Mesolithic Age (Middle Stone Age) Culture in India
The Mesolithic culture in India corresponds to the second cultural phase of Pleistocene. Indian microlithism was first marked by Carllayle as early as 1867 from Vindhyan rock-shelter. Later on, Cockburn and Rivett Carnac discovered more microlithic sites. These earlier scholars considered these industries as ‘Proto-Neolithic’. More systematic studies were initiated by the prehistoric Archaeologists like, Sankalia, Zeuner, Krishnaswami, Lal, Subbarao, Allchin, Malik and others.
Most of deposits have been discovered from stratified sites formed by the second phase of aggradation as found in Maharashtra, specially on Godavari river valley and its tributaries.
The middle Stone Age in India bears the following characteristics;
- The first striking feature is that microlithism is totally absent in north India. Bridget Allchin made a futile attempt to co-relate the late Sohan industry of the north with the microlithic studded Nevasian culture of central India. Typological dissimilarities in both the cultures made it an idea of ‘academic significance;
- The second characteristic feature is that the sudden disappearance pebble tools which were conspicuous in the preceding cultures;
- The third feature is that the heavier tools could not be discovered in the microlithic assemblages, excepting a few sites in Western and Central India.
The makers of microliths adopted the Levalloisian technique in the production of flake-tools while Late Acheulean technique was followed in the manufacture of core tools, though rare in occurrence. Microliths contain scrapers, points, scraper-cum-borers, and scraper-cum-points in common. Hand-axes, choppers, discoid have also been discovered in some parts of India. A type of hand axes on chart is reportedly found in the sites of Kurnool and Maharashtra.
It is now conceived that an early variety of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis migrated from the Middle-east to India with a ‘degenerated’ Mousterian culture and they were held responsible for the Mesolithic culture in India.
On the eastern bank of Sabarmati River, this important microlithic site is situated. Three other important sites in the neighborhood were also discovered.
Prof. Sankalia traced their microlithic importance at first in 1941.
Three distinct phases could be recognized:
- The first phase contains microliths, pot-sherds, graves and fossilized bones of animals;
- In the second phase, larger number of such findings could be discovered along with some polished Celts and ring-stones and fragments of pot-sherds (not properly baked);
- The third phase is composed of numerous pot-sherds, stone arrow heads, and fragments of corn-grinder. The makers of this industry probably knew the art of fire-making. These sites might be considered to be of ‘Prow-Neolithic’ stage.
Tinnevalley site of Madras was first discovered and studied by Zeuner and Allchin in the year 1956 by the side of Tambrapani River on sandy Tens. Different types of arrow heads, scrapers, curved arrow heads and borers, are common in occurrence. Zeuner tries to link this industry with the Middle Stone Age tools of central Sri Lanka where same type of Tens stratum has been found, which dates approximately 4000 B.C.
Birbhanpur site in the district of Burdwan in West Bengal is located on Damodar river valley. B.B. Lal got himself involved with this significant microlithic site as early as 1957. Microliths of different geometric designs, points, scrapers, borers of very small size are common in this site.
This ‘Proto-Neolithic’ type of Mesolithic culture in India has striking resemblances with the typology of European Kitchen-Midden tradition, at least in the manufacturing of microliths, on one hand and Toalean stage of Indonesian stone age, on the other.