Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Pre-History of India

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Pre-History Concept, Sources, PreHistoric India, Stone Age, Paleolithic Era, Mesolithic Era and Neolithic Era, Metal Age

Literally the word 'Pre-History' means 'before history'. This is the period of history before the emergence of writing. The Humans are inhabiting the earth since 4.2 million years as human fossils have been found in Africa dating about 4.2 million years. Modern Humans (Homo Sapiens) evolved about 50,000 years ago. The primitive man was shorter in height and had a smaller brain. Homo sapiens evolved over a period of these years about 50,000 years ago.

Sources of Pre History

The study of the initial stages of human history is based entirely on the material remains left by early man. There are many source through you can study pre-history:
→ Reading manuscripts(comes from the Latin word ‘manu’, meaning hand). These were usually written on palm leaf, or on the specially prepared bark of a tree known as the birch, which grows in the Himalayas.
→ Study Inscriptions (writings on relatively hard surfaces such as stone or metal).
→ Archaeology: studying old objects such as tools, weapons, pots, pans, ornaments and coins.

Indian Pre History

The earliest traces of human existence in Indian sub continent go back to the period between 200000 B.C and 40000 B.C. This can be found by large number of primitive stone tools found in the Soan valley and south India. The modern human being first appeared around 36000 BC. In this era, Humans were basically a food gatherer and also made great discoveries such as fire and wheel. Pre historic India has been divided into four major eras: Paleolithic (Old Stone Age),Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), Neolithic (New Stone Age) and the Metal Age.

Paleolithic (Old Stone Age)

The period before 10000 B.C. is known as Old Stone Age.

Sites: Paleolithic sites flourish in Peninsular India, and are found more prominently at Pallavaram in Tamil Nadu, Hunsgi in Karnataka, Kuliana in Orissa, Didwana in Rajasthan, and Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh.

Old Stone Age Tools
Old Stone Age Tools
Weapons: In this age, man was essentially a food gatherer. He learnt to make weapons out of stones and also mastered the skill of hunting animals. They used stone tools, hand-sized and flaked-off large pebbles for hunting animals. The crude weapons were slowly carved properly and were made sharp and pointed. These special weapons were made by shredding the sides of a stone with a heavier stone. Man also learnt how to create fire and make use of it.

Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age)

The period roughly from 10000 B.C. to 6000 B.C. It was the transitional phase between the Paleolithic Age and Neolithic Age.

Sites: Mesolithic remains are found in Langhanj in Gujarat, Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and also in some places of Rajasthan, Utter Pradesh and Bihar.

Weapons: The tools improved and became more refined and sharp. There was a drastic change in the food and clothing of man. The tools were modified and now the sharp stones were attached to strong tree branches using ropes and vines. These new weapons or hand axes could be flung on animals from a safe distance.

Neolithic (New Stone Age)

The Period is from 6000 B.C to 4000 B.C. This was the food producing age when man completely changed his way of life.

Sites: This include the Kashmir valley, Chirand in Bihar, Belan valley in Uttar Pradesh and in several places of the Deccan. The important Neolithic sites excavated in south India are Maski, Brahmagiri, Hallur and Kodekal in Karnataka, Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu and Utnur in Andhra Pradesh.

Weapons: In this age Stone tools were now polished. They were of different shapes and sizes and they preferred to add handle to their stone axe. The polished axes were found to be more effective tools for hunting and cutting trees.

Mud brick houses were built instead of grass huts. Wheels were used to make pottery. Pottery was used for cooking as well as storage of food grains. Large urns were used as coffins for the burial of the dead. The dog, sheep and goat were domesticated. Wheat, barely, rice, millet were cultivated in different areas at different points of time.

Metal Age

Chalcolithic age (Copper-Stone Age)

During this period, copper and bronze came to be used. It is also known as Eneolithic period. This age came immediately after the Neolithic Age and aided in the development of the metallurgy industry. The Bronze Age in India is roughly estimated to have begun around 3300 B.C. This period almost coincided with the beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization. In South India the river valleys of the Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra, Pennar and Kaveri were settled by farming communities during this period.
People of Chalcolithic age subsisted on farming and hunting-fishing. Cattle, sheep, goat buffalo and pig were reared. Thereafter they were killed for food. Crops like barley and wheat were cultivated. Other crops that were cultivated are Bajra, Jowar, Millets, Ragi, Green pea, lentil, green gram, black gram. Fish and animal flesh also formed an important part of the diet of the Chalcolithic people. During this period, the discovery of wheel revolutionised the whole system. The transportation was improved which eventually brought about the complexities in life of the man and commerce was developed.

The tools available suggest that there was over-lapping in use of stone and the metal, the similarity in the shape and types of stone and bronze tools shows simultaneous use of the bronze and stone. Tin mixed with the copper was the major material used. That is why, the period is called Bronze age.

Iron Age

In India the Iron Age commenced around 1000 B.C. It immediately follows the Bronze Age. Some of the important megalithic sites are Hallur and Maski in Karnataka, Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh and Adichchanallur in Tamil Nadu. Black and red pottery, iron artifacts such as hoes and sickles and small weapons were found in the burial pits. The Harappan Civilization succeeded the Prehistoric India.

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