• The fossils of the early human being have not been found in India. Recent reported artifacts from Bori in Maharashtra suggest the appearance of human beings in India around 1.4 million years ago.
• The archaeological remains that are found in different parts of India to reconstruct the history of this period include the stone tools, pottery, artifacts and metal implements used by pre-historic people.
• The technique of radio-carbon dating is commonly used for dating of the prehistoric period. It is based on measuring the loss of carbon in organic materials over a period of time.
• Another dating method is known as dendro-chronology. It refers to the number of tree rings in wood. By counting the number of tree rings in the wood, the date of the wood is arrived at.
• By this study the past of humankind has been divided into three broad categories viz. Prehistoric, protohistoric and historic.
• Prehistoric period belongs to the time before the emergence of writing and the historic period to the time following it.
• The prehistoric period is divided into three ages, namely the stone, bronze and iron ages. These ages, besides being technological stages, also have economic and social implications.
• In India, the prehistoric period is divided into the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), Neolithic (New Stone Age) and the Metal Age.
• The suffix lithic indicates that technology in these periods was primarily based on stone.
• Economically the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods represent the hunting-gathering stage while the Neolithic represents the stage of food production, i.e. plant cultivation and animal husbandry.
PALEOLITHIC OR OLD STONE AGE (5,00,000 B.C. – 10,000 B.C.)
• 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. They had no knowledge of agriculture, fire or pottery of any material.
• Man during this period used tools of unpolished, undressed rough stones and lived in cave and rock shelters.
• They mainly used hand axes, cleavers, choppers, blades, scrapers and burin.
• Their tools were made of hard rock called ‘quartzite’.
• Hence Paleolithic men are also called ‘Quartzite Men’.
• Homo sapiens first appeared in the last phase of Paleolithic age.
• The Paleolithic Age in India has been divided into three phases according to the nature of stone tools used by the people and also according to the nature of change in the climate – Early or lower Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic.
a) The Early Paleolithic Age covers the greater part of the Ice Age. Its characteristic tools are hand axes, cleavers and choppers. Such tools have been found in Soan and Sohan river valley (now in Pakistan) and in the Belan Valley in the Mirzapur district of UP. In this period climate became less humid.
b) Middle Paleolithic Phase is characterized by the use of stone tools made of flakes mainly scrapers, borers and blade like tools. The sites are found in the valleys of Soan, Narmada and Tungabhadra rivers. During this phase, Pithecanthropus or Homo erectus evolved.
c) In the Upper Paleolithic Phase, the climate became warm and less humid. This stage is marked by burins and scrapers. Such tools have been found in AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bhopal and Chhota Nagpur plateau.
• The Old Stone Age sites are widely found in various parts of the Indian subcontinent and are generally located near water sources.
• In the Old Stone Age, food was obtained by hunting animals and gathering edible plants and tubers. Therefore, these people are called as hunter-gatherers.
• The hunting of large animals would have required the combined effort of a group of people with large stone axes. Their way of life became modified with the passage of time since they made attempts to domesticate animals, make crude pots and grow some plants.
• A few Old Stone Age paintings have also been found on rocks at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh and other places. The period before 10000 B.C. is assigned to the Old Stone Age.
• Some of the famous sites of Old Stone Age in India are:
a) The Soan valley and Potwar Plateau on the northwest India;
b) The Siwalik hills on the north India;
c) Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh;
d) Adamgarh hill in Narmada valley;
e) Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh; and
f) Attirampakkam near Chennai.
• 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.
• The Son and the adjacent Belan valley (Mirzapur, UP) provide a sequence of artifacts from lower Paleolithic to Neolithic.
MESOLITHIC OR MIDDLE STONE AGE (10,000 B.C. – 6000 B.C.)
• The next stage of human life is called Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age which falls roughly from 10000 B.C. to 6000 B.C. and was the transitional phase between the Paleolithic Age and Neolithic Age.
• Various Mesolithic sites are found in the Chhotanagpur region, Central India and also south of the Krishna River.
• Mesolithic remains are found in Langhanj in Gujarat, Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and also in some places of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
• In the sites of Mesolithic Age, a different type of stone tools is found. These are tiny stone artifacts, often not more than five centimeters in size. These characteristic tools of the Mesolithic Age are known as Microliths-pointed, cresconic blades, scrapers, etc, all made of stone.
• The paintings and engravings found at the rock shelters give an idea about the social life and economic activities of Mesolithic people. The hunting-gathering pattern of life continued during this period.
• However, there seems to have been a shift from big animal hunting to small animal hunting and fishing. The use of bow and arrow also began during this period.
• Also, there began a tendency to settle for longer periods in an area. Therefore, domestication of animals, horticulture and primitive cultivation started.
• The last phase of this age saw the beginning of plain cultivation. Animal bones are found in these sites and these include dog, deer, boar and ostrich.
• Occasionally, burials of the dead along with some microliths and shells seem to have been practiced.
NEOLITHIC AGE (6000 BC – 1000 B.C.)
• A remarkable progress is noticed in human civilization in the Neolithic Age. In the world context, the New Stone Age began in 9000 B.C.
• The only Neolithic settlement in the Indian subcontinent attributed to 7000 B.C. lies in Mehrgarh, which is situated in Baluchistan, a province of Pakistan.
• In India, Neolithic Age is not earlier than 6000 BC and at some places in South and Eastern India; it is as late as 1000 B.C.
• These include the Kashmir valley, Chirand in Bihar, Belan valley in Uttar Pradesh and in several places of the Deccan.
• The important Neolithic sites are:
a) Burzahom and Gufkral in J&K (famous for pit dwelling, stone tools and graveyard in house),
b) Maski, Brahmagiri, Tekkalakota in Karnataka, Paiyampatti in Tamil Nadu,
c) Piklihal and Hallur in AP,
d) Garo hills in Meghalaya,
e) Chirand and Senuwar in Bihar (known for remarkable bone tools),
f) Amri, Kotdiji, etc.
• Koldihawa in UP revealed a threefold cultural sequence: Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Iron Age.
• The chief characteristic features of the Neolithic culture are the practice of agriculture, domestication of animals, polishing of stone tools and the manufacturing of pottery.
• The cultivation of plants and domestication of animals led to the emergence of village communities based on sedentary life.
• There was a great improvement in technology of making tools and other equipments used by man.
• Stone tools were now polished and theses polished axes were found to be more effective tools for hunting and cutting trees.
• Mud brick houses were built instead of grass huts.
• Neolithic people knew about making fire and making pottery, first by hand and then by potters wheel. They also painted and decorated their pottery.
• Pottery was used for cooking as well as storage of food grains.
• Large urns were used as coffins for the burial of the dead.
• There was also improvement in agriculture. Wheat, barley, rice, millet were cultivated in different areas at different points of time.
• Neolithic sites in Allahabad district are noted for the cultivation of rice in the sixth millennium B.C. Domestication of sheep, goats and cattle was widely prevalent.
• Cattle were used for cultivation and for transport.
• The people of Neolithic Age used clothes made of cotton and wool.
CHACOLITHIC OR METAL AGE
• The end of the Neolithic Period saw the use of metals of which copper was the first and a culture based on the use of stone and copper arrived.
• Such a culture is called Chalcolithic which means the stone-copper phase.
• The new technology of smelting metal ore and crafting metal artifacts is an important development in human civilization.
• But the use of stone tools was not given up. Some of the micro-lithic tools continued to be essential items.
• People began to travel for a long distance to obtain metal ores which led to a network of Chalcolithic cultures and the Chalcolithic cultures were found in many parts of India.
• Generally, Chalcolithic cultures had grown in river valleys.
• Gold was probably one of the earliest discoveries, but it served as a material for ornaments only.
• Important sites of this phase are spread in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar, MP, etc.
• In South India the river valleys of the Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra, Pennar and Kaveri were settled by farming communities during this period. Although they were not using metals in the beginning of the Metal Age, there is evidence of copper and bronze artifacts by the end of second millennium B.C.
• Several bronze and copper objects, beads, terracotta figurines and pottery were found at Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu.
• The Chalcolithic people used different types of pottery of which black and red pottery was most popular.
• These people were not acquainted with burnt bricks and generally lived in thatched houses.
• It was a village economy.
• The Chalcolithic age is followed by Iron Age. Iron is frequently referred to in the Vedas.
• The Iron Age of the southern peninsula is often related to Megalithic Burials.
• Megalith means Large Stone.
• The burial pits were covered with these stones. Such graves are extensively found in South India.
• Some of the important megalithic sites are Hallur and Maski in Karnataka, Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh and Adichchanallur in Tamil Nadu.
• Black and red pottery, iron artifacts such as hoes and sickles and small weapons were found in the burial pits.
Although man struggled for his survival in the Paleolithic era, the artistic attitude made him develop several rock cut paintings in the walls of the caves. By piecing together the information deduced from these cave drawings, scholars were able to construct the history of the Paleolithic man.
• Remnants of rock paintings are found in the rock shelters located in Bhimbetka near Bhopal.
• Several other sites are situated in several districts of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.
• The paintings were carved in the walls of caves with a sharp weapon.
• The paintings mainly consist of man’s struggle for survival. Hunting scenes pre-dominate.
• Paintings have 3 motifs- MAN, ANIMAL and GEOMETRIC PATTERN.
• Green and red colour paintings are found in Bhimbetka caves.
• Community dancers provide a common theme.
• Some of the pictures like women and children depict a kind of family life.
Major breakthrough in the artistic development took place in chalcolithic period when man started using pottery in his daily life. We find painted pottery with various designs in different areas. The vividness and vitality of earlier periods disappear in this new type of painting. They used many colures such as white, yellow, orange, red, green, black etc.
• Brushes were made of plant fibre.
• Paints were made by crushing rocks. They got red from hematite, white from limestone etc.
• They engraved on rocks as a part of the rituals they perform at birth, at death, at coming of age and at the time of marriage.
• They also painted individual animal with a good pictorial quality which implies the mastery of painting skill compared to previous era.
The pre-historic paintings help us to know about the life style of man at that time, his food, his daily activities and above all, his mind-the way he thought.
OCP, BRW, PGW AND NBP WARE CULTURES
• The Chalcolithic people were the first to use painted pottery. More than a hundred sites in the Ganga-Yamuna region have yielded a type of pottery known as Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP) and these sites are described as belonging to the OCP culture.
• The OCP culture is succeeded by Black and Red Ware (BRW) and Painted Grey Ware (PGW) cultures, which are characterized by diagnostic pottery types.
• In North India, there is a distinct concentration of PGW sites in Haryana and the Upper Ganga Valley.
• Iron makes its appearance in the PGW culture, and in the ensuing phase, known as the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP) culture.
a) Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP)
• The OCP culture flourished between 2000 BC and 1500 BC in a long stretch of area from Mayapur in the Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh to Saipai in Etawah district.
• This pottery is one medium grained clay and underfired and has a wash of ochre orange to red in colour and is inclined to rub off.
• The sites have yielded mainly objects of pottery including jars, flasks, bowls, pots, basins, terracotta bangles, animal figurines, beads of carnelian and cart wheels stone queens-and pestles. Rice, barley, gram and kesari were probably grown.
• Study suggests that the OCP pottery was a degenerated form of the late Harappan pottery style.
b) Black and Red Ware (BRW)
• Black and Red Ware (BRW) is sandwiched between OCP and Painted Grey Ware (PGW).
• The characterestic features of BRW are the black colour inside and near the rim on the outside, and red colour over the rest of the body. This colour combination was produced by inverted firing.
• Though the majority of the potteries are wheel turned, there are some handmade potteries also.
• Made of fine clay, BRW has a fine fabric.
• With thin walls BRW pottery with paintings has also been found in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar.
c) Painted Grey Ware (PGW)
• The PGW pottery type is wheel-made and was made of well-levigated clay.
• The colour of the pottery used to be ash grey from outside and the inner walls were painted with deep chocolate colour.
• Most of the sites found have been located on the river banks.
• Some of the important sites are- Rupar (Punjab), Bhagvanpura (Haryana), Noh (Rajasthan), Alamgirpur, Achchhatra, Hastinapur, Atranjikhera, Jakhera and Mathura.
d) Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP)
• The NBP ware was characterestic of the urban centres of the Gangetic Plain, and is thought to have developed from the technique of high-temperature firing used in smelting iron and from the use of hematite soil locally available.
• The NBP ware is of well levitated clay and has a glossy surface with a thin core. The ware was usually unpainted.
• It is extensively distributed as a luxury product, and the distribution helps the tracking of exchange and trade in different parts, of the Indian subcontinent.
• Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are the main regions of NBP ware sites.
• It has been excavated in Ropariin Punjab, Raja-Karnaka-Quila (Haryana), Noh and Jodhpura (northern Rajasthan), Ahichchhatra, Hastinapura, Atranjikhera, Kaushambi, Sravasti, Vaishali, Patliputra. Sonepur in Bihar and Chandraketugarh in West Bengal.
The Chalcolithic people made commendable progress in ceramic and metal technology. The painted pottery was well-made and baked in kilns fired at a temperature range of 500-700°C. In the upper parts of the doab, Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP) belonging to the time preiod 2100-1800 BC have been found.