Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit
Subject: History (Optional)
Topic: Pre-historic India and the Harappan Culture
The history of human settlements in India goes back to
prehistoric times. No written records are available for the prehistoric period.
However, plenty of archaeological remains are found in different parts of India
to reconstruct the history of this period. They include the stone tools,
pottery, artifacts and metal implements used by pre-historic people. The
development of archaeology helps much to understand the life and culture of the
people who lived in this period. 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. However, these periods were not uniform
throughout the Indian subcontinent. The dating of the prehistoric period is done
scientifically. The technique of radio-carbon dating is commonly used for this
purpose. 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.
Paleolithic or Old Stone Age
The Old Stone Age sites are widely found in various parts of
the Indian subcontinent. These sites are generally located near water sources.
Several rock shelters and caves used by the Paleolithic people are scattered
across the subcontinent. They also lived rarely in huts made of leaves. 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. Bhimpetka in Madhya Pradesh.
d. Adamgarh hill in Narmada valley.
e. Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh and
f. Attirampakkam near Chennai.
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. They used stone tools, hand-sized and flaked-off large pebbles
for hunting animals. Stone implements are made of a hard rock known as
quartzite. Large pebbles are often found in river terraces.
The hunting of large animals would have required the combined
effort of a group of people with large stone axes. We have little knowledge
about their language and communication. 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 and other places. The period before 10000 B.C. is assigned to
the Old Stone Age.
Malwa culture : 1900-1400 B.C.
Ahar culture : 2800-1500 B.C.
Kayatha culture : 2450-1700 B.C.
Jorwe culture : 1500-900 B.C.
Svalda cuture : 2300-2000 B.C.
Prabhas culture : 2000-1400 B.C.
Rangpur Culture : 1700-1400 B.C.
Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age
The next stage of human life is called Mesolithic or Middle
Stone Age which falls roughly from 10000 B.C. to 6000 B.C. It was the
transitional phase between the Paleolithic Age and Neolithic Age. Mesolithic
remains are found in Langhanj in Gujarat, Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and also in
some places of Rajasthan, Utter Pradesh and Bihar. The paintings and engravings
found at the rock shelters give an idea about the social life and economic
activities of Mesolithic people. 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, and therefore called microliths. 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. 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.
A remarkable progress is noticed in human civilization in the
Neolithic Age. It is approximately dated from 6000 B.C to 4000 B.C. Neolithic
remains are found in various parts of India. These include the Kashmir valley,
Chirand in Bihar, Belan valley in Uttar Pradesh and in several places of the
Deccan. The important Neolithic sites excavated in south India are Maski,
Brahmagiri, Hallur and Kodekal in Karnataka, Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu and Utnur
in Andhra Pradesh.
The chief characteristic features of the Neolithic culture
are the practice of agriculture, domestication of animals, polishing of stone
tools and the manufacture of pottery. In fact, the cultivation of plants and
domestication of animals led to the emergence of village communities based on
sedentary life. There was a great
mprovement in technology of making tools and other equipments
used by man. Stone tools were now polished. The polished axes were found to be
more effective tools for hunting and cutting trees. Mud brick houses were built
instead of grass huts. Wheels were used to make 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,
barely, rice, millet were cultivated in different areas at different points of
time. Rice cultivation was extensive in eastern India. 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.
The Neolithic period is followed by Chalcolithic
(copper-stone) period when copper and bronze came to be used. 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. This 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. Most importantly,
the Harappan culture is considered as a part of Chalcolithic culture. 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 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.