The Neolithic Age: First Food Producers and Animal Keepers
SHORT NOTES (PRELIMS + MAINS)
- Earliest Rural Settlements in Baluchistan
- New Stone or the Neolithic age began in 9000 BC. The only known Neolithic settlement in the Indian subcontinent, attributed to 7000BC, is in Mehrgarh, which is situated in Baluchistan, a province of Pakistan.
- Mehrgarh is located on the bank of the Bolan river in the Kochi plain which is called the ‘bread basket’ of Baluchistan. The settlement lay on the edge of the Indus plains.
- It is called one of the largest Neolithic settlements between the Indus and the Mediterranean. The Neolithic people of this area produced wheat and barley from the outset.
- They domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats in the initial stage.In the dried basin of Hakra, a tributary of the Indus, forty-seven Later Neolithic settlements have been found.
- people of the Neolithic age used tools and implements of polished stone. They particularly used stone axes, which have been found in large numbers in a substantial part of the hilly tracts of India.
- Based on the types of axes used by Neolithic settlers, three important areas of Neolithic settlements—north-western, north-eastern, and southern.
- north-western group of Neolithic tools is distinguished by rectangular axes with a curved cutting edge; the north-eastern group by polished stone axes with a rectangular butt and occasional shouldered hoes; and the southern group by axes with oval sides and pointed butt.
- Use of Bone Tools in the Sites of Burzahom and Chirand
- In the north-west, Kashmiri Neolithic culture was distinguished by its dwelling pits, wide range of ceramics, the variety of stone and bone tools, and the complete absence of microliths.
- Its most important site is Burzahom, which means ‘the place of birch’, situated 16 km north-west of Srinagar. The Neolithic people lived there on a lake-side in pits, and probably had a hunting and fishing economy, and seem to have been acquainted with agriculture.
- people of Gufkral (literally the ‘cave of the potter’), a Neolithic site, 41 km south-west of Srinagar, practised both agriculture and animal husbandry. The Neolithic people in Kashmir used polished tools of stone, numerous tools and weapons made of bone.
- only other place which has yielded considerable bone implements in India is Chirand, 40 km west of Patna on the northern side of the Ganges. Made of antlers (horn of deer), these implements have been found in a late Neolithic settlement in an area with about 100 cm rainfall.
- people of Burzahom used coarse grey pottery. At Burzahom, domestic dogs were buried with their masters in their graves. This practice does not seem to be evident in any other Neolithic culture in India. The earliest date for Burzahom is about 2700 BC, but the bones recovered from Chirand cannot be dated earlier than 2000 BC and possibly belong to the late Neolithic phase.
- Neolithic tools have also been found in the Garo hills in Meghalaya on the north-eastern frontier of India. The second group may include the settlements in the Vindhyas and the Kaimur hill.
- A number of Neolithic settlements on the northern spurs of the Vindhyas in Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of UP. Neolithic sites such as Koldihwa and Mahagra in Allahabad district are known for the cultivation of rice in the fifth millennium BC.
- Senuwar in Rohtas district in the Kaimur hilly area is the most important site. Also notable is the site of Taradih close to the Bodh-Gaya temple.
- In Burzahom (in present-day Kashmir) people built pit-houses, which were dug into the ground, with steps leading into them. These may have provided shelter in cold weather. Archaeologists have also found cooking hearths both inside and outside the huts, which suggests that, depending on the weather, people could cook food either indoors or outdoors.[NCERT CHAPTER-3 CLASS-VI]
- Neolithic Settlement’s tools- These include tools that were polished to give a fine cutting edge, and mortars and pestles used for grinding grain and other plant produce. Mortars and pestles are used for grinding grains.[NCERT CHAPTER-3 CLASS-VI]
- Mehrgarh-This site is located in a fertile plain, near the Bolan Pass, which is one of the most important routes into Iran. Mehrgarh was probably one of the places where women and men learnt to grow barley and wheat, and rear sheep and goats for the first time in this area. It is one of the earliest villages. Other finds at Mehrgarh include remains of square or rectangular houses. Each house had four or more compartments, some of which may have been used for storage. Several burial sites have been found at Mehrgarh. In one instance, the dead person was buried with goats, which were probably meant to serve as food in the next world.[NCERT CHAPTER-3 CLASS-VI]
- Daojali Hading-This is a site on the hills near the Brahmaputra Valley, close to routes leading into China and Myanmar. Here stone tools, including mortars and pestles, have been found. These indicate that people were probably growing grain and preparing food from it. Other finds include jadeite, a stone that may have been brought from China.[NCERT CHAPTER-3 CLASS-VI]
Neolithic Settlements in South India
- An important group of Neolithic people lived in south India, south of the Godavari river. They usually settled on the tops of granite hills or on plateaus near the river banks.
- They used stone axes and also a kind of stone blades. Firebaked earthen figurines suggest that they kept a large number of cattle, besides sheep and goats. They used stone querns for grinding corn, which shows that they were acquainted with the art of producing cereals.
- South India has the largest number of Neolithic settlements, because of the easy availability of stone, with over 850 settlements spread across AP, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. Some of the important Neolithic sites or those with Neolithic layers that have been excavated include Maski, Brahmagiri, Hallur, Kodekal, Sanganakallu, Piklihal, and Takkalakota in Karnataka, and Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu.
- Utnur is an important Neolithic site in AP. The Neolithic settlers in Piklihal were cattle-herders. Both ash mounds and habitation sites have been found in Piklihal.
- Farming and Cereals
- Besides polished tools of stone, they used microlith blades. The Neolithic people of Mehrgarh were more advanced. They produced wheat and barley, and lived in mud-brick houses.
- Pottery, therefore, first appears in this phase, It seems that the potter’s wheel came to Baluchistan from western Asia and from there it spread across the subcontinent. The Neolithic pottery included black burnished ware, grey ware, and mat impressed ware.
- Neolithic celts, axes, adzes, chisels, and the like, have also been found in the Orissa and the Chhotanagpur hill areas.
|Wheat, barley, sheep, goat, Cattle||Mehrgarh (in present day-Pakistan)
|Rice, fragmentary, Animal bones||Koldihwa (in present-day Uttar Pradesh)
|Rice, cattle (hoof marks on clay surface)
|Mahagara (in present-day Uttar Pradesh)
|Wheat and lentil||Gufkral (in present-day Kashmir)
|Wheat and lentil, dog, cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo
|Burzahom (in present-day Kashmir)
|Wheat, green gram, barley, buffalo, ox
|Chirand (in present-day Bihar)
|Millet, cattle, sheep, goat, pig||Hallur (in present-day Andhra Pradesh)
|Black gram, millet, cattle, sheep, pig
|Paiyampalli (in present-day Andhra
TABLE SOURCE- [NCERT CHAPTER-3 CLASS-VI]