Short Essay on the Neolithic Revolution


December 29, 2018 admin 0 Comment

His nomadic (mainly in quest for food), was replaced by settled life and a new relationship developed between him and a patch of cultivable land called ‘field’. This relationship completely changed his life. He no longer remained a hunter moving from place to place in small groups. He developed an organized community or social life.

Neolithic Cultures of Indian-Sub-Continent:

Granite rocks of north Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh provided suitable canvases to Neolithic man; Kupgallu, Piklihal and Tekkalakota are the three important sites. Apart form the depiction of various animals a site from Kupgallu presents a number of unique scenes where excited males with outsized organs are abducting females.

Under the category of Home Art is included any art executed on moveable objects. The prehistoric man beautified his body with necklaces, pins and bracelets made of ivory bone, stone and shell.

Various types of engraved designs on animal teeth and soft stones sculptured into exotic shapes have also been discovered form a number of sites of Mesolithic and Neolithic.

The discovery of prehistoric art, though scanty, throws important light on a very significant aspect of the prehistoric man. Bhattacharya (1984) sums up the situation very appropriately when he says that “Paleolithic art gives the earliest indication of the mind of Prehistoric man. Circumstantial evidences or arrangement of debris have all thrown indications about the Prehistoric society but his mind, by far, remained unknown to the analyst. His agonies or, for that matter, his sources of ecstasies will never be known to us. His art is the sole window we have to his mind, and hence its significance.”

Zonal Neolithic Sites:

In spite of the common characteristics, there are regional peculiarities in Neolithic cultures because of local environmental conditions and diversity of influences. Thus a strict regional and chronological treatment in not possible.

The probability of simultaneous or contemporary existence and overlapping of their cultures or certain cultural characteristics are noticed.

Among the zonal or regional Neolithic cultures the sites of Burzahom, Gofkral and Martand in Kashmir; Brahmagiri, Sangankallu, Piklihal, Maski, Nagarjunkonds, Untur, Narsipur and Tekkalkota from southern zone; Daojali Hading, Chirand and Barudih form eastern zone are important excavated sites.

Most of the knowledge we have about Indian Neolithic is based on these excavated sites specially Burzahom, Sangankallu, Brahmagiri-Piklihal, Daojali, Hading and Chirand.

Northern Neolithic:

Burzahom is situated on the second terrace of Jhelum near Srinagar. It has yielded at least 3 archaeological periods of occupation. At Burzahom 16 dwelling pits have been exposed and all of these belong to the earliest period (I). Most of these are circular to oval at top although, at the bottom they tend to be square or rectangular.

One of the largest of these pits measures 2.7 meter in diameter at the top. At the base it expands to 4.6 meter, and its depth is nearly 4 meters. A stair has also been cut on the earth to enable one to reach the bottom.

The ground on the surface shows a number of post-holes which are believed to have supported a thatched cover on the pit. Since the Neolithic people used to live in the pit and also had fire burning on their living floor, the roof had often been burnt down.

Around one pit as many as 45 post-holes have been found showing the number of times the thatched roof may have been destroyed and re-crested. The radio-carbon date for the oldest layer is 2375 BC. The youngest period (III) goes up to 1550 BC, i.e. the entire occupation has a duration which is parallel to the rise and decline of Harappa.

The cultural features of Burzahom period (I) appear quite significant. These people buried their dead in a variety of methods. Some are found buried in crouched position some in extended form and there are yet some which represent secondary internment. The skeletons were often covered with red ocher.

In one case the evidence of trepanning of the skull proves their possible knowledge of some kind of primitive surgery. Finally, in many cases either a full wild dog or selected bones of doges are fond buried with the human skeletons.

The pottery from phase (I) is represented by hand made, coarsely finished, ill fired pot sherds only. The only near complete shape found represents a 26 inches high jar with cylindrical neck and a flaring lip with a round bottom. It shows marks of woven mats on its surface.

The Celts recovered show a wide variety of function and forms. These include axes wedges, chisels, adzes, hoes, pick and perforated picks besides ring stones sling stones and querns. The bone tools found are equally rich. Harpoons, eyed needles, points and arrow heads are some of the most commonly occurring types among them.

Microliths are conspicuously absent all through. Rectangular stone knives with 2 holes driven along one of the long borders have been termed the harvester. These types are not known from anywhere else in India but are quite common in north Chinese Neoliths. Domesticated plants have so far not been reported from any of these Neolithic layers.

Southern Neolithic:

(i) Brahmagiri:

Wheeler dug at Brahamagiri. The pointed-butt polished axe seems to be the characteristic tool of southern Neolithic culture. The adze is another important type; a variety of chisels have also been discovered. Some pointed tools have been labeled as picks, borers or pointed tools. Besides these types, one gets hammer stone, sling stones, querns, etc. Bone tools were also used. The ceramic is characterised by a dominant hand made dull freeware.

(ii) Sangankallu:

The earliest manifestation of Neolithic culture in south India is seen at Sangankallu which was dug by Subbarao. All these sites show rather scattered habitation with a fairly interesting ceramic content but otherwise with mainly microliths. Neolithic axes or saddle and querns are found but in frequencies as one should expect in a Neolithic settlement.

The ceramics are dull gray in colour and are as a rule hand made. The shapes seems fairly exotic and do not match the personality of the culture. There are a variety of spouted vessels, some of them with hollow stands and low down external carnation.

Decoration as a rule is either missing or very insignificant. Some of these sites besides yielding what have been described above show large areas covered by cow dung ash.

(iii) Utnur:

At one site (Utnur) even the hoof impression from cattle pen ash mound has been identified. These evidences also led to the usage of the term Neolithic Ash mound sites in the literature. Evidently, such evidence came quite useful in interpreting a cattle keeping pastoral economy for the Neolithic in south India.

At this stage of our knowledge we can simply point out that even if this is true it does not apply to all the sites known from this zone. Interestingly enough the character of the sites shows no change either in habitation or the total material culture even after the arrival of metals.

(iv) Tekkalkota:

At Tekkalkota (Karnataka) 19 remains of small circular huts with 3 meter to 5 meter diameter were recorded. These ranged from 1780 BC to 1540 BC in date. Small and big wooden posts were erected in some cases while in others no such post-holes are seen.

Natural boulders and rocks scattered on the surface have been taken advantage of to hold the structure Burials are found under the floor of the house. Sometimes bodies have been interned within urns.

The granitic boulders near the site show some art execution by pecking and brushings, and also at times painting with red ocher. A bull, deer, gazelle or stylized human figures are some of the usual depictions recorded at many of these Andhra and Karnataka sites.

That these art works are of Neolithic period is supported by a gray ware ceramic lid found from Tekkalkota excavation. A bull, a cobra and two antelopes are executed in this lid by puncturing the clay when it was leather-hard.

Animal bones recovered indicate domesticated cattle, mainly buffalo, goat, sheep and dog. Experts have even opined that, anchylosis of the hook joints noted in eh cattle bones might indicate their use as draft animals.

Eastern Neolithic:

(i) Daojali Heading:

Further east and in the north Catcher hills another type of Neolithic adaptation is recorded from Daojali Hading. Unfortunately, this small scale excavation conducted by T. C. Sharma could not yield any evidence of habitation structure, although a large collection of ground and polished Celts besides grinding stones and pot-shreds have been described. No microliths or bone tolls are known from this site.

The Celts were mostly shouldered at the butt end and had the border ground sharp. Sharp angular shouldering in the Celts from these hilly Neoliths led many to doubt their antiquity.

It was argued that such sharp cutting of stones can only be done by metal and hence these must be belonging to a much younger date. This controversy could be partially settled by the exaction of Daojali Heading.

Which obviously does not show any metal age features? Further, some experts could physically demonstrate how a sliver of bamboo can be expertly used to cut the local soft stones (jadeite).

Some slabs of stones with grooves on them were also found in the excavation and this was explained as tones on which grinding of the stone axes was done. The ceramics recovered are extremely fragmented and hence could not be used for shape reconstruction. The fabric is coarse and shows evidence of having been hand made and ill fired. Almost all sherds carry cord impressions.

(ii) Sarutaru:

The absence of microliths, bone tool and artificially constructed habitations in addition to the occurrence of the distinctive variety of Celts led many specialists to believe that Daojali Heading may be representing a break-away group from Yunnan who developed a specialized area around Daohali Hading two more sites have been excavated.

The cultural material retrieved from these sites Sarutaru and Marakdola, is also not different from the Daojali Heading material culture. There are some radio-carbon dates available from these later sites but this show almost a BC/AD.

Border dae for these neolithic occupations. Assam Neolithic stands out as quite different from the rest of India. Numerous potsherds were recovered form the excavation and, significantly, in association with stone axes.

Pottery is handmade and decorated with cord impressions or basket’s impressions. Neolithic man here lived in mud walled houses. Unfortunately, this excavation too could not yield any information towards habitation structure.