ancient history - an overview

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  • Earth is very old and so is the antiquity of man. The earliest human fossils have been found in Africa dating about 4.2 million years. The primitive man was shorter in height and had a smaller brain. Homo sapiens evolved over a period of these years about 50,000 years ago. Humans have been using stone tools and their life story is, therefore, divided into Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic age.

  • First Fossile -- Male -Ramapithecus Female -Shivapithecus (10-14 million years ago) These fossils were found in Shivalik and Salt range Homoerectus: Found in Hathnora (Lower Palaeolithic) 10 lakh B.C. Homo sapiens : Found in Upper Palaeolithic Regions

  • It was basically a hunting and food gathering culture 'Palaeo' means 'old' and 'lithic' means 'stone'. Palaeolithic age in India is divided into three phases: Early or Lower Palaeothic (50,000 - 100,000 BC) : It covers the greater part of the Ice Age and its characteristic feature is the use of hand-axe, cleaners and choppenMiddle Palaeothic (100,000 - 40,000 BC): The Middle Palaeothic culture is characterised by flakes. The principal tools are variety of blades, points and scrappers made of flakes. Upper Palaeolithic (40,000 - 10,000 BC) : It marks the appearance of Homo Sapiens and new flint industries; widespread appearance of a figurines and other artifacts reflecting art and rituals; the appearance of wide range of bone tools, including needles, fishing tools, harpoons, blades and burin tools.

  • Earliest Palaeolithic man lived on hunting and food gathering. The hunting and gathering pattern was dependent upon the season. The nature of stone tools also varied according to the climate. Not knowing how to grow his food, he ate fruits, birds, raw animal flesh etc. The people were wanderers and moved from places to place. They took refuge under the rocks in caves and hollow tree trunks. Rock paintings and carvings have been numerously founded in Bhimbetka from different periods. The animals depicted in these paintings were mostly bisons, elephants, tigers, rhinocerous, boars etc. and were based on their hunting lives. The upper Palaeolithic art is characterised by red and green colours.

  • Facts to Remember The Palaeolithic culture of India developed in Pleistocene period. Robert Bruce Foot was the first to discover a Palaeolithic stone in India in 1863.The Palaeolithic research in India got a boost only with the coming of Yale Cambridge Expedition in 1935 led by Deterra and Patterson. The tools were usually made of hard rock 'quartzite' and therefore Palaeolithic man in India is also called "Quartzite Man"

  • It was the transitional between Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages. Its characcteristic tools are microliths all made of stone. The microliths were first discovered by Carlyle in 1867 from Vindhyan Rock Shelters. This age is also known by various names like Late Stone Age or Microlithic Age. The Mesolithic people lived on hunting, fishing and food-gathering. Earliest domestication of animals has alo been witnessed from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Mesolithic Tools : Tools are characterised by parallel-sided blades taken out from prepared cores of fine-materials as chert, crystal, chalcedony, jasper, carnelian, agate etc. and were generally one to five centimeters long.

  • Paintings : At various sites in Bhimbetka, Adamgarh, etc. rock and cave paintings have been discovered. In these paintings, various subjects including animals and human scenes have been found. Animals are the most frequently depicted subjects either alone or in large and small groups and shown in various poses. Depiction of human figures in rock paintings is quite common. Dancing, running, hunting, playing games and quarrelling were commonly depicted scenes. Colours like deep red, gree, white and yellow were used in making these paintings.

  • The word 'neolithic' was first coined by Sir John Lubbock in 1865. Miles Burkit enumerated four characteristics of neolithic culture Animal domesticationAgricultural practice Grined and Polished stone tools and Pottery manufacture The discovery of the tools and implements of the neolithic age was made by Le Mesurier in Uttar Pradesh in 1860. Later on, Frasher discovered such objects in Bellary in South India. The people of this age used tools and implements of polished stone.

  • Neolithic People : The civilisation and culture of the Neolithic age shows distinct traces of progress. The Neolithic men had a settled life. They practised agriculture and grew fruits and corn. Animals, such as the cow, dog, ox, goat etc. were domesticated. The art of producing fire by the friction of bamboos or pieces of stones was known to them. Instead of eating the uncooked flesh of various animals, they now started roasting it. Besides this, bows and arrows were invented and were used for the purpose of hunting. They also learnt pottery, at first by hand and then with the potter's wheel. They painted and decorated their pots. They lived in caves, the walls of which were polished and painted with the scenes of hunting and dancing. The also learnt the art of spinning and weaving clothes. They used to bury their dead and construct tombs over them which were known as Dolmens, Menhirs etc.s

  • Neolithic Tools : The stone tools of the Neolithic age bear unmistakeable signs of polish either all over the tools or at the buttend and working-end, or only at the working end. They fashioned their tools out of fine-grained dark-green trap, though there are examples of the use of diorite, basalt, slate, chlorite, schist, indurated shale, gneiss, sand stone and quartzite. Occupation : Neolithic settlers were cattle-herders and agriculturists. They produced ragi, wheat, barley, rice, masoor, moong, kulthi etc. Hand-made pottery is also found in the early stage. Elephant, rhino, buffalo, ox, stag remains are also found in plenty. But there is no specification of these domesticated. The pottery were well made but were coarse in nature, not that much polished. Red, Grey, Black and Red Ware, Black Burnished Ware and Mat-impressed Wars are associated with this culture. Tools making was another important occupation which included a variety of picks, scrapers, eyed needles, bodkins and pierced batons.

  • Towards the end of the Neolithic period began the use of metals. Firt metal to be used was copper and the culture of that time is called Chalcolithic cultre. The earliest settlements belonging to this phase are extended from the Chhotanagpur plateau to the copper Gangetic basin. Some sites are found at Brahmagiri near Mysore and Navada Toli on the Narmada. The transition from use of stone to the use of metals is slow and long drawn. There is no doubt that there was an overlapping period when both stone and metals were used. This is proved by the close resemblance of metallic tools and implements with those made of stone. The Chalcolithic i.e. copper bronze age or stone-copper age of India produced a splendid civilisation in the Indus Valley which spread in the neighbouring regions. Occupation: Their economy was based on subsistence agricultre, stock-raising, hunting and fishing. Their tools consisted of a specialised blade and flake of silicious material like chalcedony and chert. Copper and bronze tools were present in a limited number. The culture shares the common characteristic of painted pottery. Burial Practices: Another striking feature was the burial practice of the dead. The dead were buried in north-south position in Maharashtra but in east-west position in south India. In eastern India, only a fraction of population buried their dead.

  • More than forty hoards consisting of rings, celts, hatches, swords, harpoons, spearheads and human-like figures have been found in a wide area ranging from West Bengal and Orrisa in the East to Gujrat and Haryana in the West, and from Andhra Pradesh in the south to Uttar Pradesh in North. The largest hoard comes from Gungeria in Madhya Pradesh; it contains 424 copper tools and weapons and 102 thin sheets of silver objects. But nearly half of the copper hoards are concentrated in the Ganga-Yamuna doab. All the implements of the copper hoards supplemented by stone tools led a settled life, and were one of the earliest Chalcolithic agriculturists and artisans to settle in a good portion of the doab.

  • In Southern India, use of iron came after the use of stone. In any case, there were periods of overlappongs in the use of stone, copper, bronze and iron. Our only evidence of the transition from copper-bronze age to the iron age is the monuments like dolmens, cairns, cremolechs. These have been found in wide areas all over India such as Assam, Bihar, Orrisa, Central India, Gujrat and Kashmir. But by far the largest number has been found in south India, in Karnataka and the Decan. These iron monuments appear to have belonged to both pre-historic and historic periods. Monuments discovered in Hyderabad, Mysore, Tinnevelly district, Coimbatore, Malaba, Penumbur etc. also show varied stages of development. Neolithic, Microlithic tools along with copper, bronze and iron implements have been discovered, making it difficult to identify the actual period of transition from copper-bronze age to iron age. At this stage of our limited knowledge, no definite conclusion in this regard can be arrived at. Iron age is usually associated with the Painted Grey Ware. Painted Grey Ware (PGW) :It referes to the ceramics which have been fired grey and then painted with black designs. The name chosen is highly misleading and can lead many beginners to think this, as a type, which is painted with grey colour. The grey colour, it is believed, is obtained by firing thin clay pots to as high as at temperature as 800 degree celcius.