IAS Prelims: General Studies (Ancient Indian History) - THE STONE AGE

Ancient Indian History

http://www.iasplanner.com/civilservices/images/ancient-history.pngTHE STONE AGE

The earth is over 4000 million years old. The evolution of its crust shows four stages. The fourth stage is called the Quaternary, which is divided into Pleistocene (most recent) and Holocene (present); the former lasted between 2,000,000 and 10,000 years before the present and the latter began about 10,000 years ago.

Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age): Man in the Palaeolithic age in India used tools of stone roughly dressed by crude shipping, which have been discovered throughout the country except the alluvial plains of Indus, Ganga and Yamuna rivers. These tools were used for hunting, gathering as man had no knowledge of cultivation. The Paleolithic age continued till 9,000 BC and is divided into three phases according to the nature of the stone tools used by the people.

  • First phases is called the early or lower Palaeolithic between 5,00,000 BC and 50,000 BC
  • Second phase is called the middle Palaeolithic between 50,000 BC and 40,000 BC; and
  • Third phase is called the upper Palaeolithic age between 40,000 BC and 10,000 BC.

Early or Lower Palaeolithic Phase
(I) This phase was between 5,000,000 BC to 50,000 BC.
(II) It’s characteristic Feature is the use of hand-axes, cleavers and choppers.
(III) Stone tools were used mainly for chopping, digging and skinning.

Middle Palaeolithic Phase
(i) This phase was between 50,000 BC to 40,000 BC.
(ii) The Middle Palaeolithic industries are mainly based upon flakes. These flakes show many regional variations in different parts of India.
(iii) The principal tools are varieties of blades, paints, borers and scrapers made of flakes.

Upper Palaeolithic Phase
(i) This phase was between 40,000 BC to 10,000 BC
(ii) In this age the climate became comparatively warm

Mesolithic Age
(i) In 9000 BC begin an intermediate stage in stone age culture, which is called the Mesolithic age which lasted till 4000 BC. This phase intervened as a transitional phase between the Palaeolithic  age and the Neolithic or New Stone Age.
(ii) Climate change around 9000 BC brought about changes in fauna and flora and made it possible for human beings to move to new areas. Since then there have not been any major changes in climatic conditions.
(iii) The characteristic tools of the Mesolithic age are Microliths
(iv) The Mesolithic people lived on hunting, fishing and food gathering; at a later stage they also domesticated animals.

Neolithic Age
(i) The Neolithic age dating between 5000 BC to 1800 BC is characterized by the cultivation of plants and domestication of animals.
(ii) The development of agriculture and cultivation of cereals transformed the nomadic hunters into sedentary farmers. This led to the beginning of village settlements, manufacture of new types of tools and greater control over nature for exploitation of natural resources.
(iii) Neolithic tools such as ground stone tools, celts, adzes, chisels, axes, saws and burins have been found across India.

Chalcolithic Cultures: The Neolithic age is followed by the Chalcolithic or stone – copper age, which generally occurred from 1800 – 1000 BC. (The first metal used in India)


(i) Economic base of these cultures was associated with agriculture and cattle rearing. This was supplemented by wild game and fishery as well as attested by archaeological evidences.
(ii) Excavations at various sites reveal cultivation of a variety of crops. Barely was the main crop besides wheat, rice, gram, pea, bajra, jowar etc
(iii) Archaeological evidence form Inamgaon establish the knowledge if the inhabitants about crop  rotation, harvesting and irrigation.
(iv) Certain references of use of ploughshare are also present.
(v) Excavations have shown that the people domesticated animals like goat, sheep, dog, horse  etc. Besides certain references are there about wild animals like various types of dear, buffalo,  rhino.
(vi) Excavations of certain sites have also yielded bones of fish, turtle etc. This shows that people  consumed all these.

Pattern of Settlement

(i) Excavations also reveal various structures like fortification, granaries, embankments as are seen at  Eran of Malwa Culture and at Inamgaon of Jorwe culture.
(ii) The distinctive house pattern in various sites is rectangular and circular.
(iii) The Malwa houses at Daimabad, Inamgaon, Navdatoli are large in size having partition wall made  up of mud chullahas are common.

Social Structure

(i) The regional Chalcolithic cultures are characterised by regional and village settlements as attested  by excavations.
(ii) There was hierarchical pattern in social organization with prevalence of the concept of social  ranking.
(iii) There was some kind of administrative authority as a suggested by the distribution pattern of  various sites.
(iv) Existence of structures such as rampart, granaries, embankment too suggest some kind of  administrative authority.

Various Objects

(i) Copper objects comprise arrowheads, bangles, rings, beads and flat axes.
(ii) Daimabad yielded a large copper hoard comprising copper rhinoceros, elephant, two wheeled chariots, buffalo etc.

Pottery tradition

(i) Pottery was Painted and was mostly black on red.
(ii) The Jorwe pottery is painted black-on-red and special forms, are bowls, jars and globular vases.
(iii) Ahar pottery shows seven varieties but the most important type being black and red ware painted in white.
(iv) Malwa pottery possesses buff slip and various pattern are displayed in black or dark brown colour. Small goblets are an important feature of Malwa pottery.
(v) Kayatha pottery is marked by three types- Red slipped ware painted in dark brown; red painted buff ware and a combed ware.
(iv) Rangpur pottery is known as lustrous red ware. It is derived from harappan red and black ware, black used for painting.

Religious Beliefs

(i) Female figures of clay both baked and unbaked have been discovered. A headless female figure from Nevasa and terracotta female figurines from Inamgaon too have been discovered. This suggests that people worshipped mother goddesses.
(ii) Excavations throw light on various practices of disposal of dead. Burial was a common custom. Burying of dead in north- south orientation has been revealed by excavations. There are evidence of pit-burial also. A typical custom shown by excavations was burying the dead in the precincts of the house besides cutting off the feet before the burial too a peculiar autlook of people in Jorwe culture.

Megalith Cultures

(i) Megaliths usually refer to amidst stones in graveyards away from the habitation area. In South India this kind of elaborate burial came with Iron age starting around 1000 BC and continuing for many centuries subsequently.

(ii) The pottery that we discover from the excavated graves is black and red ware.

(iii) The settlement found near the Megalithic complexes have very thin debris of occupation. This would indicate that these people were living in one area for a very short time. May be with the knowledge of Iron they could colonize new areas. Thus, some of the population was nomadic and some settlements might indicate colonization of new areas. Where the settlements continue from the preceding period, people continued to live in their old ways. Use of Iron tools enabled them to use granite stones for their graves. It is these agro- pastoral groups that enter the historical phase in the early centuries of the Christian era. They have been mentioned in the Sangam literature. Some of the graves have yielded Roamn coins which suggest their entry into history and their
participation in trade network spread over a large area.

Important Practice Questions from Exam Point of View

1. Which Neolithic sites among the following show evidence of pit- dwellings and bone tools?
(1) Burzahom (3) Senwar
(2) Gutkral (4) Chirand
Choose the answer from the following codes:
(a) 1, 2 (c) 1, 4
(b) 2, 3 (d) 1, 3

2. The middle Palaeolithic industries are mainly based upon which tools?
(a) Handaxes (c) Choppers
(b) Cleavers (d) Flakes

3. Which of the following is not a feature of Neolithic cultures?
(a) Cultivation of plants (c) Use of Iron for agriculture
(b) Domestication of animals (d) Sedentary Farming

4. Archaeological evidence from which Chalcolithic site shows evidence of corporation, harvesting and irrigation?
(a) Daimabad (c) Navdatoli
(b) Inamgaon (d) Rangpur

5. Jorwe pottery type seen in the Chalcolithic period is predominantly of?
(a) Black on Red (c) Red ware
(c) Black and Red (d) Ochre coloured ware

6. The pottery that is discovered from the Megalith burials is?
(a) Black on Red ware (c) Red ware
(b) Black and Red Ware (d) Ochre coloured ware