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Prehistory

Prehistoric Age – Further Classification.

Palaeolithic age ~ 1million years ago to 10,000 BC
Mesolithic age ~ 10,000 BC to 4000 BC
Neolithic age ~ 4000 BC – 1000 BC
(‘lith’= stone, ‘paleo’ = old, ‘meso’ = middle, ‘neo’ = new).

Palaeolithic Age [1,000,000 BC – 10,000 BC]

Hunter gatherers dominated this phase of history. This age is further divided into
1. Lower Palaeolithic (1,000,000 BC to 100,000 BC)
Man transformed from homo habilis (walking on hand) -> homo erectus (walking on two feets).
2. Middle Palaeolithic (100,000 BC to 30,000 BC)
man became homo sapiens (present day human).
3. Upper Palaeolithic (30,000 BC to 10000 BC).

Homo Sapien
Evolution of man according to prevailing theory.

Prominent Sites in India
In India, the earliest evidence of man is from Bori in Latur Dist., Maharashtra where man lived around 14 lac years ago. Other evidence of this age are found in foothills of Shivalik range and Vindhyas. However the most developed settlements were probably in Sohan river valley in Punjab (presently in Pakistan). Therefore Palaeolithic culture is also called ‘Sohan Culture’. Interestingly no evidence is found of this culture in Gangetic plains. And evidences in South India are meagre. Pallavaram in Madras is first cultural site of palaeolithic site. And Adichannalur is also palaeolithic site.

Features of Palaeolithic age.
1. This was a Pleistocene age (very cold age), so their residences are found mostly near mountain foothills and caves. They are not found in river plains. It was stone age, and abundance of stone in hilly region was also another reason for it.
2. People were mostly hunter gatherers.
3. There were no artificial habitat, as mentioned above, man lived in caves.
4. Cave paintings were also very simple. Simple stick like figures. Lacudiyar (1 lac paintings) in Uttarakhand and some paintings from Bhimbetaka site are from this age.
5. The tools of this age were made of quartzite. We see improvement in tools from lower to upper palaeolithic age.

Bhimbetaka 1
Bhimbetaka Cave Paintings

Mesolithic Age [10,000 BC – 4000 BC]

It was a period of transition from Palaeolithic to Neolithic Age. The most important feature of this age is increase in global temperature (end of ice age) known as Holocene epoch.

Prominent Sites in India.
The Mesolithic culture was spread in Rajasthan, UP, Central India and also Gangetic valley.
Bhimbetaka caves is most important site of this age. It is located in Madhya Pradesh, foothills of Vindhya mountain range. V S Wakanker was the first person to excavate these caves. There are more than 500 rock shelters in this area. And natural colours have been used for painting. (Red and White colours dominate the paintings.) Elephants, Bisons, Tigers and stick like human figures are depicted in paintings. Hunting scenes are portrayed.
Other places are Adamgadh in Madhya Pradesh and Baghor in Rajasthan.

Features of Mesolithic age
1. Domestication of animals started. They were used primarily for food and their use for milk was probably unknown.
2. This also gave rise to pastoral life.
3. Some people used to live in artificial homes like mud-brick house.
4. Microliths (small stone tools) of superior quality are found from this age.
5. People in this age were aware of fire, spear, arrow and projectile motion.

Neolithic Age [4,000 BC – 1000 BC]

Neolithic age is also called ‘Neolithic revolution’ a term coined by Gordon Childe.
The number of neolithic sites is greater in South India because good quality stones were found in India. One of the oldest site is in valley of river Golan in Balochistan region of present day Pakistan.

neolitihic sites
Neolithic Sites in India

Arrival of neolithic age was no less than a revolution

Gordon Childe

Features of Neolithic Age
1. Agriculture commenced in neolithic age. Wheat and Barley were grown in North India whle Ragi and Gram were grown in South India.
2. This gave rise to settled life, artificial houses, granaries, pottery (though not on potters wheel). Goat and Sheep were reared during this period.
3. Wheel was invented.
4. Hand Axe was invented. Thus man started modifying natural environment around him. (Clearing of forests).
5. This stable life also lead to significant increase in population during this age.
6. Bone tools are typical to neolithic age.

Chalcolithic Age [2800 BC onwards]

( ‘Chalco’ = copper, ‘lithic’= stone. ) Copper was also used along with stone in this age, hence the name. It is important to note the chalcolithic culture co-existed with neolithic culture for some part of history.

Prominet sites in India
The culture was mainly concentrated in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhypradesh, Maharashtra region due to presence of copper in these regions. However traces of chalcolithic culture are found all over India except forest regions.
1. Kayatha in M.P. around Kalisen river valley.
2. Ahar in Rajasthan on Banas river. It was also called Tambavati due to prominence of copper.
3. Malwa – MP, Gujarat region. Navadatoli is prominent site in the region.
4. Jorwe in Maharashtra.
5. Rangpur in Gujarat.
The culture also developed in above mentioned sequence i.e. Kayatha was 1st to develop while Rangpur was last.
// Suggested acronym – KAMJoR.

chalcolithic sites
Chalcolithic sites in India

Features of Chalcolithic culture
1. Copper was discovered and combined with microliths for making tools.
2. Potters wheel was known by this time. And they were the 1st one to use painted pottery. (Ochre coloured pottery).
3. Animal rearing was common practice by now (primarily for flesh).
4. Agriculture further developed. Barley was main crop. Other crops include wheat, rice, pea, gram etc. However, agriculture was mainly ‘slash and burn’ agriculture.
5. Trade and commerce based on barter system started during this period.
6. The artefacts found include semi-precious stone beads, terracotta, pottery, ivory.

Social system of Chalcolithic culture.
1. These people believed in life after death as evident from grave-goods found.
2. Most of the graves are found in North-South direction. Whereas in Harappa, they are in East-West direction.
3. Predominance of mother goddess.
4. Bull was probably used as symbol of worship.
5. Social stratification started for first time. It is evident in small and big huts, variety of grave-goods.

Limitations of Chalcolithic culture.
1. They didn’t knew writing.
2. Agriculture was not much advanced. Slash and burn agriculture dominated.
3. Trade and commerce was not developed. Therefore culture was primarily rural.
4. Although they knew copper, no Bronze artefacts are found. So use of Bronze was unknown.

Chalcolithic culture disappeared in Central and Western Asia around 1200 BC. This happened because less rainfall would make black soil hard, difficult to plough with soft copper tools.
However, the culture continued to thrive in eastern part of subcontinent, where laterite soil dominated. Which was easier to cultivate.

Megalithic Culture [1500 BC – 200 AD]

Mega = big. This culture is characterised by use of big stones to surround graves.

Prominent Sites.
The culture was prominent mostly in South Indian region i.e. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana region.
1. Jaunapani in Maharashtra.
2. Maski in Karnataka
3. Nagarjunkonda in Andhra Pradesh.
4. Adichannalur in Tamil Nadu.

Important features
1. It was also a iron age i.e. use of iron was known.
2. They domesticated goat, sheep, cattle.
3. Arrowheads, spearheads were used.
4. However the elements of nomadic life were also present since the habitat of megalithic people have continued to change with passage of time.
5. Megalithic people believed in life after death. Characterised by grave-goods and big stone boulders kept around grave.

What do prehistory mean?

The phase of history where we do not have any written sript, and thus our knowledge of that phase is very limited is called prehistory. For example stone age history will classify as prehistory.

What is neolithic revolution?

A word coined by Gordon Childe. It implies that there were so many inventions in neolithic age i.e. wheel, settled agriculture e, hand axe. Coupled with climate change from cool to normal, completely changed human life. This is called neolithic revolution.

Posted in Ancient Indian History

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