The Neolithic Age in India

Instructor: Joanna Harris

Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership

The shift from hunting and gathering to animal domestication and agriculture took place at different times across the globe. If you would like to learn more about this time in India, this lesson has great source material for use.

The Neolithic Age

The Stone Age was a time of extreme shifts in climate and human evolution. During these years Neanderthals learned how to use fire and hunt large game using stone tools and weapons (Paleolithic Era 2.5 million years ago). The Ice Age was also coming to an end as lands previously above sea level became covered by the oceans due to the melting of the huge glaciers that covered much of the world's surface (Mesolithic Era ended around 10,000 years ago).

The Neolithic Era, or New Stone Age, began worldwide around 10,000 BCE. During these years the Cro-Magnons had replaced the Neanderthals, progressed far beyond the discovery of fire, and had migrated across the globe to begin the earliest civilizations around major rivers.

Neolithic India

The Neolithic Era is sometimes referred to as the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution marked by the knowledge and understanding of animal domestication for food and labor and the first instances of farming. This advancement for humans is what allowed the River Valley Civilizations to grow and cultivate the first governments, religions, calendars, and later empires.

The Neolithic Era in India didn't happen in tandem across the subcontinent, and agriculture and animal domestication appeared at different times. The First Period of the Neolithic Era in India began around 7000 BC and ended in 5500 BC. The Second Period of the Neolithic Era lasted roughly one thousand years from 5500 BC to 4500 BC. The Third Period of the Neolithic Era was also one thousand years from 4500 BC to 3500 BC.

The following information will break the subcontinent of India into regions, so as to discuss how the Neolithic Era was different in particular areas.

Northern India

The main agricultural crops grown in this part of the subcontinent during the Neolithic Era were wheat and barley which is different than other regions where the main grain was rice. Sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, and cattle bones have been found in storage pits which denote the types of animals northern Indians used for food and labor during the era.

In Gufkral, there have been found stone tools that were polished, bone tools like horns, and even terracotta pieces and handmade as well as wheel made pottery. In Burzahom there have been large burial grounds excavated for both humans and dogs which show the importance dogs held to early Indians for hunting. And in Kanishkapura excavations of Neolithic homes have been discovered that show Indians lived in rectangle shaped homes with roofs that were thatched with local vegetation.

Central India

The central Indian area is where the growing of rice is thought to have occurred in India in the Koldihawa region. More homes have been found in this area of India that are wattle and daub homes with thatched roofs and mud or dirt walls. Handmade pottery has also been found of various reds and blacks where the remains of rice husks were found which illustrate the importance the grain had to the region.

Wattle and Daub House depiction
wattle and daub house

In Mahagara, more bone tools have been found replete with a bone tool kit that had minerals like agate and quartz added to the bone as well. Pottery in this area of central India have been found that were made with straw and rice husks that vary from plain to ornamental and hand painted. There were also cattle pens in this part of the area which show how important beef was to the diet of these central Indians during the Neolithic Era.

Eastern India

Eastern India has not undergone the types of excavations that central and northern India have so less is known about this area during the Neolithic Era. In the area of Kuchai stone tools that were polished and used as axes have been found, but not much else presently. In Barudih, there have been iron slag heaps found which may illustrate the beginnings of the Iron Age in India along with wheel made pottery which also illustrates that this area of India may have been more advanced than other areas, and entered the Iron Age earlier than the rest of the subcontinent.

Depiction of Early Pre-Indus Civilization Pottery

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