Neolithic Period

 

Introduction

  • The term Neolithic Period refers to the last stage of the Stone Age
  • The Neolithic period is significant for its megalithic architecture, the spread of agricultural practices, and the use of polished stone tools.
  • Neolithic was a very important stage of the history of human culture, when humans were no longer dependent entirely on nature but had started to exploit nature to their own advantage.

 

Neolithic Culture

  • Agriculture
    • The idea of Neolithic Revolution refers to the origin of agriculture, animal domestication and a settled way of life
    • It indicates the transformation of society from a food gathering (hunting-gathering) economy to a food producing (agropastoral) economy.
    • The people of the Neolithic Age cultivated ragi, horse gram, cotton, rice, wheat, and barley and hence were termed as food producers.
    • They domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats, as well.
  • Tools
    • Unlike the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) period, people in this period began to use polished stone tools and axes, often called celts.
      • The Neolithic tools appear more refined than the crude flaked stone tools of the Palaeolithic period
    • They also used tools and weapons made of bone
  • Living
    • The introduction of domestication of plants and animals led to the production of a large quantity of grains and animal food.
      • The food that they produced had to be stored and hence, pottery-making emerged.
      • They had to settle in open areas away from caves and thus, houses were built.
      • Large villages developed and permanent residences were built
  • Housing
    • The people of the Neolithic Age lived in rectangular or circular houses which were made of mud and reed.
    • The people of Mehrgarh lived in mud-brick houses while pit-dwelling is reported from Burzahom, the Neolithic site found in Kashmir.
  • Pottery
    • With the advent of Agriculture, people were required to store their food grains as well as to do cooking, arrange for drinking water, and eat the finished product.
      • As a result, pottery first appeared in the Neolithic Age.
    • The pottery of the period was classified under grey ware, black-burnished ware, and mat-impressed ware.
  • Architecture
    • The Neolithic Age is significant for its Megalithic Architecture.
    • Megalithic means ‘large stone’ and in general, the word is used to refer to any huge, human-built or assembled structure or collection of stones or boulders
  • Community Life
    • Further, the surplus food production was one of the main factors for the development of early urban cultures at a later context.
    • Also, Neolithic people had common rights over property. They led a settled life.

 

Neolithic cultures of India

  • Extensive explorations and excavations have yielded immense amount of material about the Neolithic cultures of India.
  • One thing to note about Indian Neolithic is that Neolithic cultures in India did not develop everywhere at the same time, nor did they end simultaneously. There were regional variations too.
    • Thus, each of these regional Neolithic traditions seem to have been conditioned by local, ecological conditions and need to be studied separately.
  • Broadly, however, we can say that the Neolithic of India was a farming and pastoralism based sedentary/semi-sedentary village culture.
  • The Neolithic sites of the Indian subcontinent or South Asia are divided into various regional cultural groups, as follows:
RegionImportant PlacesCharacteristic Features
North-Western Region – Pakistan and AfghanistanMehrgarh in the Kacchi plains, Kili Gul Muhammad in the Quetta valley, Rana Ghundai in the Loralai valley and Anjira in the Surab valley.

 

·         It is one of the earliest regions of the world which has given combined evidence of plant and animal domestication.

 

Northern Region – KashmirBurzahom, Gufkral and Kanispur·         The Neolithic culture of Kashmir region was contemporary with the Harappan civilization.
Vindhyan Hills, the Belan and the Ganga River ValleysThe sites of ChopaniMando, Koldihwa, Lehuradeva and Mahagara in the Ganga valley are the important excavated sites of this region·         The Belan river valley witnessed one of the earliest Neolithic occupations in India.
Mid-Eastern Ganga Valley RegionChirand (on the banks of the river Ghagra in district Saran), Chechar, Senuwar

(near Sasaram) and Taradip

·         The Neolithic sites of this region also have evidence for transition to the Chalcolithic
Central-Eastern Region Kuchai, Golbaisasan and Sankarjang are some of the important Neolithic

sites of this region

·         These cultures show similarities with the Neolithic complexes

of east and Southeast Asia

North-Eastern IndiaMarakdola, Daojali Hading and Sarutaru are the Neolithic sites of Assam

region

·         In north-eastern India, the Neolithic culture belongs to a slightly later period.

·         This region today has evidence for shifting cultivation, cultivation of yams and taro, building stone and wooden memorials for the dead, and the presence of Austro-Asiatic languages.

South India Sanganakallu, Kodekal, Budihal, Tekkalakota,

Brahmagiri, Maski, T.Narsipur, Piklihal, Watkal, Hemmige and Hallur in

Karnataka; Utnur, Pallavoy, Nagarjunakonda, Ramapuram and Veerapuram in Andhra Pradesh; and Paiyyampalli in Tamil Nadu

·         The Neolithic people of South India had an agro-pastoral economy.

·         Further, the Neolithic sites of South India have ash mounds in the early stages and evidence of plant and animal domestication is found.

 

Social Organisation and Belief System

  • The evidence for understanding the social organization of the Neolithic people is very limited.
  • People began to live in sedentary and semi sedentary settlements. They perhaps had tribe level social organization.
  • The idea of land and plant ownership emerged, as they domesticated plants and animals.
  • The presence of small houses may suggest nuclear families.
  • The ceramics and beads suggest the improvement in material cultural production.
  • People had demarcated certain territories.
  • The dead were buried within the houses and sometimes, animal burials are also found. They suggest the adoption of certain rituals and the worship of the dead.
  • They may have worshipped the natural forces. Evidence of art objects is limited; the terracotta images of cattle suggest some fertility cult.

 

Thus, the transition from hunting-gathering to food-producing, in fact, brought about important changes in social and cultural development.

  • And, the foundations for the earliest Indian villages were laid in the Neolithic times.