NEOLITHIC AGE (BEGINING OF AGRICULTURE)
- The concluding phase of the Stone Age, the Neolithic Age, which followed the Mesolithic, heralded the beginning of food production.
What was the catalyst that moved humans in vastly separated parts to adopt agriculture and animal domestication?
- It was a combination of the three factors that ushered this transformation:
- climatic change at the beginning of the holocene,
- increasing population density
- evolving cultural and technological strategies of human groups
Neolithic Period as Neolithic Revolution
- Neolithic was the last leg of the Stone Age and also the link or platform on which all subsequent civilizations arose.
- That it is a Stone Age culture can be established by the use of stone tools. But unlike the lighter and sharper tools of the palaeolithic or mesolithic, the neolithic tool kit was composed of heavy ground tools – pestles, mortars, grinders and pounders – as also axes and sickles which have a characteristic sheen on them, the result of harvesting wild or domesticated plants and grasses.
- But besides the use of stone tools, the neolithic people had little in common with their predecessors. The palaeolithic and Mesolithic humans were mobile hunter-gatherers who travelled long distances to procure their food. On the other hand, neolithic populations all over the places have relied on agriculture or food production and the domestication of animals for their dietary needs.
- Interestingly, all of the largest and most complex civilizations throughout history have been based on the cultivation of one or more of just six plant genera – wheat, barley, millet, rice, maize and potatoes and these have thus been called the main ‘engines of civilizations’.
- Sedentism (practice of living in one place for a long time) is another feature that distinguishes the neolithic period. Somewhere between 10,000 and 3,500 years ago, people without any apparent connection, began settling down in agricultural communities and gave rise to villages, towns and then cities.
- The use of pottery and the wheel and the subsequent invention of crafts like spinning, weaving and bead-making also serve to demonstrate the uniqueness of the neolithic phase. Most neolithic cultures start as aceramic or pre-pottery neolithic. However, soon enough, sherds of hand-made pottery are found, often followed by wheel-thrown pottery. The technological breakthrough of the wheel enabled developments like spinning and by the time of the bronze age civilizations, the use of the wheel in carts.
- It was a consideration of all these developments that made this period to be called as as the ‘Neolithic Revolution’. However, the term ‘revolution’ is synonymous with sudden or abrupt change, often accompanied by bloodshed and that the neolithic was a gradual unfolding of developments, the culmination of the Stone Age. While the significant socio-economic impact of the Neolithic cannot be denied, it is today generally viewed as a ‘transformation’ or ‘evolution’ rather than a ‘revolution’.
- The point which has direct bearing on the advent of the neolithic in the Indian subcontinent, is the presumption that farming was first invented in a single ‘nuclear region’ – the Fertile Crescent in Mesopotamia or the Near-East from where it spread or was diffused to other parts of the world. This diffusionist paradigm propounded that the ‘idea’ of agriculture arose here and then spread to other regions depending on their proximity to this core region.
Onset of agriculture in India and Distribution of Neolithic Sites:
- India was for a long time seen as having borrowed the idea of food production from its western neighbour, Mesopotamia, via the Iranian plateau. Modern research on the subject, especially has discredited this viewpoint. It is now generally believed that agriculture in India was an independent, indigenous development rather than an import from outside.
- A remarkable coincidence, it has been proved for three of the main staples of the subcontinent – the discovery of wheat and barley in Mehrgarh (in Pakistan) grown almost contemporaneously with the Fertile Crescent sites cancels the possibility of diffusion into India. Similarly, the discovery of rice from Koldihwa in Uttar Pradesh and millet from sites in South India have put a question mark on the diffusion of these two crops from South China and South Africa respectively.
- The occurrence of food production in India was spread over a few millennia – from the 8th millennium BC to 1000 BC. A neolithic celt was discovered as early as 1842 in the Raichur district of Karnataka, and later in 1867 in the Brahmaputra valley of Upper Assam. Today, as a result of vast explorations and excavations, the distribution and nature of the neolithic in the subcontinent has been brought to light.
- Some scholars divide the neolithic settlements into three groups – northwestern, northeastern and southern, based on the types of axes used by the Neolithic settlers. Others argue for as many as six different geographical regions, each with its own distinctive features and chronological time-span. These regions are:
- Northwestern i.e. Baluchistan and its adjoining area in Pakistan (7th to mid 4th millennium BC)
- Northern i.e. Kashmir Valley (2500-1500 BC)
- Central India, i.e., Vindhyan region, south of Allahabad (4000 BC-1200 BC)
- Mid-Gangetic basin, i.e., eastern U.P. and Bihar (2000 BC–1500 BC)
- Eastern India, i.e., Bengal, Orissa and Assam
- Peninsular or South India, i.e., Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (2500 BC–1500 BC).
- An overview of the above time frame will indicate that the Neolithic phase in India did not develop everywhere at the same time nor did it end simultaneously. In fact, there were many neolithic cultures which were coexisting with the copper using, urban Harappan Civilization (2600-1900 BC).
- These cultures, besides having different time frames, exhibit some regional variations too:
- In the northeast region, neolithic tools have been found but there is no evidence so far of plant cultivation.
- While most of the neolithic cultures evolved out of the preceding mesolithic cultures, no such evidence is reported from the Kashmir Valley.
- Bone tools have only been recovered from sites in Kashmir and from Chirand in Bihar.
- In terms of cereal consumption, while wheat and barley predominate in Mehrgarh in Pakistan, it is rice from Central India and millet and ragi cultivation from the South Indian neolithic sites.
- The corpus of evidence gathered so far suggests that while each region responded to its specific geographical setting, the tapestry that finally emerged had distinct parallels. This was the rise and growth of agriculture and the beginning of settled village life.
Regional Distribution of Neolithic Cultures
- Comprising the province of Baluchistan and the Indus plains in Pakistan, this area represents the earliest evidence of the Neolithic Culture in the subcontinent, indicated by the growth of farming and animal husbandry.
- Basically, an inhospitable mountainous region, with a climate of extremes, Baluchistan has nevertheless revealed many traces of early settlements in its valley pockets. The important sites are Mehrgarh in the Kachhi plain, Kili Gul Muhammad in the Quetta Valley, Rana Ghundai in the Loralai valley and Anjira in the Surab valley.
- The Indus plains provide a sharp contrast in the archaeological setting from that of Baluchistan. The lifeline of the area, the Indus is a highly unstable river, which flows through a wide alluvial flood plain. Neolithic sites start appearing in the North-West Frontier Province – Gumla, Rehman Dheri, Tarakai Qila and Sarai Khola; Jalilpur in Punjab.
- The earliest evidence of agricultural life based on wheat, barley, cattle, sheep and goat in the subcontinent comes from the site of Mehrgarh on the bank of the Bolan river in the Kachhi plain of Baluchistan (Now as per ASI report in 2015, earliest Agricultural site is Bhirana in Haryana).
- Its chronological point is 7000 BC. For the next two to three millennia the evidence of this type of agriculture seems to be limited to Baluchistan, although by the end of this period it is found spread all over its major areas.
- Mehrgarh is essential for any discussion on the neolithic, not only because it has yielded the earliest evidence for this phenomenon but also because the inter-disciplinary and scientific approach to the excavations have provided us with a very clear picture of the neolithic way of life there.
- Excavations have revealed an uninterrupted continuity in the growth and consolidation of village life in the area. Spread over about 200 hectares of land, this imposing site bears evidence of occupation in different periods. In all, there are seven periods of which only the first three, I-III, are regarded as neolithic.
- The time frame for each of these is as follows: Period I from 7000-5500 BC; Period II, from 5500-4500 BC; and Period III, from 4500-3500 BC.
- Period I:
- It marks the transition from nomadic pastoralism to agriculture.
- It was an aceramic level with stone tools consisting of polished axes, chisels, querns and microliths and bone tools comprising awls, needles etc.
- The neolithic character of the site is reflected in bones of cattle, sheep and goat, indicating their domestication as also the bones of water buffalo, which is the earliest instance of the domestication of this animal in the subcontinent.
- Evidence of plant domestication comes from the charred seeds of wheat and barley as also Indian jujube (ber) and dates.
- The beginning of sedentism can be gleaned from foundations of mud-brick houses and small cell-like compartments which might have been used for storage of grains.
- The most surprising piece of information concerns long distance trade and craft production. As part of grave goods were found, turquoise beads, probably from the Nishapur mines of Iran; shell bangles, with the seashell being from the Arabian Sea coast and beads of lapis lazuli, procured from the Badakshan region of Afghanistan. This clearly demonstrates that the neolithic people of Mehrgarh were not an isolated community but engaged in exchange activities with other contemporary cultures.
- Period II:
- It is characterized by an intensification and diversification of the economic base.
- Some coarse handmade pottery is found in the lower levels which becomes plentiful in the later part of the period. Towards the end, wheel made and painted, as well as basket marked sherds are found having parallels with Kili Gul Muhammad I in the Quetta Valley.
- Houses became larger and one structure on the site has been termed a ‘granary’.
- The stone industry continued, with the addition of ‘sickle’ like tools, substantiating the agricultural basis of the economy.
- Charred cottonseeds indicating cotton plantation and perhaps, spinning and weaving; ivory-making, premised from an elephant tusk bearing groove marks; terracotta human figurines; a steatite workshop and beads of lapis lazuli and turquoise, all testify craft production, trade and the co-Neolithic stage of human evolution.
- Period III:
- It represents the final stage of the neolithic phase.
- Surplus production was achieved through a consolidation of agriculture and animal rearing activities.
- Vast quantities of pottery have been found, many of which bear painted motifs, which particularly in the later stages of this period, resemble those of Kili Gul Muhammad II and III.
- A continuity in the long distance trading pattern can be assessed from the beads of lapis lazuli, turquoise and fragments of conch shell.
- Copper objects found on the surface and traces of the metal found in crucibles suggest that the neolithic people of Mehrgarh were familiar with copper smelting.
- A picture of continuous growth of village life also emerges from a number of collective graves that appear in this period and indicate an increase in population.
Kili Gul Muhammad
- The site of Kili Gul Muhammad in the Quetta Valley has first three levels of occupation ascribed to the neolithic period.
- Beginning as an aceramic site around 5500 BC or earlier, its inhabitants lived in wattle-and-daub and/or mud houses. Animal remains of cattle, sheep, goat, and horse/wild ass have been found and the tool kit comprises microliths, a few ground tools, bone points and spatula.
- The transition from Period II to Period III can be discerned from the evolution of a crude, handmade and basket-marked pottery to a fine wheelmade black-on-red ware with simple geometric designs.
- Situated in the Anambar valley, Rana Ghundai lies in the ecological transitional zone between the Baluchi hills and the Indus plains.
- Periods I-III belong to the neolithic phase and lasted from 4500 to 3100 BC. The remains of Period I attest the presence of ‘a semi-nomadic community’ and consist of handmade plain pottery, bones of domesticated animals like ox, sheep, goat and maybe a wild ass. A mixed tool kit, of stone and bone, comprised of microlithic chips and blades and bone points and eyed needles. Developments in pottery fabric, shapes and designs continued as the neolithic became a well-established phenomenon here, a way of life.
- The site of Gumla in the Gomal valley began as a small, one-acre encampment. Period I is aceramic and shows microliths, domesticated cattle bone, and large shallow pits used for cooking/roasting.
- Period II has a wide range of painted wheelmade pottery, microlithic tools, a limited amount of copper and bronze and terracotta bangles, gamesmen, toycarts and cattle and female figurines.
- A large site, spread over more than 20 hectares, Rehman Dheri shows a clear transition from the neolithic to the Kot Dijian and finally the Indus civilization phase.
- The site is fortified right from the beginning, with a 1.2 m wide mud and mud brick wall.
- Remains of wheat, barley, fish and domesticated cattle, sheep and goat give us clues as regards their diet.
- Pottery was used from the very first settlement at the site and most of the pottery specimens are of Kot Dijian forms and designs.
- The calibrated date range of Rehman Dheri is 3400-2100 BC.
- A prominent pre-Harappan site in Sind, Amri is located at the edge of a cultivated alluvial plain, 2 km of the right bank of the Indus.
- Period I begins with a typical handmade red pottery with geometrical designs painted in black and often with red fillings.
- People lived in mud-brick houses and domesticated remains of cattle, sheep, goat and donkey have been found.
- Pieces of copper, shell, terracotta bangles, sling stone and parallel-sided blades are other archaeological remnants collected from the site.
- The neolithic period of occupation , starting in the early to mid fourth millennium BC was followed by an intermediate phase and finally the Indus civilization phase.
- Evidence for the north Indian neolithic cultures comes mainly from the Kashmir Valley and is represented by a large number of sites above the flood plains of River Jhelum. The three principal sites of the area are: Burzahom, northeast of Srinagar; Gufkral, southeast of Srinagar and Kanishkapura or modern Kanispur, in the Baramulla district. All three are multi-cultural sites, where prolific neolithic remains are followed by evidence of megalithic and historical periods.
- An important feature of the northern Neolithic is the absence of a preceding microlithic/mesolithic phase and the development of this phenomenon occurred between 3500-1500 BC.
- Literally meaning, the ‘cave of the potter’, the site of Gufkral, started as an aceramic neolithic site, probably around 3000 BC.
- From Period IA were discovered large dwelling pits surrounded by storage pits and hearths and with post-holes around the mouths of the pits and hearths. Remains of domesticated sheep and goat as well as barley, wheat and lentil along with wild sheep, goat and cattle, deer, ibex, wolf and bear indicate the transition from a hunting to a food producing economy. Polished stone tools, including a large quern, bone/horn tools, steatite beads and a terracotta ball make up the rest of the archaeological repertoire.
- Periods IB and IC witnessed an intensification of the neolithic – handmade crude grey ware followed by wheelmade pottery, abundance of stone querns, pounders, double-holed harvesters etc along with domesticated sheep, goat, cattle, dog and pig.
- The neolithic people of Burzahom, beginning with Period I around 2700 BC, lived in circular or oval-shaped lakeside pit dwellings and subsisted on a hunting and fishing economy, being familiar also with agriculture. The sides of the dwelling pits were plastered with mud and both ladders and steps were used to get inside the large pits.
- Storage pits containing animal bones, stone and bone tools have been found close to the dwelling pits. The site has yielded mostly coarse and handmade grey, buff and red pottery.
- The bone industry at Burzahom is most developed of all the neolithic cultures of India and comprises harpoons, needles, arrowheads, spear-joints, daggers etc.
- Another distinctive feature is the burials – graves, both of humans and animals, especially dogs, have been found. Sketchy evidence for ritual practice can be gathered from stone slabs depicting hunting scenes, or another representation of the sun and a dog.
- Two finds from Period II, dated around second millennium BC show contact with the Indus plains – a pot with carnelian and agate beads and another pot which bears the Kot Dijian ‘horned deity’ motif.
- Kanishkapura or modern Kanispur, a prolific neolithic and historical site in the Baramulla district of Kashmir, was excavated. The neolithic remains were excavated in KNP-1 and KNP-2 areas and begin with an aceramic neolithic layer from which a polished stone celt was found.
- The consolidation of neolithic activities can be inferred from the ceramic neolithic level or Period II.
- Four successive floor levels along with post-holes were excavated at KNP-1 and are part of rectangular houses, which probably had thatched roofs. The tool kit comprises five bone points and six polished stone celts.
- Pottery, both handmade as well as wheel-turned has been found and fine grey ware of medium to thick fabric, coarse grey ware, red ware and plain and burnished black ware are the important types.
- Consumption of emmer wheat mingled with barley has been recorded as also domesticated sheep and goat.
- The new evidence of radiocarbon dates puts Period I around the middle of the fourth millennium BC and Period II to the late fourth millennium BC.
- The focus of the Central Indian neolithic is, broadly speaking, the Vindhyan and Kaimur hill ranges of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh i.e. the area, having as its periphery River Ganges in the north and River Son in the south.
- The important neolithic sites are Koldihawa and Mahagara in Allahabad district, Sinduria in Mirzapur district and Kunjun in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh.
- The dating of the neolithic horizon for this area remains problematic – some suggesting the beginning of the neolithic culture at Koldihawa to 6000 BC, while others assign it to a time range of 4000 –2500 BC or 3500-1250 BC.
- Situated in the Belan valley of Uttar Pradesh, Koldihawa has a rich prehistoric sequence down to the mesolithic phase.
- The site’s claim to fame is the earliest evidence of rice – Domesticated rice comes from the earliest, metal-free level of Koldihawa and occurs in a context of wattle-and-daub houses, polished stone celts, microliths and three types of handmade pottery – cord marked and incised ware, plain red ware with ochre slip on both sides and a crude black-and-red ware. Rice occurs as husks embedded in the clay of the pottery.
- The overlap of the microlithic and the neolithic is testified by the presence of blades, flakes, lunates as well as polished and ground axes, celts, querns and pestles.
- Evidence of animal husbandry comes from the bones of cattle, sheep, goat and deer and fishing can be gleaned from the bones of turtles and fish.
- Rice cultivation was an indigenous, post – “Ice-Age” phenomenon that occurred independently in Central India and in Koldihawa can be dated to the fifth millennium BC.
- Almost contemporaneous with Koldihawa, the site of Mahagara has yielded some bone implements along with a tool kit of mesolithic and neolithic tools made of materials such as chalcedony, agate, quartz and basalt. This site has also reported a cattle pen, which indicates the domestication of cattle. The pottery used by the neolithic folk was handmade and poorly fired; with straw and rice husk being used as tempering agents. The principal pottery type is the corded or cord-impressed ware though sometimes incised designs are also seen.
- Covering the areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the mid-Gangetic basin encapsulates the Ganges in its expansive, midstream flow, carrying along with it, the drainage of its tributaries like the Saryu and the Ghaghra. Predictably then, most of the neolithic sites dotting the area are found on banks of rivers and streams – Narhan, on the banks of River Saryu; Imlidih, on Kuwana stream; Sohagaura, on the banks of River Rapti; Chirand, on the banks of River Ghaghra; besides other sites like Teradih and Senuwar.
- Chirand, considered to be the representative site of the area has revealed a cultural assemblage going back to the neolithic phase, dated from 2100 to 1400 BC.
- The 1 km long mound of Chirand lies at the confluence of the Sarayu and the Ganga and the beginning of occupation at the site may even be earlier than the middle of the third millennium BC.
- From Period I of the neolithic deposit of Chirand have been recovered coarse earthenware, comprising red, grey and black handmade wares, some with post-firing painting and graffiti.
- Terracotta objects including figurines of humped bull, birds, snakes and bangles, beads, sling balls etc. have been found.
- People lived in circular and semi-circular wattle-and-daub huts with post-holes and hearths.
- For subsistence, they relied on plant cultivation and animal domestication. Among the crops are rice, wheat, barley, moong and lentil – which may indicate the raising of two crops a year, winter and autumn. Animal remains include a wide range from domesticated cattle to elephants and rhinoceros.
- Chirand is the only other site in the country, besides Burzahom in Kashmir that has given a substantial range of bone and antler objects such as needles, scrapers, borers and arrowheads. Bone ornaments like pendants, bangles and earrings have also been discovered.
- Stone tools consist of microliths, neolithic axes and other implements, such as stone pestles and querns.
- Evidence of beads made of agate, carnelian, jasper, steatite, faience etc. and also the rich terracotta, bone and antler assemblage mentioned above suggest a movement towards craft production and possibly, exchange of commodities.
- Eastern India comprises the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa and the Neolithic here caps a rich prehistoric past. Important sites include Kuchai and Golbai Sasan in Orissa; Pandu Rajar Dhibi, Bharatpur and Mahisdal in West Bengal; and Barudih in Jharkhand.
- Since no rigorous excavations have been undertaken, only a tentative picture of the Neolithic way of life can be hinted at and dating too remains a problem.
- The existence of a neolithic level at Kuchai near Mayurbhanj in Orissa was established on the basis of polished stone tools like celts and axes.
- The site of Golbai Sasan situated on the left bank of River Mandakini.
- Period I at the site is neolithic and shows a range of dull red and grey handmade pottery with cord or tortoise shell impressions in association with a few worked pieces of bone and traces of floors and post-holes.
Pandu Rajar Dhibi
- Pandu Rajar Dhibi in the Ajay Valley was the first site to clearly demonstrate the Neolithic base of later developments like the chalcolithic.
- Excavations at the site link Period I of occupation to the Neolithic phase. This is characterized by a handmade grey ware with rice husk impressions, painted red pottery, some sherds of black-and-red ware, ground stone tools, microliths and bone tools.
- The coexistence of microliths and ground stone tools and bone tools reveals the emergence of the Neolithic from an underlying Mesolithic matrix.
- The state of Jharkhand basically lies furled in the contours of the Chhotanagpur plateau. The first archaeologically identifiable village level in the plateau is represented at Barudih in Singhbhum district. Archaeologists have obtained from the same level, microliths, neolithic celts, iron slag and implements and a range of wheelmade pottery among which black-and-red ware seems to be prominent.
- The earliest calibrated time range for the site is 1401-837 BC.
North Eastern India
- The entire northeastern region has yielded a rich haul of polished neolithic tools but no consolidated picture of a neolithic level has yet emerged.
- The spread of the neolithic is considered by some to be an import from South East Asia on account of the use of shouldered axes and also cord-impressed pottery, which has close affinity with the pottery from China and South East Asia. On the basis of this link, the neolithic cultures of northeastern India is dated between 2500-1500 BC.
- The important sites of the region are Daojali Hading and Sarutaru in Assam, Napchik in Manipur and Pynthorlangtein in Meghalaya.
- Situated in the North Kachhar hills of Assam, Daojali Hading revealed a 45 cm thick occupation deposit.
- The site has yielded neolithic stone and fossil wood axes, adzes, hoes, chisels, grinding slabs, querns, mullers, hand made grey to dull red cord marked pottery as well as dull red stamped pottery and plain red pottery.
- No domesticated cereals have been recovered but the presence of mullers and querns in the artifactual repertoire establishes the practice of agricultural activity.
- The South Indian neolithic culture, spread over the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, has given us the largest number of neolithic settlements, because of the easy availability of stone.
- The geographical terrain of this culture is that part of the Deccan plateau bound by River Bhima in the north and River Kavery in the south, with a major concentration of sites being in the Raichur and Shorapur Doabs.
- Besides the profusion of sites, what makes the South Indian neolithic remarkable is the issue of ashmounds and the location of settlements on the flat-topped or castellated granite hills or plateaux of the region.
- Ash mounds are vast mounds of burnt cattle dung ash accumulated as a result of periodical burnings and some researcher suggested a West Asian origin for these. However today, their growth and development is viewed in the context of earlier indigenous stone age traditions.
- Some of the important neolithic sites of the region are: Sangankallu, Hallur, Tekkalakota, Brahmagiri, Maski, T.Narsipur, Piklihal, Kodekal and Budihal in Karnataka; Utnur, Palavoy, Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh; and Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu. The chronological bracket for these sites ranges from about 2400 to 1000 BC.
- The location of neolithic settlements near hills or plateaux seems to have been motivated by access to perennial water in the form of streams or rivers, plentiful game, pasture for grazing animals and raw materials like stone and wood.
- Both campsites and habitation sites have been discovered where people lived in circular wattle-and-daub huts. Hearths and storage areas have been found in practically all the huts.
- Subsistence was primarily on a mixed economy – rudimentary farming and animal husbandry. Charred grains of millet, barley, horse gram, black gram and green gram have been found and scholars were earlier of the opinion that millet might have been introduced in south India from South Africa. But recent research negates this hypothesis and favours an indigenous growth of these crops.
- Fish bones and charred and split animal bones show that fishing and hunting contributed substantially to dietary requirements.
- Sangankallu presents a picture of a long occupation, beginning with the palaeolithic phase. Palaeoliths are followed by a microlithic industry of quartz flakes, cores and lunates. The classic neolithic industry of polished stone tools features next in the sequence but not before a sterile dark brown soil was formed at the site suggesting a time-gap between the neolithic and the earlier microlithic levels.
- Coarse grey, red pottery was discovered which was either handmade or produced on a slow wheel.
- Storage pits have given remains of charred grains and bones of domesticated animals like cattle, sheep and goat.
- The site of Piklihal is essentially an ashmound situated in District Raichur in Karnataka.
- The neolithic people who occupied the site were cattle herders who had domesticated animals like cattle, sheep, goat etc. A mobile group, they set up seasonal camps surrounded by cowpens made with wooden posts and stakes in which they gathered dung. When it was time to move, the entire camping ground was set afire and cleared for the next session of camping.
- An overview of the expanse and variety of neolithic cultures in the subcontinent helps us to understand the larger and local dynamics, which shaped this phenomenon.
- While profuse microlithic remains precede the neolithic at some sites, others give a silent testimony and reveal only a full-blown neolithic phase. Yet, all across the country between the fifth and first millennium BC, people were moving towards a ‘neolithic’ way of life – settled hutments, practice of agriculture and animal husbandry, pottery and beginning of craft production. But the story of human cultural evolution didn’t stop here, for this was just the base on which, the next chapter i.e. of large-scale civilizations was to arise.
Q. To what extent archaeological materials are useful in understanding the progress of neolithic man in India?
- The Neolithic Age is mainly characterized by shifting cultivation, animal husbandry and settled life. The archaeological evidence is of utmost importance to us as Neolithic age is pre-historic in nature. Such findings prove to be helpful in understanding the social and cultural patterns of the Neolithic culture.
- Existence of mud-brick huts and stone pit-dwellings at various sites indicate the emergence of villages.
- Highly sophisticated microliths, grinding stones, blades etc., highlight the advancement in tool-making and food processing technology.
- The remains of food grains and animal bone certify the cultivation of rice, wheat, barley, cotton etc., and domestication of cattle, sheep, goat, and ass.
- However the discovery of huge ash mounds in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh indicated that animal husbandry was primary occupation instead of plant agriculture.
- The prevalence of slash and burn type of cultivation practiced by the Neolithic man is further substantiated by the discovery of charcoal in most of the neolithic sites.
- Emergence of religion and growth of beliefs can be visualized by the finding of terracotta figurines of Mother Goddess, serpent etc., and the grave goods found along with the dead indicate their belief in the ‘life after death’.
- Barter system was supposedly in existence and the external contacts of the neolithic man with chalcolithic culture and possibly Harappan civilization also is evident from the discovery of turquoise, lapis lazuli, conch shells etc., in Kashmir valley and the bronze and copper implements in Karnataka.
- Different varieties of pottery found at various sites indicate the artistic taste of the neolithic man. A series of rock brushings and rock paintings in Karnataka are also found.
- (Include more points with examples from the chapter)
Q. Discuss the archaeological evidence of early agricultural communities of Gangetic plain.
- (Hint: neolithic sites and archaeological evidence found there as discussed in the above chapter)
Q. Discuss the concept of geographical determinism. How did the geographical factors influence the human settlement and subsistence pattern in the pre-historic times?
- Geographical determinism is the theory that human habitats and characteristics of a particular culture are shaped by the geographical conditions. The theory encompasses all environmental and geographical conditions and their impact on the socio-economic and political forces of a society. Physical features and the environmental conditions that may appear unfavorable at one time may prove to be potentially useful later.
- Paleolithic age at the final state saw the evolution of Homo-sapien. Most of the Paleolithic sites are located throughout India, except for Gangetic basin and Kerala coast, due to presence of rocky hills and caves. Ex: Belan valley (UP). This age man was food hunter and food gatherer because of Pleistocene age that did not facilitate abundant growth of fauna and flora. He lived in small bands consisting close-knit family and led a nomadic life.
- With the onset of Holocene Age, Mesolithic culture began and icecaps melted forming Rivers as an effect of global warming. As the climate became favorable, Mesolithic man started domestication of animals and a partially settled life enabled by superior technology microliths tools.
- Subsequently, in neolithic age man practiced mixed economy, however by shifting cultivation mainly. Village settlements emerged as the neolithic man led a settle life. The pit dwellings found at Burzahom, Kashmir indicate that extreme cold conditions prevailed in Kashmir valley. Cultivation of rice, wheat and barley by slash and burn methods is observed in Neolithic sites generally.
- The chalcolithic culture is characterized by the copper-stone tools and existence of large village settlements. A variety of food crops were grown and along with domestication of more animals. The pastoral farming even gained more importance. Potteries of delicate artistic versions were manufactured.
- The rise and decline of human habitats since ages has been predominantly influenced by the geographical factors. The limits set by the nature may be conquered by the human experience and technology.