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Chapter 02. Pre-Historic Period (Indian History Notes)



The credit for the rediscovery of Indian pre-history goes to Dr. Primrose, an Englishman, who was the first person to discover pre-historic implements (stone knives and arrow-heads) in 1842 at Lingsugur (Karnataka).
However John Evans was first to publish discovery of flints on the bed of the Narmada river near Jabalpur in 1853.
In 1930, M.C. Burkitt published an account of collection from the Krishna basin and in 1935 Terra of T.T. Paterson studied the glacial sequence of Kashmir and Punjab. The efforts of the 1940s resulted in the publication of Stuart Piggott’s Prehistoric India in 1950.
Historians divide the Pre – historic period into three sections- 1. Stone age 2. Bronze age 3. Iron age For the study of these ages we have nothing except fossils and some tools and paintings left by them. We do not have any written record as the primitive people were unaware of pen and papers. The primitive people were shorter in height and had a smaller brain. They did not have a social life like us. The earliest human fossils has been found in Africa dating about 4.2 million years. No easily human fossils have been found in India except a hominid fossil from Hathnawia in the Narmada valley dating back to 1.4 million years ago. The stone age is divided into three parts, i.e Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic ages.
A. Palaeolithic (Old Stone) Age
In 1930, Gabriel de montillet, a french investigator, started naming the cultural divisions in the manner of compartments or stages. In this context the Palaeolithic age (old stone age) comes first. It was an age of hunting and food gathering culture. Palaeo means ‘old’ and ‘lithic’ means ‘stone’. For this it is called palaeolithic which is divided into three phases Lower, Middle and upper Palaeolithic culture.
1. Lower Palaeolithic Age (5,00,000-1,00,000 B.C.)
It covers the greater part of the Ice Age. The people were wanderers. They did not know how to grow food.
They used to eat fruits, birds and raw animal flesh, etc.
The tools were usually made of hard rock, ‘Quartzite’ and therefore the man of Palaeolithic age is called ‘Quartzite Man’. For hunting they used hand-axe, cleavers, flaxes and chopper of irregular shapes. Fossil of “Homo Erectus”, from Hathnaura (Narmada basin), of this age has been found. This age is represented by Sohan culture (Now in Pakistan).
Important Sites:
Sohan Valley (Punjab), Belan Valley (Mirzapur), Narmada Valley (Madhya Pradesh), Didwani (Rajasthan), and Bhimbetka (M.P.), Singrauli basin (U.P), Chhotanagpur (Jharkhand), Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and in whole India except Sind Kerala.
2. Middle Palaeolithic Age (1,00,000 – 40,000 B. C.)
It was an age of flakes. A bit change in the shape of tools made of stones or bones is remarked. Now they started using blades, points and scrappers made of flakes.
Still they had no house to live in. They lived under the rocks in caves and hollow tree trunks. They were afraid of wild creatures. Neanderthal man dominated this stage of human evolution.
Important Sites:
Bankura and Purulia (West Bengal), Nevasa, Nodur Madhmeshwar, Suregaon and Nevasa (Maharastra), Malprabha and Ghatprabha basin (Karnataka). Narmada valley, etc. In Bhimbetka (M.P) 200 rock shelters, caves and thousands of paintings have been traced which are of middle Palaeolithic age, i.e scrapper and borer culture.
3. Upper Palaeolithic Age (40,000 – 10,000 B.C.)
In this period, human lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers.
The traces of Homo sapiens have been discovered. Rock paintings and carvings have been found in Bhimbetka that reflect art and rituals of this period. The animals depicted in these are mostly bisons, elephants, tigers, boars, rhinoceros, etc. The upper Palaeolithic art is characterised by red and green colours.
Important Sites:
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharastra, Bhopal (Bhimbetka) and Chhotanagpur (Jharkhand).
Points to Remember
► P.F. Shum Designated the cultural past of man in as early as 1776.
► In 1836. C.J. Thomson arranged the exhibits in Danish museums.
► Lubbock of France divided the stone age into Palaeolithic & Neolithic in 1865.
► The Palaeolithic culture of India developed in Pleistocene period.
► First of all Robert Bruce discovered a Palaeolithic stone tool in India in 1863.
► With the coming of Yale Cambridge Expedition in 1935, led by Deterra and Paterson the research for the Palaeolithic got a new height in India.
B. Mesolithic Age (10,000 – 4,000 B.C.)
It was an intermediate stage in the stone age ended with the introduction of agriculture. It is also known as late stone age or Microlithic age. The domestication of animals have been witnessed from M.P and Rajasthan. Men were still savage but pottery making (Tilwara) and permanent habitation were in existence.
Tools: Microliths (tools) were very small in size and length varies from 1 to 8 cm. Backed blade, core, point, triangle, lunate and trapeze were the main tools. Some of earlier used were continued like scraper, burin, choppers, etc.
Important Sites:
Bagor, Tilwara (Rajasthan), Akhaj, Valasana, Langhnaj, Hirpur (Gujarat), etc. The earliest evidence for the domestication of animals has been founded in Bagor. It has provided stone paved habitational floors, human burials besides some tiny pieces of handmade potsherds. Langhnaj has three cultural phases. The first produced microliths, burials and animal bones, the second phase has two ground axes and a ring stone and the third phase is remarkable for potsherds.
In central and North India we have Bhimbetka (M.P) where many rock shelters with microliths on floor and paintings on walls have found. In Adamgarh we have got signs of animals domestication. Sarai Nahar Rai Morhana Pahar and Lekhani are some important sites. Burnt clay lumps and fire hearths have been discovered from these sites.


Coming towards the eastern part of India we have so many places from where microliths (fairly large and prepared on block chlorite stone)) have been discovered. Burdwan, Purulia Bankura (West Bengal); Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Kuchai in Orissa and Chhota Nagpur in Jharkhand and Sehargigi in Meghalaya are the important sites of this location.
In South, 11 sites of microlithic clusters have been found in Tinnevelly district of Tamil Nadu, 25 microlithic sites are reported in the area between Krishna and Bhima rivers in Shorapur doab.
C. Neolithic Age (6,000 – 1,000 B.C.)
It was an age of polished tool culture. Men started living a settled life. Agriculture and domestication of animals were started. They discovered the art of producing fire by the friction of stones and got the taste of cooked flesh. For hunting bows and arrows were invented. They learnt the art of pottery. Their pots were well made and decorated with paintings. They had the knowledge of boat making for journey. They also learnt the art of spinning and weaving clothes. Tool making became an important profession and a variety of polished tools were manufactured. Picks, scrapers, bodkins, chisels, mortars, eyed needles and pierced batons were the important tools. Neolithic men started respecting their ancestors. They offered honourable burial for the dead and constructed tombs for them. These tombs were called Dolmens.
It was an age of revolution, i.e neolitithic revolution of stone age.
The wheel was an important discovery of this age.
Important Neolithic Sites
Sites State
Chirand, Chechar – Bihar
► Kuchai – Mayurbhanj (Orissa)
► Taradih & Singhbhumi – West Bengal
► Uthur, Nagarjunakonda – Andhre Pradesh
► Maski, Brahmagiri, Hallur, – Karnataka
► Tekkalakota, Sanganakallu
► Paiyampalli – Tamil Nadu
► Burzahom & Gufkral – Kashmir
► Bellan, Chopani Mando – Uttar Pradesh M.H. Krishnan has found some polished tools in Mysore.
Burzahom is remarkable for pit-jewelling houses.
Points to Remember
► The word ‘neolithic’ was coined by John Lubbock in 1865.
► In 1860, Le Mesurier made the discovery of neolithic tools.
► In South India, Fresher discovered neolithic tools in Bellary.
► The misoliths were discovered by Carlyle in 1867 from Vindhya Rock shelters.
► Subbarao excavated, in 1948, at Sangankallu in Bellary.
► Palaeolithic man in India is also called ‘Quartziteman’.


This age is marked by the use of copper as copper was the first metal used by the man of this age. The economy was based on subsistence agriculture, stock-raising, hunting and fishing. The dead were buried in North-South position in Maharashtra but in South India it was in East-West direction.
The chalcolithic people slaughtered animals for food. Some perforated stone disc are found which were used for jhumcultivation.
The supply of copper was limited. People did not know the art of mixing tin with copper. The decline in rainfall from about 1200 B.C. led to the decay of this culture.
Due to the agitation of epidemics the culture of chalcolithic people came to an end. Transitional stage between stone age and humans started living settled life.
Important sites:
Probably, this culture was extended from the Chhotanagpur plateau to the upper Gangetic basin. Some sites are found at Brahmagiri near Mysore and Navada Toli on the Narmada.
Copper hoards have-been found in a wide area from West Bengal, Orissa, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
From Gungeria (M.P) we have found 424 copper tools and weapons and 102 thin sheets of silver objects. Stone tools have also been found in excavations. Mostly the copper hoards were supplemented by stone tools that paved the way of a settled life in a good portion of the Ganga – Yamuna doab. Besides these, the two types of pottery, i.e. O.C.P. (Ochre Coloured Pottery) and B.R.W. (Black and Red Ware), showing Harappan influence, have been excavated from various sites.
O.C.P. (2000 BC – 1500 B.C) : It is essentially a red-slipped ware. From a trial excavation carried out in Bisauli (Badaun) and Rajpur Parsu (Bihar). It was revealed that the ochre coloured pottery wares occurred below the early Iron Age levels. The copper hoard culture represents one of the transitional phases of the Harappan intrusion into the Gangetic Valley.
B.R.W. (1000 B.C) : The O.C.P culture was succeeded by B.R.W which was an attractive variety of ceramics prepared by a fringing technique. From the inside and around the rim on the outside these are completely black and the rest of the outer surface is brick red. Chemical studies show that the black colour is caused by carbon. It is concluded that the some dried pot must have been given a coating of some organic resin, oil or some other matter, before firing. During firing the organic material on the surface is burnt leaving the carbon free. Black and Red wares are usually medium to small in size which can be called ‘Table wares’ usually limited to bowls and dishes.
Some Important Features of Chalcolithic Age
Both Kharif and Rabi crops were cultivated
► Barley was the main crop.
► A highly specialised store blade industry of siliceous store is found.
► Cotton was produced first time in this period.
► First village communities in Peninsular India was found.
► Jhum cultivation was practised.
► First time fortified settlements were built, e.g. sites of Daimabad, Inamgao, Nagada, etc.
Chalcolithic Culture at a Glance

Culture Period Ware-features Grown crops Sites
Ahar Culture 2800-1500 B.CWhite desgined black and
red ware.
rice, ragi, gram, jwar,
bajra, kulthi, lentil.
Ahar, Balahal, Gilund.
Kayatha culture 2450-1700 B.CCholcolate coloured slipped
ware, red painted buff ware,
combed ware.
rice, ragi, gram, jwar,
bajra, kulthi, lentil.
Chambal and its tributaries.
(Madhya Pradesh)
Malwa Culture 1900-1400 B.CThe walwas ware is coarse
in fabric with thick buff
Wheat & barley.Narmada and its tributaries,
Navada toli, Eran, Nagada.
(The largest chalcolithic
settlement) in M.P.
Savalda Culture 2300-200 B.CDhuria (Maharashtra)
Jorwe Culture 1500-900 B.Cpainted black on red with
matt surface dishes on stand,
sprouted vases, stemmed
cups, jars, basins etc.
rice, ragi, gram, jwar,
bajra, kulthi, lentil.
Maharashtra, Prakash,
Daimabad and Inamgaon.
Prabhas Culture 2000-1400 B.CLustrous Red Ware
( H a r a p p a n / ( I n d u s
civilstation) belonged to this
Rangpur Culture 1700 – 1400 B.CLustrous Red Ware (Harappa
Indus belong to this culture
Gheol and Kallubhar rivers
in Gujarat

Prabhas Culture 2000-1400 B.C Lustrous Red Ware ( H a r a p p a n / ( I n d u s civilstation) belonged to this culture) – – Rangpur Culture 1700 – 1400 B.C Lustrous Red Ware (Harappa Indus belong to this culture civilisation) – Gheol and Kallubhar rivers in Gujarat


The ‘Iron Age’ in the world context began about 1300 B.C. Its use in India also began around this period. But Gordon could find no evidence for the use of iron in India before 250 B.C. and Wheeler thought that the knowledge was introduced by Achaemenids in 500 B.C. However, Banerjee opined that Iron working began as early as 1000 B.C. and became common around 800 B.C.
We have evidence of Iron at Pirak (1000 B.C.); at Mundigak and in the graves of Gandhara (1000 B.C.). In South India also Iron appeared around 1000 B.C. in Dharwar (Karnataka).
Iron age is usually associated with the painted grey ware (P.G.W.) the ceramics which have been fired grey and then painted with black designs. Thus, the grey colour was obtained by firing thin clay pots to as high a temperature as 800°C. For these wares no grey colour was used for making them attractive.
Pre-Historic findings
• Atranjikhera – Textile printing.
• Burzahom – Pit-dwelling.
• Chirand – Serpant cult.
• Bhimbetka – Caves of Homo Sapien, 500 painted rock shelter • Nevasa – Evidence of cotton.
• Hastinapur – Wild sugarcane.
• Inamgaon – Statue of mother goddess.
• Koldihva – Earliest evidence of rice.
• Bagor and Ajamgarh – Evidences of domestication of animal.
• Mehargarh – Earliest evidence of agriculture.
• Bhimbetka & Ajamgarh – Mesolithic rock and cave paintings.
• Uthur – Hoof impression from cattle pen ash mound.
• Vindhya rock shelter – First discovered microliths.
In short, we can say that copper was the first metal used by the primitive people but the use of iron gave them a complete new turn in their development. The adoption of Iron brought various changes in society including agricultural practices, religious beliefs and attractive artistic styles. Sanskrit and Chinese literature said to have been flourished in this age. Hittatiets or the Hittomus discovered the metal Iron through which primitive people peeped into a new world, i.e. the agrarian world.
Some Pre-historic sites & their nature

Sites Phase Location & Excavator Finds
1.AdamgasrMesolithic (5500 B.C.)Narmada valley, Hoshangabad, M.P.Rock-shelters, animal bones & pottery
2.AnjiraNeolithicSurab Valley, Central BaluchistanChert blade industry, bone awls
3.AtranjikhedaIron AgeUttar PradeshIron objects, burnt bricks
4.BirbhanpurMesolithicDamodar river (W.B)Post-holes, combined factory
5.BrahmagiriNeolithic/MegalithicKarnataka, S.M. Wheeler South Indian Neolithic sites
(3000-1700 B.C)
Kashmir, Yale Two occupation levels
(1500-1050 B.C)
MaharashtraEvidence of tin and lead alloying
NeolithicBiddupur-on the bank of GangaRed, grey, spouted and black wares
9.ChirandNeolithic and
(2000-1000 B.C)
Allahabad (U.P) / Allahabad UniversityCrude hard made pottery
(1400-1000 B.C)
Parvar valley (Maharashtra)Jorwe culture site
11.GumlaNeolithic/Bronze AgeIndus & Gomal rivers by Peshawar
Aceramic, microliths, cattle bones
12.HastinapurOCP & PGWUttar PradeshTwo glass bangles, cultivated crops,
bone dice, glass beads
13.LekhaniaMesolithic (1710 B.C.)Mirzapur (U.P.) / Allahabad UniversityRock-shelters
MesolithicNarmada Valley, U.P. / A.C. CarlleyleRock-paintings & shelters
15.WaltgalSouthern Neolithic
(3000-2000 B.C)
Raichur DoabMicrolithic Industry, handmade

Keep in Memory
First metal used by man – Copper
► Iron was brought (discovered) by – Hittites
► Iron age began – 1000 B.C
► Excellent Mesolithic cave painting – Bhimbetka
► Evidence of dog burial along with human beings – Burzahom
► Inamgaon is belonging to – Jorwe culture
► Eran is belonging to – Malwa culture
► Man appeared on the earth in – Quarternary period
► The largest Mesolithic site – Kothari river
► The Goddess of vegetative fertility of Jorwe culture – Sakambhari
► Main foodcrop of Chinese civilization – Millet
► Pre-historic India’s gift – Domestic fowl.
► Earliest grown up cereals – Wheat and Ragi
► First thing learnt by primitive man – Making fire
► Pottery first appeared in – Neolithic age
► First animal tamed by Neolithic man – Dog
► Tools made of flakes appeared in – Middle stone age
► The Palaeolithic men – Quartzite men
► Mesolithic period – Microlithic industry
► Palaeolithic period – Nomadic culture
► Neolithic period – Settled life
► Homo sapiens appeared in – Upper Palaeolithic period
► Chalcolithic age – Stone copper tools
► Neolithic age – Polished stone tools

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