The period which does not have any written evidence is called the Prehistoric period. The proto-historic period has evidence of script but it is still not deciphered. “Proto-historic” refers to the period between the prehistoric and historic periods. The time after which we get a written description is called the historic period.
About Stone Age
Stone Age comes under the Prehistoric period. Indus valley civilization and Vedic culture come under the protohistoric period. The historic period starts from the 6th century BC onwards. In India, the research on Stone Age civilization started at first in 1863.
Categorization of Stone Age
The whole Stone Age has been categorized into three parts on the basis of the difference in tools used. These are:
- Paleolithic period,
- Mesolithic period,
- Neolithic period.
Paleolithic Period is further categorized into three periods
- The Lower Paleolithic period -Handaxe, Cleaver, Chopper
- The Middle Paleolithic period-Points, Borer, Scrapper
- The Upper Paleolithic period – Burins
Tools of Paleolithic Period
- Chopper-chopping pebble equipment was first obtained from the Sohan river valley of Punjab (Pakistan). Firstly Handaxe equipment was found in Vadamadurai and Attirapakkam near Madras. Other tools of this culture are cleaver, scraper, etc.
- Robert Bruce Foote, a British geologist, was the first to discover the Paleolithic tools in India. The expedition of the L. Cambridge team under the leadership of D. Tera did the most important research in Sohan valley in 1935.
- In Belan valley, the research was carried under the direction of G.R. Sharma of Allahabad University. Nearly 44 archeological sites were found in this valley which is related to the lower Paleolithic period.
- Apart from tools, a statue of the Bone-made Mother Goddess of this age has been obtained from the Lohanda Nala region of Belan Valley which is currently safe in the Kaushambi museum.
Life of Paleolithic people
- The life of Paleolithic people was completely natural.
- They were primarily dependent on hunting.
- They were unknown of fire so they ate raw meat.
- Paleolithic people were unknown of farming and animal husbandry.
The megaliths usually refer to the burials made up of large stones in graveyards away from the habitation area. A large fraction of these are assumed to be associated with burial or post-burial rituals including memorials for those whose remains may or may not be available. Some of these are; Chamber tomb, Dolmens, Stone alignment, Stone circle (cromlech), Pitcircles, etc.
The Mesolithic Period is an archaeological term that describes specific cultures between the Paleolithic and Neolithic Period. The Mesolithic period came to light only after C.L. Carlyle discovered microliths in the Vindhya region.
- Domestication of animals began during the Mesolithic period, according to the excavated evidence.
- The earliest evidence of domestication of animals in India has been found at Adamgarh (Hoshangabad, M.P.) and Bagor (Bhilwara, Rajasthan).
- Numerous implements made of bones and horns have been uncovered from the Mesolithic site, Mahadaha (located in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh).
- The book entitled ‘Puratattva Vimarsh’ written by Dr. Jai Narayan Pandey describes several pointed objects and ornaments made of bones which have been reported from Sarai Nahar Rai, Damdama and Mahadaha.
- Damdama is a Mesolithic site located in the Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh.
- 41 human graves were found in Damdama. Out of these graves, 4 are a double burial. In these double burials, 2 burials had male-female, 1 burial had 2 female bodies and 4th burial had 2 male and 1 female body.
- Three human skeletons in a single grave were recovered from Damdama.
- A grave with four human skeletons has been found at Sarai Nahar Rai.
- According to ‘Puratatva Vimarsh’ by J.N. Pandey, 17 human skeletons were obtained from rock shelter 1 of Lekhahiya in the Vindhya region. Some of these were in relatively pristine condition while most others were warped.
- According to John R. Lucas of Oregon Uñiversity, USA, remnants of 27 human skeletons were found in Lekhahiya.
- The rock shelters of Bhimbetka are located 45 km west of Bhopal. It is famous for Rock painting. Nearly 500 pictures are found from here. UNESCO has included shell pictures of Bhimbetka in the list of its world heritage. These caves exhibit the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent and include the picture of elephants, sambhar, deer, etc.
- The cultivation of cereals first started in Neolithic Age.
- It was the time when people were introduced to agriculture.
- Koldihwa and Mehrgarh were the two Neolithic villages from where clear evidence of rice and wheat have been found.
- There are mainly eight types of food grains consumed by modern human society namely barley, wheat, maize, millet, sorghum, mustard, oat, and rice. These plants were present in the form of weed in different areas, which were later grown as seeds by human beings at different places, at different times.
- Barley was the first grain to be cultivated by human beings during 8000 BC in western Asian countries located between the northeast Mediterranean Sea and Iran. Later, in the same area, wheat was also cultivated around 8000 BC.
- Rice was the third grain to be cultivated by human beings in approx 7000 BC at the Yangtze River of China.
- Maize was cultivated in Central and South America during 6000 BC. The first evidence of maize was found in Mexico, Millet in 5500 BC in China, Sorghum in 5000 BC in East Africa, Mustard in 5000 BC in South-East Asia, and Oat in 2300 BC in Europe.
- According to the latest research, the earliest evidence of agriculture in the Indian sub-continent has been reported from the Lahuradewa site in Sant Kabir Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh. The evidence of human activity and the beginning of rice cultivation at this site dated back to around 8000-9000 BC. Significantly before this research, the earlier evidence of wheat was found at Mehrgarh (located in Balochistan, Pakistan) belonging to around 7000 BC and the earliest evidence of rice is known to be near the bank of the river Belan, district Allahabad, from where rice bran was found dating back to 6500 BC.
- The cultural remains from Stone Age to Harappan Civilization have been obtained from Mehrgarh located in Balochistan (Pakistan).
- The Burzahom site is a prehistoric settlement in the village of the same name in Kashmir valley. Both human and animal skeletons were found here with trepanning (boring holes) marks. In many pits, bones of dogs and antlered deer were found along with human skeletons. The skeletons of humans were found in the burial pits in a sitting position along with the bones of animals.
- The first excavation at the Burzahom site was carried out by Helmut de Terra and Dr. Thomas Paterson in the year 1935.
- The people of Jorwe culture lived in large rectangular houses with wattle and daub walls and thatched roof.
- They believed in life after death and therefore buried the dead inside the houses under the floor.
- Children were buried in two urns that were joined mouth-to-mouth and set horizontally in the pit, while adults were placed in a supine position with the head towards the north (north to south).
- These sites were found in Daimabad, Inamgaon, Chandauli, Nevasa etc.
- The Ash mounds have been found from a Neolithic site Sangana Kallu located in Vellari district near Mysore in Karnataka. They have also been found in Piklihal. These ash mounds are the burnt relics of seasonal camps of the Neolithic herdsmen community.
- Fire was used at first in the Neolithic period.
- Copper was the first metal used.
Copper Age / Chalcolithic age
- Copper Age is also known as the Chalcolithic age.
- The age in which instruments of copper were used in addition to stone, is called as Copper Age.
- Settlements of the Chalcolithic period in India were found in South-East Rajasthan, Western Madhya Pradesh, western Maharastra, and South-East India.
- Navdatoli, located in Madhya Pradesh, was excavated by H.D. Sankalia. It has revealed excellent evidence of both round and rectangular residential structures which are located near Indore. The former measure about 3m in diameter and the latter is 2m x 2.2m. The roofs were probably made of hay, branches, and leaves and were supported on massive wooden posts, 22cm in diameter, raised at regular intervals around the huts. The open spaces between the posts were provided with mud-plastered bamboo screens. The house floors were made up of silt clay and river gravel, with the surface coated with lime. The huts were provided with one or two-mouthed ‘chulhas’ as well as storage jars and other earthen vessels.
Other important facts:
- The three-age system, divided into stone, bronze, and iron from the collection of Copenhagen museum was coined by C. J. Thomson in 1820.
- In India, the earliest evidence of man in India was found in Narmada Valley.
- Ochre-colored Pottery (known to archaeologists as OCP) as the name implies, its main distinguishing feature was its ochre color.
- Other characteristics are its porous character and the fact that it is invariably worn out at the edges.
- Most of its evidence is mainly found from Atranjikhera and Hastinapur.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, is a premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.
- In 1871, the Archaeological Survey was established as a separate department, and Alexander Cunningham was appointed as its first Director-General.
- In 1902, during the tenure of Lord Curzon, it was centralized as Archaeological Survey of India and John Marshall was appointed as its first Director-General.
National Human Museum (NHM)
- National Human Museum, which was renamed as Indira Gandhi National Human Museum is located in Bhopal (M.P.).
- It is an autonomous organization under the Department of Culture.