INDIAN PRE-HISTORY, Palaeolithic Age, Mesolithic Era, Neolithic Era, Chalcolithic Period, Ancient India history notes UPSC, history optional Subject notes UPSC, Ancient India history notes IAS, history optional Subject notes IAS
• The idea of pre-history is barely 200 years old. And so is the word pre-history; it was fi rst used by M. Tournal in 1833.
• Dr. Primrose rediscoverd Indian pre-history by discovering prehistoric implements (stone
knives and arrow heads) in 1842 at a place called Lingsugur in Karnataka.
• Robert Bruce was another person who enriched our knowledge about Indian prehistory when he discovered a large number of prehistoric sites in South India and collected Stone Age artifacts.
• These early efforts could not place India on the prehistoric map of the world.
• Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s efforts in 1921, resulted in our knowledge of the entire pre historic culture sequence of India, putting India fi rmly on the world map of prehistory.
• As regards the early man; no fossils of early man have been found in the entire subcontinent, but their presence is indicated by stone tools dated around 250,000 BC. Earliest traces of human activity in India go back to the second Inter-Glacial period between 400,000 and 200,000 B.C.
• From their first appearance to around 3000 B.C. humans used only stone tools for different purposes. Based on the tool mining traditions, this period is therefore known as the Stone Age and the entire Stone Age culture has been divided into 3 main stages i.e. Paleolothic (early or Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) and Neolithic
(New Stone Age).
Palaeolithic Age (500,000 B.C.–8000 B.C.)
• The Palaeolithic Age commenced from the time when the earliest man learnt the art of making stone tools. The greatest achievement of the earliest man could be traced to his learning as to how to make a fist hatchet, the spear and the fire.
• In India, the Palaeolithic Age developed in the Pleistocene period or the Ice Age and was spread in practically all parts of India except the alluvial parts of Ganga and Indus.
• Food gathering and hunting were the main occupations of the people of this phase and Palaeolithic men learnt to use animal skins for wrapping their dead bodies.
• Man during this period used tools of unpolished, undressed rough stones and lived in caves and rock shelters. They had no knowledge of agriculture, fire or pottery of any material and mainly used hand axes, cleavers, choppers, blades, scrapers and burins. Their tools were made of a hard rock called ‘quartzite’ and hence Palaeolithic men are also called ‘Quartzite Men’.
• Homo sapiens fi rst appeared in the last of this phase and the Palaeolithic man belonged to the
• Sir Robert Bruce Foot discovered the fi rst Palaeolithic stone tool in the Indian sub-continent near Madras in 1863 A.D. The discovery of Indian Pre-history got a boost after the Yale-Cambridge expedition in 1935 under De Terra and Patterson.
• The Paleolithic stage has been divided into Lower Palaeolithic (250,000-100,000 B.C.), Middle Palaeolithic (100,000-40,000 B.C.) and Upper Paleolithic stage (40,000-10,000 B.C.) primarily based on tool typology and technology and also according to the nature of change in the climate.
• The tools of the lower Paleolithic stage are mainly hand axes, cleavers, choppers and chopping tools and covered the greater part of the Ice Age. In this period the climate became less humid.
• The middle Paleolithic age tools are mainly based on fl ake industries.
• The upper Paleolithic stage is characterized by burins and scrapers and a warm and less humid climate.
• Agewise the lower Paleolithic extended upto 100,000 years ago, middle Paleolithic extended upto 40,000 years ago and upper Paleolithic up to 10,000 BC.
• The Son and the adjacent Belan valley (Mirzapur, UP) provide a sequence of artifacts from lower
Paleolithic to Neolithic.
• Situated around Bhimbedka hill, in central India near Hoshangabad on the Narmada River, the caves and rock shelters have yielded evidence of Paleolithic habitation.
• At Bhimbetka near the Narmada, a series of rockshelters have been excavated from caves. This site lacks in Chopper and Abbevillian hand axes.
• During middle palaeolithic age, Pithecanthropus or Homo erectus evolved. But this cultural stage was dominated by Neanderthal Man.
• The upper Palaeolithic culture belongs to the last phase of the Ice Age. This culture is marked by the appearance of new fl int industries and the evolution of Homo sapiens or the modern man.
• At Chopani-Mando in the Belan valley of the Vindhyas and the middle part of the Narmada valley, a sequence of occupation from all the three stages of the Paleolithic to Neolithic stage have been found in sequence. Chopani Mando is an important site where fossil animal bones have been found.
Mesolithic Era (8000 B.C.–6000 B.C.)
• Although major changes began to appear around 10,000 B.C. the Mesolithic era seems to have started around 9000 B.C. and 8000 B.C. with the folding up of the Ice Age and continued at certain places till 4000 B.C.
• In this age, climate changes brought about changes in the fauna and fl ora and made it possible for human beings to move to new areas. Since then there haven’t been major changes in the climate.
• The Mesolithic era is characterized by the reduction in the size of well established tool types from the archaeological point of view with a decrease in size of some artifacts and the presence of a higher proportion of ‘geometric’ microliths.
• Microliths, fi rst discovered from the Vindhyan rock shelters by C.L. Carlyle in 1867; are the characteristic tools of the era comprising of pointed, cresconic blades, scrapers, etc. all made of stone. These are very small in size with their length varying from 1-8 cm. Blackened blade, core, point, triangle, lunate and trapeze are the main Mesolithic tools. However some tools used earlier like choppers, burins and scrapers continue.
• The hunting implements are spears with multiple barbs apparently obtained easily by attaching microliths. The crude material is chert, agate, carnelian and quartz.
• Bagor, a Mesolithic site in Rajasthan on the river Kothari is the largest Mesolithic site in India also from where systematic burials of skeletons have been found.
• Tapti, Narmada, Mahi and Sabarmati river basins in Gujarat have yielded many Mesolithic sites.
• Langhnaj in Gujarat is the fi rst discovered site in the arid zone to demonstrate the development of a Mesolithic culture.
• The site of Chopani Mando in Allahabad provides a continuous sequence from late upper Palaeolithic to
late Mesolithic stage with crude handmade pottery. Here round hut fl oors were found.
• In Peninsular India the Mesolithic industry is based on milky quartz. A new feature in the tool industry
is the appearance of ‘D’ shaped, transverse arrowhead.
• A large number of animal bones were found in the rock-shelters of Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh
which indicate domestication of animals only, not a pastoral economy.
• The age represents the hunting-gathering nomadic pastoral stages of human social evolution as the people lived on hunting, fi shing and food gathering. At a later stage, they also domesticated animals.
• The people of this age achieved their special adaptation as early as 8000 B.C. which coincides with the same in both Europe and Africa.
• The last phase of this age saw the beginning of plane cultivation.
• The Palaeolithic age does not yield any information about the religious practices of the people but with the Mesolithic age the first archaeological information about them becomes available. The burials and rock paintings give us ideas about the development of religious practices.
• Some Mesolithic sites like Bhimbetka, Adamgarh, Pratapgarh and Mirzapur are famous for their rich art and paintings. Animals are the most frequent subjects of all these paintings with the most frequently represented ones being deer or antelope whereas paintings of tigers and monkeys are rare.
• Animal headed human fi gures also appear.
• This is also the period when we fi nd evidence of carefully burying the dead, which shows the beginning of belief in life after death.
Neolithic Era (6000 B.C.–1000 B.C.)
• In the world context, the Neolithic age began around 9000 B.C. but in the Indian context it began in 7000 B.C. Mehrgarh in Baluchistan is the only site belonging to that period.
• Regular Neolithic attributes have been found from around 5000 B.C. and in South Indian context Neolithic settlements appeared around 2500 B.C.
• The principal features of Neolithic culture are crop cultivation, animal husbandry and settled life. The last two coming into existence in the last phase of Mesolithic culture.
• During this period people depended on stone implements but used stones other than quartzite for making tools which were more lethal, more fi nished and more polished. The phase is known for grinding and polishing of tools.
• The stone tools can be studied under two groups:
(a) Ground and polished stone implements and (b) small and chipped stone tools.
• Ground and polished stone implements are associated with the Neolithic culture becaus of their links with food-producing stage and domestication of animals.
• Small and chipped stone tools had been continuing from earlier Mesolithic levels which are generally termed as microliths.
• The Neolithic people at certain point of time started making potteries. On this basis Neolithic culture has been divided into aceramic Neolithic and ceramic Neolithic ages.
• At certain Neolithic levels we get the evidence of use of metal (copper being the earliest metal). Such levels are termed as Chalcolithic level.
• Important sites of this age are Burzahom and Gufkral in J&K (famous for pit dwelling, stone tools and graveyards in houses), Maski, Brahmagiri, Tekkalakota in Karnataka, Paiyampatti in Tamil Nadu, Piklihal and Hallur in Andhra Pradesh, Garo hills in Meghalaya, Chirand and Senuwar in Bihar (known for remarkable bone tools), Amri,
Kot diji, etc.
• In Baluchistan , sites of Neolithic age include Kili Ghul Muhammad, Rana Ghundai, Anjira, Siahdamb
• In the Indus system the most Neolithic site is at Mehrgarh in the Kacchi Plain regarded as the ‘bread basket’ of Baluchistan. The Neolithic stratum at Mehrgarh seems to have emerged from a locally established Mesolithic substratum.
• In the northern Himalayas, the best known Neolithic site is Burzahom in Kashmir where the earliest occupation was characterized pit dwellings with conical roofs. The site also gives evidence of a rectangular chopper of a kind not known in India.
• In Burzahom sometimes dogs and wolves were found buried with their owners.
• Later on, there comes evidence of mud brick houses, copper arrow heads and a number of burials and graves with goods. This phase also yield a stray painted pot showing a typical early Indus buffalo deity.
• Gufkral, literally ‘the cave of the potter’ is another important Neolithic site in Kashmir where the earliest seize yield pit dwellings without pottery.However in subsequent phases coarse grey pottery was used and a large number of bone tools occur.
• People domesticated sheep, goats and oxen and animal remains of early periods corroborate it.
• Cultivation of wheat, barley, fruits, corn like ragi and horsegram and lentils have been reported from the beginning and between 6000 B.C. and 5000 B.C. there was a pattern of subsistence based on wheat, barley, sheep, goats and cattle.
• The remains of charred grains of paddy husk and wheat are quite visible at Chirand in Bihar, the hand-made pots as well.
• The people of Kachar Hills of Assam lived in mudwalled houses and their hand-made pots were decorated with basket impressions.
• Koldhiwa and Mahagara lying south of Allahabad have thrown evidence of many strata of circular huts alongwith a crude handmade pottery. The most interesting fi nd is evidence of rice suggested around 5440 and 4530 B.C. which is the oldest evidence of rice not only in India but also anywhere in the world.
• Instances of earlier cave dwelling have also been discovered with walls decorated of scenes of hunting and dancing.
• Neolithic man also knew the art of making boats and could weave cotton and wool to make cloth.
• In the later phase of the Neolithic stage people led a more settled life and lived in circular and rectangular houses made of mud and reed.
• The end of the Neolithic period saw the use of metals of which copper was the fi rst. A culture based on the use of stone and copper arrived called the Chalcolithic phase meaning the stone-copper phase.
• The fi rst full-fl edged village communities evolved in the Chalcolithic phase which was chronologically antecedents to Harappan people. Rafi que Mughal of Pakistan named there settlements as Early Harappan culture.
• Though some Chalcolithic cultures are contemporary of Harappan and some of pre- Harappan cultures but most Chalcolithic cultures are post-Harappan.
• Though Chalcolithic cultures mostly used stone and copper implements, the Harappans used bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) on such a scale that Harappan culture is known as a Bronze Age Culture.
• Apart from stone tools, hand axes and other objects made from copperware were also used.
• The evidences of relationship with Afghanistan,Iran and probably Central India and visible at Mehargarh.
• The Chalcolithic culture at many places continued till 700 B.C. and sometime around 1200 B.C. the use of iron seems to have begun in the Chalcolithic level itself. The use of iron subsequently revolutionized the culture making progress and by 800 B.C. a distinct Iron Age came into existence
• The Chalcolithic people used different types of pottery of which black and red pottery was most popular. It was wheel made and painted with white line design.
• The Chalcolithic people were not acquainted with burnt bricks and generally lived in thatched houses. It was a village economy.
• They venerated the mother goddess and worshipped the bull.
• Important sites of this stage are spread in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, etc.
• The Chalcolithic culture in Rajasthan is known as Banas culture after the river of the same name and is also known as Ahar culture after the typesite.
• In the Malwa region the important Chalcolithic sites are Nagda, Kayatha, Navdatoli, and Eran. Mud-plastered fl oors are a prominent feature of Kayatha.
• The Kayatha culture is characterized by a sturdy red-slipped ware painted with designs in chocolate colour, a red painted buff ware and a combed ware bearing incised patterns.
• The Ahar people made a distinctive black-and-red ware decorated with white designs.
• The Malwa ware is rather coarse in fabric, but has a thick buff surface over which designs are made either in red or black.
• The Prabhas and Rangpur wares are both derived from the Harappan, but have a glossy surface due to which they are also called Lustrous Red Ware.
• Jorwe ware too is painted black-on-red but has a matt surface treated with a wash.
• The settlements of Kayatha cutlure are only a few in number, mostly located on the Chambal and its tributaries. They are relatively small in size and the biggest may be not over two hectares.
• In contrast to small Kayatha culture settlements those of Ahar cultures are big. At least three of them namely Ahar, Balathal and Gilund are of several hectares.
• Stone, mud bricks and mud were used for the construction of houses and other structures.
• Excavations reveal that Balathal was a wellfortified settlement.
• The people of Malwa culture settled mostly on the Narmada and its tributaries. Navdatoli, Eran and Nagada are the three best known settlements of Malwa culture. Navadatoli measures almost 10 hectares and is one of the largest Chalcolithic settlements.
• It has been seen that some of these sites were fortifi ed and Nagada had even a bastion of mudbricks. Eran similarly had a fortifi cation wall with a moat.
• The Rangpur culture sites are located mostly on Ghelo and Kalubhar rivers in Gujarat.
• The Jorwe settlement is comparatively larger in number.
• Prakash, Daimabad and Inamgaon are some of the best known settlements of this culture. The largest of these is Daimabad which measured 20 hectares.
• From Mesolithic culture onwards, all the culture types coexisted and interacted with each other.
• The Chalcolithic people built rectangular and circular houses of mud wattled-and-daub. The circular houses were mostly in clusters. These houses and huts had roots of straw supported on bamboo and wooden rafters. Floors were made of rammed clay and huts were used for storage also.
• People raised cattle as well as cultivated both Kharif and Rabi crops in rotation. Wheat and barley were grown in the area of Malwa. Rice is reported to have been found from Inamgaon and Ahar. These people also cultivated jowar and bajra and so also kulthi ragi, green peas, lentil and green and black grams.
• Religion was an important aspect which interlinked all Chalcolithic cultures. The worship of mother goddess and the bull was in vogue. The bull cult seems to have been predominant in Malwa during the Ahar period.
• A large number of these both naturalistic as well as stylised lingas have been found from most of the sites of Chalcolithic settlements. The naturalistic ones may have served as votive offerings, but the small stylised ones may have been hung around the neck as the Lingayats do today.
• The Mother Goddess is depicted on a huge storage jar of Malwa culture in an applique design. She is fl anked by a woman on the right and a crocodile on the left, by the side of which is represented the shrine.
• Likewise the fiddle-shaped figurines probably resembling Srivatsa, the symbol of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth in historical period represent a mother Goddess.
• In a painted design on a pot, a deity is shown with dishevelled hair, recalling Rudra.
• A painting on a jar found from Daimabad shows a deity surrounded by animals and birds such as tigers and peacocks. Some scholars compare it with the ‘Shiva Pashupati’ depicted on a seal from Mohenjodaro..
• Two fi gurines from Inamgaon, belonging to late Jorwe culture, are identifi ed as proto-Ganesh, who is worshipped for success.
• Several headless figurines found at Inamgaon have been compared with Goddess Visira of the Mahabharata.
• Fire-worship seems to have been a very widespread phenomenon among the Chalcolithic people of Pre-historic India as fi re-altars have been found from a large number of Chalcolithic sites during the course of excavations.
• The occurence of pots and other funerary objects found along with burials of the Malwa and Jorwe people indicate that people had a belief in life after death.
• The Chalcolithic farmers had made considerable progress in ceramic as well as metal technology. The painted pottery was well made and well fi red in kiln, it was fi red at a temperature between 500- 700°C.
• In metal tools we fi nd axes, chisels, bangles, beads, etc. mostly made of copper. The copper was obtained, perhaps, from the Khetri mines of Rajasthan.
• Gold ornaments were extremely rare and have been found only in the Jorwe culture.
• An ear ornament has been found from Prabhas in the Godavari valley also.
• The fi nd of crucibles and pairs of tongs of copper at Inamgaon in Maharashtra shows the working of goldsmiths.
• Chalcedony drills were used for perforating beads of semi-precious stones.
• Lime was prepared out of Kankar and used for various purposes like painting houses and lining