites, dating to 300,000 to 150,000 years ago, have been found near Nomad Lake. By this time, toolmaking had improved. Flat chips called ﬂ akes were used as spearheads and knives. During Late Soan Culture, the use of wooden traps to catch ﬁ sh and small game may have been mastered. In the Sanghao Valley near Mardan, stone tools dating to 70,000 years ago have been found. The transition from Lower to Upper Paleolithic cultures makes one of the most vital evolutions of mankind, and the remnants of the Soan Culture show dramatic advances in the manufacture of bone and stone tools.
About 10,000 years ago the global climate turned more temperate, and the last ice age ended. Receding glaciers were replaced by herds of grazing animals and the humans who hunted them. Ultimately some of these grazing animals were domesticated. Agriculture, the Neolithic revolution, may have initially developed in order to feed these animals, freeing humans from the need to follow migrating herds and allowing the establishment of permanent settlements.