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Ancient History / Pre-History

Prehistoric Cultures in India

The names of the cultures are named after the materials that are being used in those cultural days. The prehistoric cultures in India can be divided into the Ages or Periods in which those cultures were existing. Theses cultural Ages are Old Stone (Paleolithic) Age, Middle Stone (Mesolithic) Age, New Stone (Neolithic) Age and Copper (Chalcolithic) Age.

Introduction to Prehistoric Period in India

Archaeology and History always go together. Both the branches study about the past but the method of study is different. History is generally studied through literature and archaeology is studied through material remains. So, prehistoric cultures can be studied through archaeological evidences only.

Upto 2500 BC, India had only culture and not civilization. Indus Valley Civilization, which started from 2500 BC, used a script for the first time in India.

Culture is nothing but the living pattern, way of life, non-materialistic lifestyles of people like beliefs, traditions, customs, morals, etc. whereas Civilization is a highly developed culture.

When there is highly developed material culture, we call it a civilization. That is when there is urban life, existence of script, use of technology, high level materialistic development like trade and commerce and increased use of metals.

Paleolithic Culture in India

  • Paleolithic cultural Age can be termed as the Age from the Earliest Age to 10,000 BC. Almost every part of India had this culture except some parts of Kerala.

  • The first site of this culture that was discovered in 1863 by Robert Bruce Foote was at Pallavaram near Chennai. Other sites that were discovered are Soan valley (Pakistan), Narmada valley, Belan valley (UP), Attirampakkam (TN), etc.

  • Tools that were discovered from these sites are hand axes, stone blades, flakes, scrapers, chopping tools. In most of the tools, Quartzite stone was used.

  • Hunting and food gathering was the only activity in this Culture. Hunting was done by the male and food gathering was done by the female. People were nomads in this Culture and settled life was absent. They lived in Bands, which are nothing but a group of people.

Mesolithic Culture in India

  • Mesolithic cultural Age can be termed as the Age from 10000 BC to 5000 BC. It is the beginning of Holocene period. In this period, Homo sapiens that is the current day man has completely emerged.

  • It is during this period, domestication of animals started and the economy became a pastoral economy. The Indian sites in which domestication of animals started are Bagor (Rajasthan) and Adamgarh (MP).

  • During this period, people of Chopani Mando (UP) were the first people to make the handmade pottery in the world. Artificial houses were built in this period. In India, the first houses were built at Sarai Nahar Rai (UP).

  • The tools that were used during this period are named as Microliths. These Microliths were inserted into Bamboos and were used as spears.

Neolithic Culture in India

  • Neolithic Age started from 5000 BC and continued till 3000 BC. In this period, both stone as well as bone tools were used.

    Agriculture was learned by Neolithic people. That is during this Age, people were transformed from food hunting to food producing.

  • Important Sites of Neolithic Culture -

    • Lot of sites of Neolithic Age were found in India. Mehrgarh (Balochistan) is the first site where cultivation started in Indian subcontinent. It is the first site in the world to cultivate cotton.

      People of this site also cultivated barley and wheat. Potter's wheel was utilized for the first time by the people Mehrgarh.

    • Koldihwa (UP) is first site in the world to cultivate rice around 5000 BC.

    • People in Burzahom (Kashmir) were living under the earth by digging pit dwellings.

    • Other sites of Neolithic culture are Chirand (Bihar), Maski and Piklihal (Karnataka), Paiyampalli (TN), Garo Hills in North East, etc.

Chalcolithic Culture in India

  • Chalcolithic cultural Age started from 3000 BC onwards. In this culture, both copper and stone tools were used.

  • Chalcolithic people used painted pottery for the first time in India. They used different kind of pottery called Ochre Coloured Pottery.

  • Important sites of this Culture are Ahar, Gilund and Balathal all in Rajasthan, Navdatoli and Kayatha in Madhya Pradesh, Jorwe, Nevasa and Inamgaon all in Maharashtra, Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh, etc.