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Day 13: History - History (Day 13 to 23)

Pre-History and Indus Valley Civilization

Pre-History and Indus Valley Civilization

 Prehistoric Period (Stone Age)

Prehistoric period is that period of our ancient past for which we do not have written records. Therefore, our knowledge of the cultures, which developed in this period, is based only on the materials found in the archaeological excavations.

The earliest man living during this period made tools and implements of stone found in his surroundings. These tools helped him to hunt and gather food in order to satisfy his hunger. Since the earliest tools used by humans were made of stones, this phase of human development is known as the Stone Age.

On the basis of geological age, the type and technology of stone tools, and subsistence base, the Indian Stone Age is classified primarily into three types:

  1. Old stone Age, Palaeolithic Age (5,00,000−10,000 BCE)
  2. Late Stone Age, Mesolithic Age (10,000−6000 BCE)
  3. New Stone Age, Neolithic Age (6,000−1000 BCE)

Palaeolithic Age

  • The term Palaeolithic is derived from the Greek word ‘palaeo’, which means old and ‘lithic’ meaning stone. Therefore, the term Palaeolithic age refers to the old stone age. The archaeologists have dated this culture to the Pleistocene period about two million years ago. The Pleistocene period is the geological period of the age when the earth’s surface was covered with ice, and weather was so cold that human or plant life could not survive. But in the tropical region, where ice melted, the earliest species of men could exist.
  • The people lived near the hillocks and used only stone tools for hunting and their protection. However, the choice of raw material used for tool-making varied from region to region and depended upon its availability. The material used was quartzite available in hilly areas of different regions, basalt found in Maharashtra region and limestone in Karnataka region.
  • The Old Stone or the Palaeolithic Age in India is divided into three phases according to the nature of the stone tools used by the people and also according to the nature of change in the climate. The first phase is called Early or Lower Palaeolithic, the second, Middle Palaeolithic, and the third, Upper Palaeolithic.
  • The Lower Palaeolithic or the Early Old Stone Age covers the greater part of the Ice Age.The main tools of lower Palaeolithic phase were handaxes, cleavers and choppers. These are called chopping tools. These were rough and heavy and were made by chipping the sides of the stones. Gradually, sharper and less heavy tools came to be made.
  • The axes found in India are more or less similar to those of Western Asia, Europe and Africa.
  • Stone tools were used mainly for chopping. Since the stone tools were made of a hard rock called ‘quartzite’, Palaeolithic men are therefore also called ‘Quartzite men’ in India.
  • The Middle Old Stone Age or Middle Palaeolithic industries are all based upon flakes. These flakes are found in different parts of India and show regional variations.
  • The flake tools or chipped pieces were the chief tools during the middle Palaeolithic period.
  • The Upper Palaeolithic phase was less humid. It coincided with the last phase of the Ice Age when climate became comparatively warm.
  • The tools of the upper Palaeolithic period primarily consisted of burins and scraper.

Geographical Distribution of the Palaeolithic Sites

  • The geographical distribution of the Palaeolithic sites suggests that this culture was spread throughout the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent.
  • In the north, Kashmir Valley and the Sohan Valley in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) have yielded Palaeolithic tools. In Rajasthan, Palaeolithic tools were found at the sites along the river Luni.
  • In Western India, the Palaeolithic tools were also discovered from the sites of the rivers Sabarmati, Mahi and their tributaries in Gujarat. In Maharashtra, the most important sites are Nevasa on a tributary of Godavari and Patne in the Tapti river system.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, the rock shelters at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) and Adamgarh in the district Hoshangabad have yielded tools from the Palaeolithic to the Mesolithic period.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, the Belan Valley (the region broadly from Allahabad to Varanasi) is the most prominent site. It shows human occupation of the area continuously from the Palaeolithic period.
  • Towards the east, Assam and neighbouring areas including Meghalaya (Garo Hills) have yielded prehistoric artifacts. Palaeolithic tools have also been found at various sites in Bengal, Orissa and Bihar.
  • In Peninsular India, Palaeolithic tools have been reported from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In Tamil Nadu, an important site is Attirampakkam in Chingleput region. The subsistence of the Palaeolithic cultures was based mainly on hunting animals and gathering fruits and roots.
  • In other words, the people were primarily hunters and gatherers with no settled habitation. On the basis of above discussion, we can conclude that the Palaeolithic cultures of the prehistoric period were wide spread throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Mesolithic Age

  • It was the transitional phase between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic Ages. On the basis of archaeological discoveries, the beginning of the Mesolithic Age in Indian subcontinent is dated to around 10,000 BC.
  • This period witnessed the rise in temperature, as a result of which the climate became warm. These changes further resulted in melting of ice of the earlier period and brought about changes in flora and fauna. Though man was still in hunting-gathering stage, he now started fishing and some domestication of animals. The main tools they used are called the microliths or small stone tools. The Rock paintings found at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) belonging to the period indicate the artistic taste of the people.
  • The Mesolithic people still subsisted on hunting and gathering, but now there was a shift in the pattern of hunting from the big animals in the Palaeolithic period to the smaller animals which could be attacked with the help of bows and arrows. In addition to this, fishing and fowling also became important. The faunal remains of cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo, pig, rat, bison, hippo, dog, fox, lizard, tortoise and fish etc. have been found from different Mesolithic sites.

Tools of the Mesolithic Period

  • The microliths used during the Mesolithic period were very small in size varying in lengths from 1 to 8 centimeters and were largely made out of chipped or flaked pieces.
  • Some of these tools have geometric forms such as triangles, lunates and trapezes. There tools could be tied or fixed in other objects to form an arrow or a spear.

Geographical Distribution

  • The distribution of Mesolithic sites indicates that the Mesolithic cultures covered almost the entire India from north to south and east to west.
  • Important sites of this culture are Langhnaj (District Mehsana) in Gujarat; Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) in Madhya Pradesh; ChopaniMando (near Allahabad in Belan Valley) in Uttar Pradesh; Birbhanpur (District Burdwan) in West Bengal; Sanganakallu (District Bellary) in Karnataka; and Tuticorin in southern Tamil Nadu.

The New Stone Age/ Neolithic

  • The New Stone Age began much earlier, in 7000 BC, Neolithic settlements in the Indian sub-continent are not older than 6000 B.C. Some settlements found in south India and eastern India is as late as 1000 B.C.
  • In Indian subcontinent, it is dated back to around 8000 BC. The term ‘Neolithic’ was coined by John Lubbock. The chief characteristic of this age was the new type of ground and polished stone tools. This period also marked the beginning of cultivation of plants and the domestication of animals. It led to the beginning of settled life and the growth of village settlements. The Neolithic culture had following characteristics:
    1. Beginning of agricultural activities
    2. Domestication of animals
    3. Grinding and polishing of stone tools having sharper edges
    4. Use of pottery

Neolithic Revolution?

  • Some times this period is termed as the ‘Neolithic Revolution’ on the basis of important changes in human’s socio-economic life.
  • The use of the sharp and polished Neolithic tools made it easier to cultivate the soil. It was accompanied by the practice of domestication of animals. These changes in turn resulted in the emergence of settled agricultural communities. The Neolithic people also produced pottery for the purpose of storing grains. As the redevelopment in the Neolithic phase greatly affected the human life, some scholars have used the term “the Neolithic Revolution” to signify those changes.
  • But most of the scholars believe that these changes though significant, should be viewed in the context of earlier progress during Paleolithic and Mesolithic ages, and thus, should be considered as ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’.

Tools of the Neolithic Period

  • The Neolithic tools consist of the ground tools having smooth surfaces, and well-rounded and symmetrical shapes. The grinding made the tools sharper, polished and more effective than those in the earlier period.
  • The ground stone tools of the Neolithic period included different types of axes called ‘celt’. Besides the stone tools, the sites of this period have also yielded various types of bone objects such as needles, scrapers, borers, arrowheads, pendants, bangles and earrings.

Geographical Distribution

  • The Neolithic sites were spread over almost all the regions of Indian subcontinent.
  • In the north-western region Mehrgarh is a classic site in the Kachi plains of Baluchistan. The excavations at Mehrgarh have revealed the evidence of houses built by Neolithic people. These were built of sun-dried bricks. These houses were divided into small rooms. The evidence of cultivation of crops like wheat, barley and cotton were discovered from here.
  • The important sites in Kashmir Valley includeBurzahom and Gufkral. The dwelling pits, either circular or rectangular, at these sites form an important feature of Neolithic culture.
  • The Belan Valley along the edge of Vindhyan plateau near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh also has many Neolithic sites such as Koldihwa and Mahara. The Neolithic tools (both stone and bone), pottery, other artefacts, floral and faunal remains have been found from these sites.
  • In Bihar and mid-Gangetic Valley region,Chirand is the most popular Neolithic site.
  • Several Neolithic sites are present covering the hills of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. The tools like Neolithic celts, small ground axes alongwith the remains of pottery have been found from this area.
  • In South India the Neolithic settlements were discovered along the rivers Bhima, Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri. Some important sites are Sanganakallu, Brahmagiri, Maski, Piklihal, Hallur in Karnataka; Utnur, Nagarjunakonda, Budihal in Andhra Pradesh; and Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu. These sites have yielded dwelling pits alongwith the evidence of cultivation of cereals and domestication ofanimals. Millet (Ragi) was one of the earliest crops cultivated by the villagers of South India.

Indus Valley Civilization

  • Copper was the first metal to be used by man for making tools. Gradually several cultures developed in Indian subcontinent which were based on the use of stone and copper tools. They also used bronze, a mixture of copper and tin, for this purpose. This phase in history is known as the Chalcolithic period. The brightest chapter in the Chalcolithic period in India is the Harappan civilization or, the Indus Valley civilization.
  • On the basis of the archaeological findings the Harappan civilization has been dated between 2600 B.C–1900 BC and is one of the oldest civilizations of the world.
  • Geographical factors like climate, fertility of the soil and the physical features greatly contributed to the progress and development of man there.
  • Most of the sites of this civilization discovered earlier were in the Indus Valley only viz. Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. But in recent years, a large number of sites belonging to this civilization have been found in areas far away from the Indus Valley. For example, the sites at Kalibangan and Lothal revealed features similar to those of the Indus Valley. Therefore, historians feel that the name Indus Valley Civilization is not appropriate.
  • It is the first urban culture of India and is contemporaneous with other ancient civilizations of the world such as those of Mesopotamia and Egypt.
  • The Harappan civilization did not appear all of a sudden. It developed gradually from earlier Neolithic village cultures. It is believed that the better technology to exploit the fertile plains of river Indus might have resulted in increased agricultural production. This led to the production of larger surplus to feed and maintain non-agricultural people such as artisans, administrators, etc. It also helped in the promotion of exchange or trading contacts with distant regions. It brought prosperity to the Harappan people and they were able to set up cities.
  • The archaeological remains show that before the emergence of Harappan civilization the people lived in small villages. As the time passed, there was the emergence of small towns which ultimately led to full-fledged towns during the Harappan period. The whole period of Harappan civilization is in fact divided into three phases: (i) Early Harappan phase (3500 BC–2600 BC) – it was marked by some town-planning in the form of mud structures, elementary trade, arts and crafts, etc., (ii) Mature Harappan phase (2600 BC–1900 BC) – it was the period in which we notice well developed towns with burnt brick structures, inland and foreign trade, crafts of various types, etc., and (iii) Late Harappan phase (1900 BC–1400 BC) – it was the phase of decline during which many cities were abandoned and the trade disappeared leading to the gradual decay of the significant urban traits.

Extent of the Harappan Culture

  • The archaeological excavations reveal that this culture was spread over a vast area which included not only the present-day states of India such as Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Western Uttar Pradesh but also Pakistan and some parts of Afghanistan.
  • Some important sites of this civilization are: Manda in Jammu and Kashmir; Shortughai in Afghanistan; Harappa in Western Punjab (Pakistan); Mohenjodaro and Chanhudaro in Sind; Kalibangan in Rajasthan; Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat; Banawali and Rakhigarhi in Haryana; Daimabad in Maharashtra while Sutkagendor on the Makran Coast (near Pakistan-Iran border) is the western most site of the Harappan civilization and Alamgirpur in western Uttar Pradesh marks its eastern most limit.

Town Planning

  • The most interesting urban feature of Harappan civilization is its town-planning. It is marked by considerable uniformity, though one can notice some regional variations as well. The uniformity is noticed in the lay-out of the towns, streets, structures, brick size, drains etc.
  • Almost all the major sites (Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan and others), are divided into two parts–a citadel on higher mound on the western side and a lower town on the eastern side of the settlement.
  • The citadel contained large structures which might have functioned as administrative or ritual centres. The residential buildings are built in the lower town. The houses were largely built of burnt bricks.
  • The streets intersect each other at right angles in a criss-cross pattern. It divides the city in several residential blocks. The main street is connected by narrow lanes. The doors and windows of the houses opened in these lanes and not the main street.
  • The drainage system of the Harappans was elaborate and well layout. Every house had drains, which opened into the street drains. These drains were covered with manholes bricks or stone slabs (which could be removed for cleaning) were constructed at regular intervals by the side of the streets for cleaning. This shows that the people were well acquainted with the science of sanitation.
  • The other important structures found in the Indus cities include the Great Bath and pillared hall at Mohenjo-Daro, the dockyard at Lothal and the granary at Harappa. These structures stand testimony to the architectural skills of the Indus people.

Social Life

  • Social classes: The fact that there were different types of houses indicates that there were different social classes. Trading being the major activity, the merchants seem to have formed the upper class. The artisans and farmers might be the common people.
  • Dress: No definite account is available about the type of dresses used by the Indus people. The discovery of a number of spindies suggests the use of cotton and woollen fabrics. The bronze statues too give some information about the dress of the people. The women wore a skirt and an upper garment. Men wore a band of cloth around their loin and a loose garment over their shoulders.
  • Ornaments: A large number of ornaments like necklaces, armlets, finger-rhgs, bangles, etc., have been found from these sites. These were made of gold, silver, iv6ry and precious stones. Some of the ornaments were also made of shells, bones, copper and bronze. It appears that both men and women wore ornaments. The statues of a dancing girl and a bearded man suggest that these people used hair pins and knew different hair styles.
  • Recreation and amusements: The people of Harappa seem to have had a great liking for dance and music. They were also familiar with indoor games like dice. A large number of terracotta toys were found in Mohenjodaro.

Economic Conditions

Agriculture

  • Agriculture alongwith pastoralism (cattle-rearing) was the base of Harappan economy. The granaries discovered at sites like Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Lothal served asthe storehouses for grains.
  • A terracotta plough has also been reported from Banawali in Hissar district of Haryana. The irrigation was carried on a small scale by drawing water from wells or by diverting river water into channels.
  • The chief food crops included wheat, barley, sesasum, mustard, peas, etc. The evidence for rice has come from Lothal and Rangpur in the form of husks embedded in pottery. Cotton was another important crop. A piece of woven cloth has been found at Mohenjodaro. Apart from cereals, fish and animal meat also formed a part of the Harappan diet.

Industries and Crafts

  • The Harappan people were aware of almost all the metals except iron. They manufactured gold and silver objects. The gold objects include beads, armlets, needles and other ornaments. But the use of silver was more common than gold.
  • A number of copper tools and weapons have also been discovered. The common tools included axe, saws, chisels, knives, spearheads and arrowheads.
  • It is important to note that the weapons produced by the Harappans were mostly defensive in nature as there is no evidence of weapons like swords, etc. Stone tools were also commonly used.
  • Copper was brought mainly from Khetri in Rajasthan. Gold might have been obtained from the Himalayan river-beds and South India, and silver from Mesopotamia. We also have the evidence of the use of the bronze though in limited manner. The most famous specimen in this regard is the bronze ‘dancing girl’ figurine discovered at Mohenjodaro.
  • Bead-making also was an important craft. Beads were made of precious and semiprecious stones such as agate and carnelian. Steatite was used for making beads. The evidence of beadmakers’ shops have been found at Chanhudaro and Lothal. Gold and silver beads have also been found. Ivory carving and inlaying used in beads, bracelets and other decorations were also in practice. The Harappans thus showed their masterly skill in a variety of arts and crafts.
  • A well-known piece of art of the Harappan period is a stone sculpture of a bearded man discovered at Mohenjodaro.
  • Pottery-making was also an important industry in the Harappan period. These were chiefly wheel-made and were treated with a red coating and had decorations in black. These are found in various sizes and shapes. The painted designs consist of horizontal lines of varied thickness, leaf patterns, palm and pipal trees. Birds, fishes and animals are also depicted on potteries.
  • The Harappans manufactured seals of various kinds. More than two thousand seals have been discovered from different sites. These were generally square in shape and were made of steatite. It is noteworthy that while the seals depict a number of animals there is no representation of horse on these.

Trade

  • Trading network, both internal (within the country) and external (foreign), was a significant feature of the urban economy of the Harappans. As the urban population had to depend on the surrounding countryside for the supply of food and many other necessary products, there emerged a village-town (rural-urban) interrelationship. Similarly, the urban craftsmen needed markets to sell their goods in other areas. It led to the contact between the towns. The traders also established contacts with foreign lands particularly Mesopotamia where these goods were in demand.
  • Among the precious stones used for making beads, the source of lapis-lazuli was located in Badakshan mines in northeast Afghanistan. Turquoise and Jade might have been brought from Central Asia. Western India supplied agate, chalcedony and carnelian. The seashells must have come from Gujarat and neighbouring coastal areas. Timber of good quality and other forest products were perhaps obtained from the northern regions such as Jammu.
  • The Harappans were engaged in external trade with Mesopotamia. It was largely through Oman and Behrain in the Persian Gulf. It is confirmed by the presence of Harappan artefacts such as beads, seals, dice etc. in these regions. Mesopotamian cities like Susa, Ur, etc. have yielded about two dozen of Harappan seals and other artefacts such as potteries, etched carnelian beads and dices.
  • The inscriptional evidence from Mesopotamia also provides us with valuable information on Harappan contact with Mesopotamia. These inscriptions refer to trade with Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha. Scholars have identified Meluhha with Harappan region, Magan with the Makran coast, and Dilmun with Bahrain.

Religious Practices

  • We do not have any specific information about the religious beliefs of the Harappan people. However, on the basis of archaeological finds we can come to certain conclusions.
  • The Harappan religion is normally termed as animism i.e., worship of trees, stones etc. A large number of terracotta figurines discovered at the Harappan sites have been associated with the worship of mother goddess.
  • Many of these represent females adorned with a wide girdle, loin cloth and necklaces. They wear a fan-shaped head dress. In some cases, the female is shown with an infant while there is one that shows a plant growing out of the uterus of a woman. The latter type probably symbolizes the goddess of earth.
  • There are many scholars who refer to the worshiping of linga (phallus) and yoni (female sex organ) by the Harappans but some are doubtful about it.
  • Harappans’ belief in a male deity is evident by the seal depicting a deity with a buffalo-horned head-dress, sitting in a yogic posture and surrounded by animals. Many scholars identify him with god Pashupati (Lord of beasts) or ‘Proto-Shiva’ though some dispute it.
  • No temples have been found from any of the Harappan sites.
  • The evidence of fire worship has also been found at some sites such as Kalibangan and Lothal.
  • Harappans living in different areas followed different religious practices as there is no evidence of fire-pits at Harappa or Mohanjodaro.
  • The burial practices and the rituals related with them have been a very important aspect of religion in any culture. However, in this context Harappan sites have not yielded any monument such as the Pyramids of Egypt or the Royal cemetry at Ur in Mesopotamia. Dead bodies were generally rested in north-south direction with their head towards north and the feet towards south. The dead were buried with a varying number of earthen pots. In some graves the dead were buried along with goods such as bangles, beads, copper mirrors. This may indicate that the Harappans believed in life after death.
  • At Lothal three joint or double burials with male and female bodies together were discovered. Kalibangan has yielded evidence of a symbolic burial alongi.e., a burial which contains pots but no bones or skeleton. These different practices in different regions of Harappan civilization may reflect diversity in religious beliefs.

Decline

  • The Harappan Civilization flourished till 1900 BC. The period following this is marked by the beginning of the post-urban phase or (Late Harappan phase). This phase was characterised by a gradual disappearance of the major traits such as town-planning, art of writing, uniformity in weights and measures, homogeneity in pottery designs, etc.
  • The regression covered a period from 1900 BC–1400 BC There was also the shrinkage in the settlement area. For instance, Mohenjodaro was reduced to a small settlement of three hectares from the original eighty-five hectares towards the end of the Late phase. The population appears to have shifted to other areas. It is indicated by the large number of new settlements in the outlying areas of Gujarat, east Punjab, Haryana and Upper Doab during the later Harappan period.

Causes

  • It is suggested by some scholars that natural calamities such as floods and earthquakes might have caused the decline of the civilization. It is believed that earthquakes might have raised the level of the flood plains of the lower course of Indus river. It blocked the passage of the river water to the sea and resulted in the floods which might have swallowed the city of Mohenjodaro. However, this only explains the decline of Mohenjodaro and not of the whole civilization.
  • Increased aridity and drying up of the river Ghaggar-Harka on account of the changes in river courses, according to some scholars, might have contributed to the decline. This theory states that there was an increase in arid conditions by around 2000 BC. This might have affected agricultural production, and led to the decline.
  • Aryan invasion theory is also put forward as a cause for the decline. According to this, the Harappan civilization was destroyed by the Aryans who came to India from north-west around 1500 BC. However, on the basis of closer and critical analysis of data, this view is completely negated today.

Chalcolithic Communities of Non-Harappan India

  • The important non-Harappan chalcolithic cultures lay mainly in western India and Deccan. These include Banas culture (2600BC–1900 BC) in south-east Rajasthan, with Aharnear Udaipur and Gilund as its key-sites; Kayatha culture (2100BC–2000 BC) with Kayatha in Chambal as its chief site in Madhya Pradesh; Malwa Culture (1700BC–1400BC) with Navdatoli in Western Madhya Pradesh as an important site, and Jorwe culture (1400BC– 700BC) with Inamgaon and Chandoli near Pune in Maharashtra as its chief centres. The evidence of the chalcolithic cultures also comes from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal.
  • It may be noted that the non-Harappan Chalcolithic cultures though flourished in different regions they were marked by basic uniformity in various aspects such as their mud structures, farming and hunting activities, use of wheel-made pottery etc. The pottery of these chalcolithic cultures included ochre-coloured pottery (OCP), black-and-red ware (BRW) and has been found in the shape of various kinds of bowls, basins, spouted jars with concave necks, dishes on stand, etc.

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90 Days Planner (Day 13 Pre-History)

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