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The Neolithic Age

02-MAY-2015 16:32

    Overview

    The Neolithic Age started in India around 7,000 B.C. It was the third and last part of the Stone Age. The other two parts were 1) Paleolithic Age (500,000 B.C. to 10,000 B.C.) and 2) Mesolithic Age (9,000 B.C. to 4,000 B.C.). The Neolithic Age is mainly characterized by the development of settled agriculture and the use of tools and weapons made of polished stones.  

    Key points related to the Neolithic Age are as following:

    • The time span of the Neolithic Age in India was around 7,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.
    • The Neolithic Age was preceded by Mesolithic Age (9,000 B.C. to 4,000 B.C.) and succeeded by Chalcolithic Age (c.2100 to 700 B.C.)
    • The major crops grown were ragi, horse gram, cotton, rice, wheat, and barley. The people of this age domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats. They resided in pits near a lake side and had hunting and fishing economy
    • The people used microlithic blades in addition to tools made of polished stones as well as bones. They used axes, adzes, chisels, and celts
    • Pottery first appeared in this age and included grey ware, black burnished ware, and mat-impressed ware
    • The Neolithic Age is significant for its Megalithic Architecture
    • The people of this period lived in circular or rectangular houses which were made from mud and reed. At some places they lived in mud-brick houses
    • They had common rights over property and led a settled life
    • The Neolithic settlements have been found in North-Western part (Such as Kashmir), Southern part (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh), North Eastern frontier (Meghalaya), and Eastern part (Bihar and Odisha) of India
    • Some of the important Neolithic settlements are Mehrgarh (located in Baluchistan, Pakistan), Burzahom (Kashmir), Gufkral (Kashmir), Chirand (Bihar), and Utnur (Andhra Pradesh)
    • The oldest Neolithic settlement in the Indian Subcontinent was Mehrgarh which is located in Baluchistan, a province of Pakistan
    • Jarf el Ahmar and Tell Abu Hureyra (both in Syria) were the major Neolithic sites in Asia

    In Detail

    Neolithic Age, which means New Stone Age, was the last and third part of Stone Age. The term Stone Age was first used in the late 19th Century AD and it was divided by the historians into different periods which are as following: Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic.

    The word Neolithic is a combination of Neo+lithic. Neo means new or recent. It originated from Greek word Neos. The word lithic is related to the use of stone implements in a specified cultural period. It originated from the Greek word lithikos which means stone.

    The other two parts of Stone Age were 1) The Paleolithic Age (500,000 B.C. to 10,000B.C.) and 2) The Mesolithic Age (9,000B.C. to 4,000 B.C.). The Neolithic Age started in 9,000 B.C. in world context but in Indian context it started around 7,000 B.C.  

    Preceded by the Mesolithic Age (9,000 B.C. to 4,000 B.C.) and succeeded by the Chalcolithic Age (c.2100 to 700 B.C.), the Neolithic Age is mainly characterized by the development of settled agriculture and the use of tools and weapons made of polished stones.    

    The Neolithic Age was succeeded by the Chalcolithic Age (c.2100 to 700 B.C.) which saw the use of copper; the first metal to be used at the end of the Neolithic Age.

    Chronology

    The Neolithic Age started in 9,000 B.C. in world context but in Indian context it was varying from 7,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C. In South India, the Neolithic settlements are generally considered to be around 2,500 B.C. old while the Neolithic sites discovered on the northern spurs of the Vindhyas are not older than 5,000 B.C. Some Neolithic sites found in parts of Eastern India and South India are only 1,000 B.C. old.

    Characteristics

    The Neolithic Age saw the man turning into food producer from food gatherer. It also witnessed the use of pottery for the first time. People used microlithic blades in addition to tools made of polished stone. The use of metal was unknown.

    Agriculture: The people of Neolithic Age cultivated ragi, horse gram, cotton, rice, wheat, and barley and hence were termed as food producers. They domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats.

    Tools: The people used microlithic blades in addition to tools made of polished stones. They used stone hoes and digging sticks for digging the ground. The ring stones of 1-1/2 kg of weight were fixed at the ends of these digging sticks. They also used tools and weapons made of bone; found in Burzahom (Kashmir) and Chirand (Bihar).

    Weapons: The people primarily used axes as weapons. The North-western part of Neolithic settlement used rectangular axes having curved cutting edge. The Southern part used axes with oval sides and pointed butt while polished stone axes with rectangular butt and shouldered hoes were use in the north-eastern part.

    Housing: The people of 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 eating the finished product. That’s why 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.

    Technology: In the initial stage of the Neolithic Age, hand-made pottery was made but later on the foot-wheels were used to make pots.

    Community Life: Neolithic people had common right over property. They led a settled life.

    Geographical Location

    The Neolithic people did not live far away from the hilly areas. They habited mainly the hilly river valleys, rock shelters, and the slopes of the hills since they were entirely dependent on weapons and tools made from stone.

    They inhabited northern spurs of the Vindhyas, Kashmir, South India, Eastern India, Meghalaya (north-eastern frontier of India), and Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of Uttar Pradesh.

    Some of the important Neolithic settlements are Mehrgarh (located in Baluchistan, Pakistan), Burzahom (Kashmir), Gufkral (Kashmir), Chirand (Bihar), and Utnur (Andhra Pradesh).

    Jarf el Ahmar and Tell Abu Hureyra (both in Syria) were the major Neolithic sites in Asia.  

    Successor

    The Neolithic age was succeeded by Chalcolithic (Chalco+lithic) Age which means stone-copper phase. Chalco is a Greek word which means copper. Lithic originated from the Greek word lithikos which means stone. The first metal to be used following the end of Neolithic period was copper.

    The list of Neolithic sites, their locations, and characteristics are given below:

    Name of Neolithic Site

    Location

    Time Span

    Characteristics

    Mehrgarh

    Baluchistan, Pakistan

    7,000 B.C.

    Produced cotton and wheat and lived in mud-brick houses.

    Burzahom (the place of birch)

    Kashmir

    2,700 B.C.

    The people lived on a lake side in pits.

    Domestic dogs were buried along with their masters in their graves. Used tools and weapons made of polished stone as well as bone.

    Gufkral

    Kashmir

    2,000 B.C.

    Practiced both agriculture & domestication of animals. Used tools and weapons made of polished stone as well as bone.

    Chirand

    Bihar

    2,000 B.C.

    Used tools and weapons made of bone.

    Pikilihal, Brahmagiri, Maski, Hallur, Takkalakota, T. Narsipur, Kodekal, Sanganakallu

    Karnataka

    2,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.

    The people in Piklihal were cattle-herders. They domesticated sheep, goats, and cattle. Ash mounds have been found.

    Paiyampalli

    Tamil Nadu

    2,000-1,000 B.C.

     

    Utnur

    Andhra Pradesh

    2,000-1,000 B.C.

     

    Limitation of the Neolithic Age

    Since the people of the Neolithic Age were heavily dependent on stones for making their tools and weapons, they could not settle far away from the hilly areas. Their settlements covered only the slopes of the hills, hilly river valleys, and rock shelters.

    Moreover, their production was never more than their basic subsistence.

    Conclusion

    Considerable progress was made in Neolithic Age in terms of technology. The people developed the practices of cultivation, domestication of animals, building houses, pottery, weaving, and writing. This revolutionized man’s life and paved the way for the beginning of civilization.

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