Neolithic Stone Age Civilization in India

Era or Period of Neolithic Age is also known as New Stone Age.

Numerous polished celts (ordinary & shouldered), pot-sherds of kiln-baked painted pottery have been discovered from the different

In India, Neolithic sites of Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Chotonagpur, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Mysore, Gujarat, Madras, and West Bengal.

Save and except these lithic finds, the Indian Neolithic sites do not bear any other characteristics of true Neolithic way of life. The evidences of domestication of plants and animals are altogether lacking in India. The useful Neolithic art of spinning and weaving could not be traced in the Indian Neolithic site. Thus, in India, our sole concentration will be upon the lithic finds and pot-sherds.

Burzahom site in Kashmir is located in a cave inside Mahadeva hills on famous Kashmir Valley. The other twin sites, Gurfkral & Martand, are close to it. De Terra and Paterson were among the earliest scholars to carry on their search on these sites. Situated 6 miles north-east of Srinagar on the flood-plain of Jhelum, locally known as Karewa, Burzahom affords many significant Neolithic traits. In 1959, the Archaeological Survey of India took up further excavation works and initiated systematic studies. Radio-Carbon dating reveals that this industry flourished between 2375 B.O and 500 B.C.

The unique evidence of pit-dwellings with wooden super-structures, coarse grey or black polished pottery frequently with ‘mat-bases’, large number of bone tools in the shape of points, awls, needles, harpoon heads, stone-axes, ring-stones, a type of specialized choppers (pierced, rectangular), knife with razor-like blade, are the characteristics of the Burzahom Period I.

In periods II and III, we find the continuity of bone and stone tools of the previous period. In period II, the evidences of ‘purposeful’ burials of animals (of course domesticated variety, like the dog) along with their masters could be marked. These skeletons were coloured with red ochre. Bone needles with eyes indicated that the makers used to prepare leather-garments. In period III, a new style in pottery has been marked; grey or black coloured pottery had been replaced by coarse, wheel-made, red wares. Burzahom cave site has another interesting point to note— an engraved hunting scene which strongly suggests their hunting economy. Just below the engraved figures of sun and the dog, the hunting scene depicting a deer being attacked from front by bow and arrow and from behind by hunting spear, is something worth mentioning.

Some Indian Prehistorians try to link Indian Neolithic culture with those of North and North-West China and also with that of Central Asia.

Central and South Indian Neolithic Sites

Sir Martimar Wheeler discovered an important Neolithic site at Brahmagiri in Mysore where he found profuse occurrence of polished cells. Later on, Dr. B. Subba Rao discovered another site about 4 kilometer north-east of Bellery in Mysore, Sanganakallu in 1946 where he could notice a number of polished cells, other polished tools and hand-made pottery. Varieties of polished chisel, hammer-stones and ring-stones, mostly prepared on black basalt stone are also found.

Incidentally, it may be mentioned that most of the Neolithic sites lie in the zone between river Tapti in the north-west and Tungabhadra and lower Krishna Rivers in the south-east. Most of these sites may be declared as Neo-Chalcolithic sites, excepting Brahmagiri and Sanganakallu which are referred to as orthodox Neolithic sites occurring in this part of this sub-continent.

Piklihal site in Andhra Pradesh discovered by F.A. Allchin in 1960 and Maski site excavated by B.K. Thapar in 1954 are inclined to show Brahmagiri Neolithic characters. A Mysorian site, known as T. Narsipur, presents Neo-chalcolithic industries. It includes many polished Neolithic Celts, ring-stones, and painted pot­sherds.

Neolithic Zone of Eastern India

This significant zone includes Assam, Bengal-Bihar-Orissa cultural sites. In Assam Neolithic sites, a type of small ground cells with rounded contour, shouldered cells, etc which are conspicuously lacking in the Neolithic sites of North and Central India are found. These Neolithic finds are associated with the common occurrence of ‘Megalithic monuments’ widely distributed in entire hill areas of Assam. The raw materials for such tools are flat slabs of chert, sand-stone and slate. Brahmaputra valley, Khasi, Garo and Kachar hills are the prominent Neolithic sites of Assam. In some places, tanged axes, grooved hammer-stones could be noticed in addition to above-mentioned tools.

The districts of Midnapur, Bankura, Burdwan, Birbhum and Purulia in West Bengal together form a triangular zonal shape which offers significant Neolithic cultural tools. Polished elongated Celts, rectangular polished chisels, black coloured polished pottery, etc have been discovered from these Neolithic sites. In addition, some iron implements and oval-shaped ovens and copper fish hooks belonging to Chalcolithic stage have also been unearthed. Modern Radio-Carbon dating suggests them to be of 1380 B.C to 855 A.D period. In Mahishadal on the bank of Kopai River in Birbhum district, numerous microliths, polished Celts, copper implements, clay models, bone tools, red-black pottery, scriptures on stone, earthen pots with delivery tube, grains of boiled rice, iron arrow heads, spear-heads have been found. In Burdwan (Baneswar Danga) a type of long, triangular polished Celts have been unearthed. In Susunia, Bankura district, polished Celts and ring-stones have been found. A type of shouldered chisel has been found in a site, known as Bon-Asuria, near to Susania. In Baghmundi P.S. of Purulia district of West Bengal, a variant of polished Celt has been discovered on Ajodhya hills.

Pandu Rajar Dhibi on Ajay river valley in the district of Burdwan points definitely towards a Neolithic-Chalcolithic culture complex dating between 2000 B.C. to 1012 B.C. In some sites, the evidences of human dwellings with mud-walls and circular bamboo roof-framing have been found.

It is quite interesting to note that Neolithic industries in the eastern zone have been found mostly in association of microliths and iron-copper implements for which the dating those sites posed a serious problem for the pre-historians. Megalithic monuments and painted glassed black-red pottery occur in some sites. The shouldered cells speak mainly about Assamese significance.

The Neolithic culture had been established in India at a stage when a far more advanced urban culture exhibiting Chalcolithic features flourished in the extreme north centering round Indus valley. This urban culture as found in Indus valley might have positive influence of Western Asiatic Neolithic cum Chalcolithic mixed cultural thrust. On the other hand, die eastern Neolithic culture shows striking similarities with the Neolithic typologies of China and other sites of South-east Asia. Again, Burzahom tradition of Kashmir links north India with the south as ‘pointed butt polished axes’ of the former are found occur in the south. The Western Indian and Malwa forms of Neolithic tradition may better be termed as Neo-Chal­colithic, have had, their origin from a ‘self-evolved’ microlithic base. Thus, it is safer to say that the Neolithic culture developed in different parts of India not from a single source. Philological researches have established a definite link between these Neolithic peoples of India and the primitive tribes that lived in Indo-China, the Malayan Peninsula and the Indian Archipelago.

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