Neolithic Age in India

The Neolithic period began around 10700 to 9400 BC in Tell Qaramel in Northern Syria. In South Asia the date assigned to Neolithic period is 7000 BC and the earliest example is Mehrgarh Culture.

The human settlements in the Mesolithic era got more sedentary and this was the beginning of establishment of villages. Man now could keep cattle, sheep and goats and protect crops from pests. In due course, as the efficiency of agricultural production improved, some farmers were able to generate surplus food. As a consequence, a section of the population were freed from the task of food production and their talents and energies were diverted to tasks such as the production of pots, baskets, quarrying of stone, making of bricks, masonry and carpentry.

This was the beginning of the new occupations such as the oil presser, washerman, barber, musician, dancers etc. This transition from hunting-gathering to food production is called the Neolithic revolution. Around 6000BC, the smelting of metals such as Copper began which was used for raw material to be used in tool production. Later, Tin was mixed with cooper and bronze appeared which stronger metal than both tin and copper was. Use of bronze for tools led to the invention of wheel which revolutionized transport and pottery production.

The Neolithic period began around 10700 to 9400 BC in Tell Qaramel in Northern Syria. In South Asia the date assigned to Neolithic period is 7000 BC and the earliest example is Mehrgarh Culture. Mehrgarh is the oldest agricultural settlement in the Indian subcontinent.

Mehrgarh Culture

Mehrgarh is the oldest agricultural settlement in the Indian subcontinent Agriculture-based Neolithic settlements. Despite being the agriculture settlement, it used only stone tools, so is why placed in Neolithic Era. It flourished in the seventh millennium B.C.

Mehrgarh is located on the Bolan River, a tributary of the Indus, at the eastern edge of the Baluchistan plateau overlooking the Indus plain. The Mehrgarh culture has been divided into 8 sub periods and following are important features of these sub-periods:

First Period
  • Earliest period of Mehrgarh is characterized by polished stone tools, microliths and bone tools. In this phase the subsistence economy consisted of a combination of hunting, stock-breeding and plant cultivation.
  • The domesticated animals comprise cattle, sheep, goat and water buffalo while the cultivated plants comprise several varieties of wheat and barley.
  • The houses were made of mud and mud-bricks.
  • Multiple rooms without doors are believed to have been used for storing grain.
  • The dead were buried under the floors of the houses where people lived. Some of the skeletons which were buried have been found sprinkled with red ochre.
  • Necklaces of microbeads of steatite along with beads of turquoise, lapis lazuli and sea shell, stone axes and microliths have also been found in the graves.
  • In two cases, bodies of young goats were also found.
  • There was no pottery at this stage but baskets coated with bitumen were used.
Second Period
  • This period has left evidences of handmade, basket-impressed coarse ware. There was emergence of wheel-made pottery painted in reddish and black color with simple straight and curved lines, rows of dots and crisscrosses.
  • Sickles made of stone bladelets, set obliquely in wood handles with bitumen as the adhesive material, may have been used for harvesting.
  • Metal technology started , evident from the discovery of a copper ring and a bead .
  • Terracotta human figurines and bangles also appear.
Third Period
  • Improved farming around 3000 BC is evident from a new variety of barley, viz. Hordeum sphaerococcum, which can be grown only in irrigated fields.
  • The presence of cotton seeds suggests the possibility of the use of this fibre for textile manufacture.
  • The Vessels were now decorated with paintings of birds and animals as also with geometric designs. Oats and another variety of wheat was added to the agriculture.
  • Stone bead manufacturing and copper smelting started.

Fourth Period

  • Emergence of polychrome pottery with a tall goblet with wide mouth and a pedestal base as a new shape.
  • Extensive use of timber in the construction of houses, of female terracotta figurines with pendulous breasts and of stamped seals of terracotta and bone.
  • Emergence of commercial transactions.
Fifth Period
  • A marked decline in polychrome decoration on pottery.
Sixth Period
  • Dramatically increase in pottery styles and the first evidence of pottery kilns.
  • Pipal leaf and humped bull designs appear on pottery which anticipate Harappan motifs.
  • Proliferation of terracotta figurines, improved female figurines.

Seventh Period

  • Richness and variety of terracotta figurines very much similar to the Indus Valley Civilization.
  • Medial partition of the hair suggesting the popular practice among Hindu women.
  • Terracotta bulls with prominent humps and rams made in alabaster.
  • Designs of swastika, cruciforms and running animals on terracotta figurines.
  • Emergence of monumental architecture evident from a large brick platform.
Eighth Period
  • Structured graves, semi-precious stone beads and a bronze shaft-hole axe.
  • Cigar Snapped handmade Brick structures with fire places, stone blade industry using flint, composite stickle, grinding stones, bone tools, Pottery etc.

In April 2006, it was announced in the scientific journal Nature that the oldest (and first early Neolithic) evidence in human history for the drilling of teeth in a living person was found in Mehrgarh. Mehrgarh is now seen as a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization. “Discoveries at Mehrgarh changed the entire concept of the Indus civilization,”





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