In this article we will discuss about:- 1. General Considerations 2. The Western Border 3. Early Farming Communities of Gujarat 4. Foreign Invasion 5. Climatic Change 6. Tectonic Phenomena 7. Hydrological Changes 8. ‘Copper Hoard’ Culture 9. Extra Harappan Chalcolithic 10. Southern Chalcolithic Group.
A discussion of Chalcolithic India as a chrono-cultural phase becomes difficult because of the acute incongruencies recorded between various regions within the country. To an anthropologist, however, these incongruencies are mainly caused by our methodological shortsightedness. When we are dealing with culture change we need to keep in our mind that culture seldom changes on its own initiatives.
The multiple imperatives operating within a community are the ones which act as the prime mover. Thus, if a community seeks adaptation within a not-too-favourable ecology and can keep its population density from changing, then its progression towards a complex social structure can be enormously retarded.
Looking at the available geo-climatic data from the western coast it would be quite clear that around 3000 B.C. the sea level was up by a minimum of 3 metres and this more or less coincided with the humid C-palynological zone identified at Pushkar. It is around this time that Kili Ghul Mohammad and Damb Sadat occupations took place in Baluchistan region.
Periods of dry phases have since then been occurring at increasing frequency. Finally, around 1000 B.C. in the entire region from Baluchistan including southern Afghanistan to almost Iran desert, conditions overpowered the stretch. In rest of India this dry phase must have considerably increased the steppe cover and created numerous lakes.
Who discovered the first metal, copper or how he harnessed it within his culture will perhaps never be known but we will consider the cultural features of some of these archaeological evidences where copper has been found with stone tools and hence referred to as Chalcolithic period.
The Western Border:
Towards the north of Kandhar city and not very far from Lashkari Bazar in Afghanistan occurs the famous site of Mundigak which was excavated for 10 years from 1951.
Mundigak does not exactly form the western border of India but it is important for two reasons:
1. It is a site which lies almost mid-way between the Iranian influence in the west and the Baluchi region in the east.
2. Lashkari Bazar was Mahamud Ghazni’s winter capital from where he controlled the passes from Kandhar to Indus valley in order to invade the country at his will. Mundigak and its influence in the same manner might have had a monopoly influence in the Indus region.
It is needless to emphasize that Mundigak is completely an independent development of Afghanistan but flourished long enough (approx. 4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C.) to show the spread of its influence farther east, at the same time being itself influenced from the west. Briefly speaking 4 distinct periods of occupation have been identified.
Radio-carbon date from nearly top of this period is estimated as 3945 B.C. This represents a semi-nomadic occupation and rudimentary evidences of dwelling which might have been constructed with pise are found in the initial phases of this period. The final phases show mud brick used for rectangular houses with compartments made inside.
Fire hearths or ovens are found within the rooms. Wheel-made painted ware found usually included various kinds of bowls, cups and jars. Figurines of cattle and humans along with both alabaster and copper are found from this period. Some of the pottery has even polychrome paintings on them.
The radio-carbon date for this period is 3480 B.C. Although there is a denser occupation in this period, there is hardly any cultural innovation recorded. Infact the ceramics are distinctly cruder than the older period. Sling stones, stone arrow points, crude stone button seals and bones are the other objects recorded. The dwelling structures follow almost the same pattern.
The radio-carbon date for this period is 2995 B.C. The period is marked by very well painted wheel-made pots. Dwelling structures are still prepared by sun baked clay and there appears to be more emphasis on clusters of smaller rectangular rooms, each one of them maintaining a door which opens outside but without any inner connection between the rooms. Wells are dug between these room clusters.
Bronze axes with hole and socket, bone and stone tools form the other cultural objects of this period. Big narrow-mouthed jars, funnel shaped bowls, deep bowls with flat or rimmed base besides the typical beaker shaped vessels form the usual types. The paintings executed are usually geometric with filled-in areas. But pipal leaf and birds are also recorded in some cases.
A radio-carbon date of 2500 B.C. is ascribed to this period, for the first time the settlement shows a transformation towards fortified city features, although the bricks used are still sun dried. Massive defence walls, square bastions, and temple complex form the main structures of this period.
Pottery shows red slipped ware on which extensive decoration with black paint has been done. Various patterns of filled-in geometric designs form the usual motifs but birds, ibex, bull and pipal leaf are also executed. Terra-cotta female figurines and male head with hair tied behind are the other two important features of this period.
Apparently many of the features of Mundigak-IV have their parallel in the sites lying further east in the Quetta valley. Mundigak offers a near complete archaeological evidence of a village evolving into an urban civilization with high degree of social complexity. But this would appear very simplistic unless we can keep our minds open to various cross-currents of influence that might have been working on this population at this time.
Normally no Afghan village, with or without the knowledge of metal, can be expected to show such a rapid pace of growth as Mundigak seems to indicate. In the absence of concrete evidences of the processes that might have been active in the whole region during the period we always seem to be taking these 2000 years of occupation as long enough to show the rise of statehood.
It does not require much effort to search evidences from the contemporary village India to prove that rise of a state is not a natural eventuality for every farming society. Mundigak, therefore, has to be viewed within the canvas of the entire Irano-Afghan scenario.
The region between Baluchistan and the plains of Indus is marked by several groups of insular developments and each of these has, in some way, influenced the Indus Civilization. These influences are better marked in the Indus ceramics and hence have developed names which refer mainly to the ceramic features.
We might attempt to identify these distinctive styles as follows:
i. Rana Ghundai:
It is located very close to the Loralai town. The lower level which is termed as Period I show no structural evidence. The period is represented by hand made pottery, stone blade industry and bone tools. The animal remains consist of goat, humped cattle and sheep. Period II yielded painted black-on-red ware and other ceramic types similar to Kile Ghul Mohammed II.
ii. Periano Ghundai:
It is located on the Zhob valley in the extreme north of Baluchistan. The site was excavated in 1924 by Stein. The earliest phase in this site coincides with Rana Ghundai IIc. The finds comprise leaf-shaped bifacial arrow heads, stone blades, and female figurines of the sort commonly known as ‘Zhob goddesses.’ A distinctive form of ceramics known from this site has roughened surface prepared by rubbing wet hand. Besides these a large number of terra-cotta figurines of humped bulls are also known from here.
A number of other sites with almost similar antiquities are known from this area.
iii. Sur Jangal:
It is located in the Valley of Thai River in the district Loralai and was excavated by Stein. Three major phases of occupation has been identified. The ceramics of Phase I are coarse but bears painted designs of both humped and humpless bulls like in Kile Ghul Mohammed III ware.
It is located 230 km. south of Quetta in central Baluchistan. The excavation uncovered 5 periods of occupation. Period I has no structural debris but it shows ash rich earth, stones and other domestic rubbish. A good number of chert blades occur within this deposit.
This is accompanied by a wheel made highly burnished red-slipped ware often with painting in black. Period II is characterised by the mud brick walls on a solid foundation. The ceramics are of two types-red slipped burnished and hand-made creams slipped basket marked ware. These compare well with those known from Kile Ghul Mohammed II and III varieties.
v. Sarai Khola:
This site is situated in the Taxila valley and lies barely 3 km. away from it. Halim excavated the site and described 4 periods of occupation. The antiquities recorded are ground stone tools, a flakes blade industry and bone points. The ceramic is represented by a hand-made burnished ware. Mughal commented that it compares with Burzahom Neolithic in India and also with the Yangshoo horizon of the Neolithic in China.
It is located 65 km. south west of Harappa in the central Indus plain. The site was excavated by Mughal in 1971. It records two clear periods of occupation. Period I records rudimentary evidence of mud brick walls and mud floors. Besides these no substantial structural remains are known from this period.
The ceramics is thick in texture and hand made. Globular vessels with a very short neck are a form which reminds one of early stages of Amri. In addition to these chert blades, bone points, terra cotta net sinkers, sheet gold beads and burnt animal bones identified as goat, sheep and gazelle are also recorded.
In the western plains of Indus several other minor sites are known.
Rahman Dheri is an important site in this region. It shows three distinct phases of occupation and was taken as roughly comparable to Gumla II-III. The site revealed mud brick structures which could be parts of the town wall. Probably there was also basic layout of streets.
Ceramic types are distinctive and painted in black. Several types of terra cotta figurines are also found. Carbon-14 samples show that the early period dates between 3340 and 3160 B.C. The other two dated put it on the threshold of the Indus period. These range between 2600 to 2480 B.C.
vii. Lewan Dar Dariz:
Exploration in the Bannu basin has revealed a number of other sites of significance. Of these Dar Dariz was excavated during 1977-1978. This yielded a rich collection of stone tools, which include ring stone, ground stone axes, hammers and querns. In some of the stones series of grooves produced during grinding of celts could also be demonstrated. The ceramics is painted with black paint and in many aspects these compare with Rahman Dheri.
viii. Quetta Ware:
This ware is best evidenced at the two sites of Kile Ghul Mohammad and Damb Sadat. The ceramics are characterized by a distinct variety of decoration and shape. A cream and buff colour slip is used and, over this, bold black colour is used to execute the decoration. The decorations are mainly in the form of squares, waves and steps.
The alternate areas in these lines are executed in colour so that the decoration stands out in bold relief. In the final stages varieties of floral motives are evolved. One of the most characteristic shapes is a beaker shaped ware with ring base and often with slightly concave vertical body.
ix. Zhob Ware:
This ware has been described from Periano Ghundai in the extreme north of Baluchistan and is also identified in Mundigak. These are usually red slipped wares which show more of animals, birds and human figure decorations. Open-mouthed bowl with incised lines on the inner surface forms one of the characteristic types of this group. A terra cotta female figurine-with goggled eyes and covered head-forms one of the cultural objects and has earned the name of Zhob mother goddess.
x. Amri-Nal Ware:
These two ware groups belong to the same period, though with different origin. Amri culture essentially belongs to the plains while that of Nal to the hills. These two cultures have certain common elements. In both the kinds the fabric is fine and thin and has a cream-coloured slip. The painted designs are mostly geometric, though animal forms also appear in moderately high frequency.
The animal forms usually depicted are fish, scorpions and humped bulls. The Amri ceramics are usually bichrome, that is, in red and black. While Amri lies almost on the main Indus valley, Nal is further west and is situated near the Baluch hills. Nal, therefore, shows more evidence of affinity with the sites of hilly Baluchistan. The decorations are in polychrome i.e., colours like black, brown, red, yellow and even blue and green are used.
xi. Kulli Ware:
Like Amri-Nal Kulli also belongs to the southern limit of Baluchistan and Pakistan. 15 km south of Kulli a site called Nindowari has now been excavated which shows a Kulli ware occupation lying directly under a Harappan culture. This culture is usually identified with globular bottle shaped vessels and perforated jars.
The fabric is usually buff-pinkish with a white or pale red slip. The decoration usually depicts naturalistic animals often with landscapes and trees etc. Animals drawn are usually shown humped. Besides these, geometrical designs in the form of series of lines, dots etc. are also commonly executed.
xii. Kot Diji:
The site lies north of Amri and is situated on the eastern bank of Indus almost within its middle reaches. It has a cream slip with red, sepia or black decoration. Dark or wavy bands with some animal motifs form the usual depictions. Curved horns with six petaled flowers between the horn tips of fish-scale designs take characteristic shapes. Mughal has chosen a large number of Kot Diji pottery types to demonstrate linkage of Early Harappans with this site.
Early Farming Communities of Gujarat:
Prior to the emergence of the ancient cities of Indus Valley character many of the adjoining southern and eastern regions show evidence of village settlements. These are entirely different from those recorded from Baluchistan and Afghanistan for the same period.
In the Rupen river estuary of north Gujarat the evidences uncovered at Prabhas Patan is quite revealing. The first occupation here is dated to C 2900 B.C. and is named as ‘Pre-Prabhas’ period. Unfortunately a very clear picture of the culture is not known. The pottery is mostly gritty and sturdy. These are mostly red or gray ware with incised chevron decorations, although a solitary example of bright red, burnished slip is also present.
Nagwada is another site from near Baroda which shows the culture during this phase. The period I, which is dated to C. 3000 to 2600 B.C., is probably the earliest evidence of human movement from Sindh to Gujarat before the rise of I.V.C. This phase is mostly recognised by ceramics of hard pink to red fabric. The pottery shapes often compare with those known from pre-urban period of Amri in Sindh.
Thus, we see that from Mundigak to Kot Diji there are numerous early farming communities settled at different nooks of valleys which developed their own characteristic features. The entire episode can be roughly taken to have stayed from 3100 to 2100 B.C., i.e. for approximately 1000 years. Almost all of these sites show ceramic similarity with the Iranian sites on the one hand and Harappans on the other.
It will, therefore, be logical to assume that origin of Harappa may have links with these hill cultures. This relation can be visualized as mere confederation of these ‘tribes’ as authors of separate cultures or a mere bringing together of the artisans of these cultures under a different and more powerful social organization.
Archaeologically speaking all these cultures show certain common processes and features as follows:
1. A simple village life with mud-brick dwellings and inicroliths with crude pottery forms the emerging pattern.
2. Subsequent phases show little change to support external influence. In fact, many of these continue with microliths inspite of the appearance of metal. Ceramics show a distinct emphasis on very colourful decoration.
3. With time secular structures start appearing with distinct evidence of a large population maintained within the system. Multichrome artistic pottery is soon replaced with black-on-red bichrome styles. Mud brick structures still continue although often a rectangular room without any outlet has been found to evolve. Archaeologists believe that these were merely structures raised on which the actual dwelling was constructed with wood. The raising of the dwelling, therefore, appears as a necessity although we would perhaps never know why.
4. Some of these sites continue to survive even after the Harappans had consolidated their regime in the lower plains.
Piggot (1950), Gordon (1958) and Wheeler (1947) have separately supported a foreign invasion theory to explain the rather abrupt decline of Indus culture. The invasion model is sought to be supported by the fact that the defense wall was periodically reinforced at the urban sites and also the ancient texts, particularly (Rig Veda) mentions of similar invasions and conquering of cities and towns by the Indo-Europeans.
Bronze weapons and other kinds of Indo-European associated traditional weapons have been found on the surface of Urban Harappan levels. The invasion theory seeks support from these archaeological evidences. It was difficult to support this theory primarily because almost all scholars agree that a decline starts much before the accepted date of Rig Veda.
Waves of nomads and mauroders must have been coming from central Asia periodically and a defence against them was done by the walls. However, the supporters of invasion theory have their own body of evidences. Wheeler, for instance, has referred to the discovery of skeletons from the topmost level at Mohenjodaro with signs of violent massacre, similar evidence have been found in HR area where a group of 13 skeletons of males, females and a child were found in state which suggests their killing one after another.
Dales and Raikes argue that not all the skeletons at Mohenjodaro belong to the final phase. There are no signs of burning and destruction and there were no skeletons found in the citadel area which was the main center of power. In his later writings Wheeler became less emphatic about this theory and today it is more or less discarded.
In early 1950s both Wheeler and Piggot also supported this theory. As early as 1930s Marshall and Aurel Stein had opined that the climate of this region during the Harappan period was wetter than today and it was the slowly increasing aridity which caused a failure of the economy and hence the civilization.
They collected several archaeological evidences to support their theory but these were not conclusive because these evidences could be explained with alternative causes as well. Recently Gurdeep Singh studied the palynological spectrum of the Rajasthan salt lakes and opined that a causal relationship exists between increased rain fall and the development and reduced rainfall and decline in the Harappan civilization. Singh could not get a large support from the archaeologists.
This theory is basically derived to explain the water deposited layers encountered at Mohenjodaro city area. Amri and Chanhudaro also produced similar evidence. It was argued that the river Indus was flooded suddenly because of tectonic phenomena. But Kalibangan or for that matter the Saurashtra sites show no such evidence.
In 1952, M.R. Sahani, a geologist and palaeontologist studied the silty deposits of Indus plain and suggested that flood in this region was not a case of mere overflow of the river but was probably an event more than that. Thus, the tectonic theory was once again sought to be substantiated.
This theory was more elaborated by Raikes (1964, 1975) and Dales (1966). They carried detailed investigation of the river bank. At places Raikes record silty deposits as high as 30 feet above ground. According to him the deposits are of still water origin and that these conditions were caused by inundation of the Indus water by uplift. Thus, the dam and lake hypothesis of M.R. Sahni was substantiated.
Dales, during his investigation observed that the early Harappan sea ports were now as far as 30 miles inland suggesting thereby that the coastline in this part of Pakistan has risen greatly within the last 4000 years. Lambrick and Possehl (1967) have rejected the theory. According to them still water origin of the silts could not be conclusively demonstrated and also evidence of tectonic up lift of the river in the geomorphology of the Indus basin is not demonstrable.
For the abandonment of Mohenjodaro Lambrick (1967) suggested that the east ward shift of the river Indus caused the periodic inundation of arable land in and around the city finally leading to loss of agricultural product. This theory could further argue that the focus of Indus civilization was the new channels of Ghaggar-Hakra.
In this regard the recent analysis of this issue by prof. V.N. Misra will appear to be extremely appealing. In the recent years palaeo-channel studies have demonstrated that several Himalayan flows used to disgorge huge quantity of water into the Gaggar, which in turn used to flow into the Indus through the Sutlej.
These feeder channels of Gaggar have been demonstrated to have changed progressively towards the south east in the past. It is true that we have no dates for these events, but we have evidence that the main feeder channel had changed its earlier course and shifted to Chautang.
This did finally meet the Ghaggar but at a far more easterly shifted spot near Suratgarh. The final and the last shift completely disconnected the feeder channel from the Ghaggar system; it is believed to have now joined the Ganga system at its northerly hilly slopes.
This resulted into the complete drying up of the Ghaggar and deprived the Sutlej and hence the Indus of a large amount of its water contribution. Misra argues brilliantly to show how this might have caused gradual silting of the Indus and thus could, in due course of time, bring about a crash in the economic surplus which had maintained the management of labour, craft and trade operations.
That such an event was not sudden is almost certain. A gradual migration of the artisans and tradesmen towards Saurashtra and Haryana must have started as early as 1900 B.C. Even at the original Indus Valley towns we see the emergence of an altogether changed feature of the Jhukar and Jhangar culture.
There is quite a possibility that this phase represents the first shift of the Ghaggar feeder to Chautang. People with trade connections had always maintained human contact with the Indus Valley and also various principalities further west which in turn may had contact with the Sumerians first and then the Babylonians.
The Indo-European speakers finally entered the Indus plain during these 200 years of slow degeneration of the Indus economy. They might have come in several waves and brought their culture but their being the cause of destroying Indus culture does not seem attested by either the archaeological evidences or by the numerous revised radio-carbon dates for the various stages of the culture now available.
‘Copper Hoard’ Culture:
No discussion of Chalcolithic India, especially in the north, can be complete without considering a large number of finds from the Gangetic valley which have come to be nick-named as the copper-hoard (as these were mainly found in caches). These have been found from surface without any other cultural items and are distributed from N W Pakistan in the west to Bengal in the east and Tamilnadu in the south. No possibility of any dating for these has so far been found.
A thick water-logged pottery termed O C P or Ochre Colour Pottery is suspected to be associated with these copper objects on circumstantial ground. Further, since the same O C P type is claimed from more than one site as occurring before Iron, Copper hoard culture is taken to represent a late Harappan and pre-Iron culture. But this is still very tentative and not substantiated by any direct evidence.
The copper objects of this culture are both beaten and prepared by double casting.
Objects usually found repeated are:
(i) Antennae swords,
(iii) Single and double axes,
(v) Swords, and
In western UP Bisauli, Rajpur Parsu, Mathura, Etawa and Saharapur are some of the areas where Copper hoards have been recorded from more than one spot. These are usually grouped within a single cultural area and referred to as copper hoards of Doab region.
As opposed to these Khunti, Hami Saguna Mahisadal and Sonpur from W. Bengal and Bihar form the eastern group of Copper hoards. Likewise the central Indian region especially near Jabalpur-Nagpur strip yields another outlier of these copper objects. Gungeria in Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh is one of the richest of such sites.
In the southern section the Copper hoards are generally distributed in the areas of concentration of the Neo-Chalcolithic sites like Brahmagiri, Tekkalkota, Piklihal, Hallur, etc. Typologically these Copper hoards do show some geographical variations but these are more with regards to relative frequencies of the types than otherwise.
Except for the enigmatic anthropomorph most of the types are recorded with same marginal variation from either Harappan or west Asian Chalcolithic centres. This can conveniently lead us to assume some Harappan antecedent for the Copper hoard rather than taking them as the weapons of the destroyer of the Harappans and thus alluding to the all-pervading ‘Aryan bogie’ for our explanation.
At this state of our present knowledge it could also be a strong possibility that the Copper hoard cultures were completely contemporaneous with the late Harappans and were politically governed from the Harappan urban centers. A radio-carbon date from an excavated site belonging to this culture alone can solve our problem.
Finally, one must admit that in our consideration of Chalcolithic India the Gangetic valley represent perhaps the only region which is still not fully understood. From the middle Ganga region (North Bihar) to lateritic W Bengal we enter into what can be best designated as Black-and-Red ware zone with a very late Neo-Chalcolithic feature.
We have talked about O.C.P. with copper hoard culture from the Ganga-Jamuna region earlier. Rajasthan shows another area of a rich chalcolithic development which by no means is post-Harappan yet it shows its own distinctive character.
Let us look at some of these finds:
The mound of Jodhpura lies on the right bank of the river Salai about 100 km. from Jaipur. The excavation was conducted by R.C. Agrawala. The lowest layer has been identified as O.C.P. in character. Basically red slipped wares with profusion of incised lines on the exterior characterise them. The types include handled pots, basins, vases and bowls. Both incised and painted designs are recorded, in some even applique boss is used.
Harappan type round shaped terra cotta cakes along with terra cotta and stone beads are recorded. Some mud brick structures are also recorded from this earliest phase. The author states that, “The carbon 14 dates given by PRL Ahmedabad for the later phase of O.C.P.at Jodhpura ranged between 2500 B.C. – 2200 B.C. suggesting thereby that this ceramic industry had its beginning in the region about 2800 B.C. – 3000 B.C.”
The site is located in Sikar district of Rajasthan. The site yields a red ware industry similar to the O.C.P. found in Jodhpura. The pottery is treated with a drab slip which has mostly peeled off. The occurrence of large number of copper tools found from this site makes it a significant occurrence.
These include 400 arrow heads, 50 fish hooks, 58 flat copper axes, and dozens of other smaller pieces. The use of microlith is another significant feature of these occurrences. The association of O.C.P. with such rich copper tools with available absolute date puts this Rajasthan O.C.P. in a very peculiar position.
We might attempt to recapitulate the O.C.P. context in order to examine the possibility of declaring it as a distinct cultural phase in Chalcolithic India. The excavation at Saipai in district Etawah of U.P. for the first time yielded hooked swords and harpoons of copper in association with this ware. At Hastinapur the O.C.P. occurs below the iron bearing P.G. W. level.
In the Doab region a number of sites have yielded O.C.P. with late Harappan elements. Sites with this context O.C.P. of are Alamgirpur, Ambakheri and Bargaon. Such Iron Age sites as Atranjikhera in Etah district, Lal Quila in Bulandshahar district and Ahichchatra in Bareli district have all yielded an O.C.P. layer in their lowest deposit. There is a Thermoluminiscent (TL) date available for one of the O.C.P. layers in this region and it is reported as 11th century B.C.
Yet the TL date for O.C.P. estimated at Lal Quila, Nasirpur and Jhinjhina are 1880 B.C., 1340 B.C. and 2070 B.C. respectively. There is no doubt, therefore, that O.C.P. is one of the longest staying ceramic traditions in Chalcolithic India. May be it has an origin in Jodhpura region but it got spread to diverse regions. Particularly enigmatic is the fact that it occurs as a precursor to both the P.G.W. as also the Black-and-Red ware zone.
Extra Harappan Chalcolithic:
We have a couple of excavated sites of Chalcolithic evidence from the eastern zone. These are Chirand from Bihar and Mahisadal and Pandu Rajar Dhibi from W Bengal. Broadly speaking all these show a duration of only six to seven centuries before Iron appears.
They start around 1500 B.C. and continue upto 1800 B.C. There are no such evidences of elaborate habitational structures as are known from so many of the western Chalcolithic sites. The pottery, however, shows an advanced technology of preparation and finish but in shapes finished varieties are not many.
At Chirand, for instance, one encounters a large number of lustrous wares with burnishing on the exterior in addition to the grey, black, red and black-and-red wares. Spouted vessels, bowls, footed vessels and channel spouted bowls are the usual table wares known.
Designs of decoration are mainly criss-cross lines and concentric circles painted in both black and red ochre. Initially there might have been pit dwellings but the Chalcolithic level shows circular huts of 4 meter diameter with paved floors. Wheat, rice, and lentils are found among the cereals cultivated.
Very soon these give rise to another period with narrow necked goblets associated with iron. What would appear as extremely significant is that from pre-metal to iron the generalized cultural features hardly show any change inspite of the arrival of metals of greater efficiency. Pandu Rajar Dhibi in Bardhawan district is situated along the Ajay River.
There are four periods identified of which the first two are counted as Chalcolithic and the rest are associated with iron. The huts are both round and rectangular and may have had red plastered walls. The floor is paved with lateritic mud and cow dung and the only radio-carbon date for this is as young as 1100 B.C. The pottery is both painted red ware as also black-and-ware.
Storage jars dishes-on-stand, channel spouted vessels and high necked jars are some of the common ceramic forms. Decoration is limited to only geometric forms. Crude stone blades, ground stones axes and a number of copper objects including fish hooks besides bangles are the other objects known from the pre-iron levels of the site.
At Mahisadal in the district Birbhum adjoining to Burdhawan the Chalcolithic levels are dated to almost 1350 B.C. but otherwise the cultural features are more or less comparable to Pandu Rajar Dhibi.
It would appear from the above that copper enters essentially within a stone-bone base in this region. Although in ceramic features they show considerable perfection these did not affect the total cultural status of these inhabitants. In fact the same features continue to occur even after iron emerges on the scene.
If we accept the northern Chalcolithic evidences as being contemporary with Harappans as the dates will suggest we might as well discard using the term O.C.P. for them. We have used O.C.P. in western U.P. to refer to a post-Harappan development. Thus, Ganeshwar-Jodhpura definitely is indigenous communities and their ceramic traits show a pre-Banasian stage only and we shall later name this as Jodhpura ware.
The site is situated near Bharatpur in Rajasthan. Agarwala reported a separate phase of un- painted black- and-red ware preceding the Painted Gray Ware at this site. Association of iron is evidenced with both these ceramic stages. Here also the lowest level is designated as O.C.P.
We might examine some of the evidences of the middle Ganga Chalolithic which has come to light in the recent years. Of these Narhan is one of the significant sites.
Narhan is situated on the left bank of the Ghaghara River in district Gorakhpur of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Five different cultural phases have been identified by the excavator. Period I is called Black-and-Red ware period, Period-II yields a black slipped ware; Period III yields Red ware with a thick gray ware and N.B.P.; Period IV is designated to Sunga-Kushan period and finally Period V to Gupta period.
Period I shows post holes with evidences of possibly wattle and daub structures. Two successive floors of this period have been exposed. Each one of them shows oven and hearths. Bone points, a polished stone axe, some pottery discs and animal bones of cattle, sheep and goat are the other antiquities known.
The principal ceramic type is black-and-red ware with painting in white, black slipped ware with occasional painting in white, red slipped ware, plain red ware and a limited number of sherds of burnished black-and-red ware. The culture was datable to 1300 B.C. – 800 B.C. copper objects start occurring from the end of this period.
Singh considers this as an independent culture of the region and named it “Narhan culture”. Subsequently the author tries to observe the extension of this and in the process discovers few more sites with almost identical features. These are Imlidih khurd, Sohagaura and Bhagrati.
The mound of Taradih lies just to the south west of the Mahabodhi temple of Bodh Gaya. Small scale excavation by the Govt. of Bihar yielded numerous antiquities from this site. The Chalcolithic phase is represented in Period-I. The ceramics comprise of handmade pottery, black-and-red ware and red ware of different shapes and sizes. These are also painted in some instances.
The other finds include celt, quern, pestles, stone balls, beads of semi-precious stones, pendants and a single copper fish hook. Bone arrow heads, copper pins, copper chisels and terra cotta beads are the other objects and are found in small number. This decidedly indicates the first village settlement in the region during a late Chalcolithic phase.
Further east black-and-red ware sites are found spread over Orissa and Bengal. The cultural details and also the radiocarbon dates of all these sites are uniformly similar. Besides Pandu Rajar Dhipi the other important sites are Tulsipur, Kumardanga, Dihar, Saragdihi, Tamluk, Bhartpur, Bahiri, Hatigra, Arrah, Bara Belun, Eruar, Mangalkot and Oargram.
Among these the excavated sites are Mangalkot, Arrah, Bharatpur, Bahiri, Dihar and Tulsipur. Most of these sites yield a minor quantity of iron associated with black- and-red ware. Surprisingly copper objects are far more rare. A large number of radio carbon dates are available now for these sites. These range from 1440 B.C. to 910 B.C.
South-east Rajasthan is an area which could be visualized as a region which joins Saurashtra in the south and the Malwa region in the south-east with the southern fringes of the Thar in the west. In many regards it develops its own climatic individuality because of the rivers Gambhiri in the north and Berach in the south. These year round active rivers and their tributaries form almost the life-line of the region.
We have evidences of huge Palaeolithic populations in the region but surprisingly in the subsequent period the Thar region was no less attractive to the early settlers. The first human colonization of the region after the Mesolithic period is witnessed along the river Banas during Chalcolithic period. Several sites of this period have been recorded along this and the Berach basin.
Ahar, Gilund and Kayhatha, among these are excavated; of these the first two are from Rajasthan while the third one lies towards the east in Malwa region. Finally it will be of interest to remember that Ahar is the closest to the Harappans both in geographical proximity as also in radio-carbon dates, if we do not consider the Haryana and East Punjab sites.
The excavation at Ahar has yielded thirteen meter deep habitation debris spread over almost 500 meters by 270 meters. This will surely be indicative of a large enough population settled for a long enough periods in this region. There are also direct evidences of an enormous amount of slag besides crucibles and furnaces found within the area.
Further, unlike most of the Chalcolithic sites in the Gangetic valley Ahar does not have any deposit with iron content. There is no doubt, therefore, that here we are dealing with an active copper smelting activity and a colony developed in connection with this activity. Perhaps that can explain why Gilund lying only 80 km away shows some significant points of difference with Ahar.
At Ahar the houses are oblong and the walls are made of stone and mud-brick. These have, at times, been decorated with quartz. The roof must have been thatched and flat with wooden rafters used. Normally the houses carry no compartment, nor any courtyard and measure 7 × 5 meters or 3 × 3 meters.
In an extreme case a house measuring 10 × 5 meters has also been recorded. Although no grains have been found it is believed that both bajra (millet) and rice may have been cultivated by these people. The oldest period at Ahar is believed to extend to 2600 B.C. and hence falls well within the Harappan range.
The cultural material yields multiple hearths, quartizite saddle and querns but no ring stone, bolas or celts. Curiously chert blades which are otherwise quite common in the Chalcolithic sites in the adjoining region, are conspicuously absent at this site. For a habitational debris of 13 meter thickness, finished copper implements are also not very many in numbers.
In all 5 axes, one knife blade, one sheet, a bangle and 2 rings of copper are all that has been found. The copper technology also appears to be much poorer than what has been observed in the adjoining regions. The richest collection for the site is the ceramics and the terra cotta objects.
The Ahar ceramics yield at least seven main wares of which 2 types that dominate are:
(i) Black-and-Red wares with white paint used for decoration, and
(ii) Cream slipped wares with black paint used for decoration.
Some of this show surface roughening on the lower part, while others show applique boss designs covering the entire exterior. Decoration is mainly linear or dots or series of comas. One of the most consistent shapes is dish-on-stand. Vase with corrugated shoulder and long neck, lotas and varieties of bowls besides crudely finished storage jars form the other types. Terra cotta figures mainly yield several humped cattle, bangles, stoppers, spindels and lids.
The other two sites of the Banasian complex are perfectly comparable to Ahar except for the fact of yielding several chert blades but still no celts, bolas or ring stones. It would appear that the Banasian complex has developed completely within a village infrastructure without even indication of a proper farming activity. Most of the ceramics being table-ware appear least congruous within the mud houses.
Cutting of fire wood for smelting copper requires axes and Ahar shows only some crude axes. In fact Kayatha lying further east has a much larger number of bangles and rings than Ahar itself. Knowing the chronological status of Ahar, it becomes a strong possibility to consider the Banas group as merely miners’ camp under the suzerainty of the Harappans at Lothal. Gilund and Kayatha in this regard would appear to be relatively individualized and influenced by the Malwa regional features.
The radio carbon dates from Ahar are as follows:
Period IA – 2600 – 2150 B.C.
Period IB – 2150 – 1950 B.C.
Period IC – 1950 – 1500 B.C.
Western districts of Madhya Pradesh are traditionally referred to as the Malwa region. That is, from district Gwalior in the north to Nimar in the south forms its western border while in the east Raisen to Chattarpur forms the eastern border. Of these districts those lying northerly are very arid and dry and are mainly drained by numerous tributaries of Chambal and Betwa.
The southern districts are very fertile primarily because of the Deccan lava forming its mantle. This lava produces extremely rich black soil which must have attracted agriculturists from the time of prehistory to history. A large amount of human colonization occurred along all these rivers from around 2000 B.C. and continued until 1100 B.C. when iron arrived.
These sites and their cultural features are so homogenous that in literature they started getting referred to as the Malwa culture. Further south along the upper reaches of Godavari almost identical ceramic content is recorded in slightly changed context and these are also referred to as Malwa ware.
In Madhya Pradesh some of the well excavated Malwa sites are Eran, Nagda and Navdatoli. In northern Maharashtra the Malwan sites are Chandoli, Nevasa, Inamgaon and Diamabad. Around 1300 B.C. the north Maharashtrian sites developed some different traits before finally showing iron around 1000 B.C.
This group is called Jorwe ware. Navdatoli in its earliest phase yields a rich stone blade industry with copper objects, domesticated wheat as also cattle, sheep, goat and pig. The pottery shows a good many handmade specimens with the Banasian forms of Black- and-Red painted ware.
A red-slipped ware with decoration executed in black paint forms the other important ceramic group. The latter form develops into what is identified as Malwa ceramics when it standardized its shape and decoration in the next phase. Both circular and rectangular huts of wattle and daub are described from all the phases of Navdatoli; Phase-II is marked by the total disappearance of the Banasian Black- and-Red ware and also the introduction of rice in the region (1600 B.C. approx.).
Goblets with solid pedestals become quite common. It is in the next two phases that a complete individualization takes place. Lota shaped jars, goblets on stand, channel spouted bowls and storage jars are given a very shinning red slip and then extensively decorated with variety of motifs. These include naturalistic, geometric and zoomorphic forms.
Stylized representation of as many as 12 animals excluding the characterstic human forms with curly flowing hair have been recorded. It will not be an exaggeration to rate the Malwa ceramics as much richer than the Harappans if one were to consider the richness of their decorations.
Metal objects known include copper antennae sword, knife, flat axe and fish hooks. Stone objects include an overwhelming number of chalcedony blades (with few retouched types of lunates, trapezes and knives), celts, ring stones, saddle and quern and bolas. Several terra cotta figurines of bulls or only horns of bulls form another group of finds.
In one of the Malwa sites (Eran in dist Sagar) on the river Bina a defence wall prepared by mud brick has been attributed to the Malwa phase. Some authors saw some internal stratification indicative in the Malwa society because of the existence of two distinct varieties of dwelling structures.
The rectangular houses were 10 × 6 m in measurement while the round ones had only 2.75 m diameter. It will be more logical to imagine these round structures as non-dwelling storage places, as other cultural features do not show enough evidences of this kind of stratification.
In 1956 Sali discovered a mound at Savalda on the southern bank of river Tapti in West Khandesh district in Maharashtra. A small scale excavation first by Sali and then by R.V. Joshi yielded two periods of occupation. Period I was designated as belonging to Savalda culture. It was estimated on the basis of radio carbon dates to occur between 2200 B.C. to 2000 B.C. Period II is designated to early Historic period and yields N.B.P. and Black-and-Red ware ceramics.
The Savalda ware is of medium to coarse fabric made on s slow wheel and coated with a thick slip which shows cracks in many cases. The slip is light brown, chocolate, red, orange, buff and pink in colour. The most important feature which distinguishes it from the other chalcolithic painted wares of the region is that of painted designs of arms or weapons such as antennae arrow, notched arrow head, unilaterally barbed tools resembling a saw, double barbed fish hook and spear etc.
The other motif chosen for decoration shows peacock, fish-plant motifs and geometrical designs. The types included are high necked jars with squat bodies, blunt carimated vessels, dish, platter, dish-on- stand, basins, bowls, ring stand and knobbed lid. More than 50 more sites yielding similar kind of ceramics were described by Sali.
In a nearby village Kandhra an ash mound was found associated with almost a meter thick Savalda occurrence. Sali opined that Savalda is an autochthonous chalcolithic culture of this zone and preceded the arrival of the Late Harappans. Allchins (1982) considered Savalda as only a stylistic variant of the Jorwe.
Interestingly Sundara (1971) mentions Savalda ware from Bijapur and Belgaum districts of Karnataka as well. Sali tried to finally indicate his point when he excavated Diamabad in Srirampur district of Maharashtra. Here Savalda culture could be demonstrated as occurring before Late Harappan.
The succession at Diamond was as follows:
The analysis of charred grains revealed that people of Savalda culture cultivated barley, lentil, common pea, black gram, horse gram and hyacinth beans. If these evidences are to be accepted then the antiquity of agriculture in Western Maharashtra has to be pushed back in date to almost the 3rd millennium B.C.
The name Kayatha culture is derived from the type site named Kayatha which is located 25 km. east of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. The river is called Chotikali Sind, and the excavation was done on the mound on the right bank. Nearly 12 meters thick cultural debris was exposed and this showed 5 distinct phases of occupation. Period I is designated as Kayatha culture; Peried II as Ahar culture; Period III as Malwa culture; Period IV and V are designated to early Historical period.
Period I is represented by 3 main types of ceramics. These are red painted buff ware, combed ware and sturdy violet painted pinkish red ware. The first variety of ceramics is prepared on well levitated clay and a buff colour wash is used after firing and finally are also given a variety of painted motifs.
The combed ware has red slip with features of decorative patterns like zig zag or wavy horizontal lines possibly prepared by comb like objects dipped in colour. The pinkish-red wares have both thick and fine fabrics. Over the slipped surface there are different patterns of painted motifs. Varieties of shapes have been formed in this fabric. The other associated finds from this level are beads of semi-precious stones, axes, bangles and chisels of copper.
Beads are also prepared of shells and terra cotta. The houses were prepared with mud and wattle and daub with hardened floor. The radio-carbon date for this phase, identified as Kayatha culture, is 2450-2000 B.C. It is important to note that north-western Madhya Pradesh has more than 40 Kayathian sites recorded so far and these are pre dominantly concentrated along the river Chambal.
This ancient site belongs to the district of Pune in Maharashtra. It is situated on the right bank of the river Ghod which is an affluent of Bhima and in turn of Krishna. The site is spread over an area of 5 hectares and is thus probably one of the largest Chalcolithic settlements of Maharashtra. The site was excavated by Deccan College and this brought to light an extensive settlement from 1600 B.C. and continuing till 700 B.C.
The site yielded a sequence of three cultures and these are Malwa, Early Jorwe and Late Jorwe. The first settlers at the site were the people from Malwa region who occupied the site around 1600 B.C. Around 1400 B.C. a new culture termed as Early Jorwe occupied the same area. It is significant to note that elsewhere in Maharashtra Jorwe culture appears only around 1300 B.C.
A distinguishing feature of the pattern of Chalcolithic settlement at Inamgaon is the location of the quarters for craftsmen on the periphery of the habitation.
The period wise distribution of the various craftsmen identified is as follows:
Period I – Potter, Ivory carver.
Period II – Potter, Copper smith.
Period III – Gold smith, Lime maker, wine distiller, potter and copper smith.
A unique structure was encountered close to the craftsmen quarter located in the center of the principal mound. It is squarish in shape (10.5 × 9.15 meter), which was partitioned into two rooms by a reed screen which was probably removed at some stage to make room for the storage bins. The structure had low mud walls – may be not more than 30 cm. high over this was erected the mud-plastered bamboo screen.
Adjoining to this occur another large structure with as many as five rooms in it. One of these was the kitchen. The early inhabitants of Inamgaon lived in rectangular houses which had thin, dwarf mud walls over which frame-work of split bamboo was fixed. Probably clay and cow dung used to be plastered over this screen. There is some indication of the existence of pit-dwellings also known.
The economy was mixed and was based on agriculture, hunting and fishing. A number of crops such as wheat, barley, rice pulses and lentils have been identified along with seeds of such wild fruits as Jujube. Ivory objects, gold ornaments, lumps of finely made lime have been found from the site. There are even some distinct evidences of distillation known from this site.
It is a culture which earned its name mainly from its ceramic specialty. It is found spread all over Maharashtra and may have evolved slightly later than the Malwa in Madhya Pradesh (1300 B.C. -1400 B.C.). Inamgaon in Maharashtra provides us with maximum amount of cultural indicators for this period. It is a culture which had adapted to dried inland regions and heavily depended on irrigation, the evidences of which have been found.
Wheat, barley and rice may have been cultivated in the initial stages but later stages adapted mainly to millets. Initially rectangular huts were used but eventually in the later phases these were all round in structure. At this stage the Jorwe of Maharashtra start showing numerous similarities with the Deccan Chalcolithic features.
The famous Jorwe ware is red or orange surfaced either matt surfaced or barnished with geometric designs executed in black. Carinated vessels with spouts fixed at various angles form one of the characteristic types. Carinated bowls and lotas are the other forms. Beads of agate, carnelian, gold, copper and even ivory have been recorded. Copper objects include axes, fish hooks and bangles.
It is argued that increasing aridity forced many of the early Jorwe settlements to either migrate to the Malwa region or adapt by changing their food habits around 1300 B.C. Thus, many Malwa regions show their final phases heavily influenced by Jorwe ceramics. Some of them might have migrated to the Deccan region.
Thus, we see a chain of connections in at least archaeological terms, demonstrated over the whole length of India during Chalcolithic period. This is, while Banas remained influenced from Harappa; it also, got influenced from Malwa. Malwa in turn shows Jorwe connection and Jorwe show connection which the Deccan Neo-Chalcolithic settlements.
Southern Chalcolithic Group:
Crossing Narmada one enters into the rugged plains of south India. Barring the coastal strips the inland regions are extremely rocky and dry. The main two rivers that drain the region are Godavari and Krishna (as one move from north to south) with their numerous tributaries.
These tributaries originate in the Western Ghats which extend fairly deep across the breadth of the Peninsula (almost two third of the breadth along Pune-Hyderabad axis i.e., 18˚N). Most of the prehistoric occupations during Neolithic to Chalcolithic occur in these mountainous area.
The tributaries of Godavari show Chalcolithic colonization between 2000 B.C. – 1100 B. C. which we have just got introduced to. Let us for our convenience refer to them as the Malwa-Jorwe group. The tributaries of Krishna, however, maintained altogether a different tradition.
If the available radio-carbon dates are to be relied, these were occupied from as early as 2400 B.C. and continued to survive without any significant change till iron arrived. Many authors, as such, like to consider them with the development of Neolithic cultural phase. More than one hundred such sites have been reported so far and these are spread over Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu.
Some of the most important of these occurrences are:
(i) Kodekal, Utnur, Nagarjunakonda and Palavoy in Andhra
(ii) Tekkalkota, Muski, Terdal, T Narsipur, Sangankallu, Kupgal, Hallur, Brahmagiri and Hemmige in Karnataka, and
(iii) Gaurimedu, Mangalam and Piyampalli in Tamil Nadu.
Barring slight regional differences most of these sites are uniformly identical in both their features as also their succession pattern. That is, these are essentially hill dwellers with peripheral cultivation, hunting and cattle keeping. In almost all cases burials occur under living floor and hence these dwelling places might have been frequently abandoned and newer sites occupied. This might also explain the striking similarity between a large numbers of these sites.
For the purpose of summarizing one can divide the succession of culture in these sites as follows:
1. A pure autochthonous Neolithic with poor pottery.
2. Without any change in other details, pottery shows improvement and with occasional metal intrusion (visualized as Jorwe contact period).
3. Again no basic change in the total culture but copper and bronze objects become common. Black-and-Red ware and horse bones start occurring (The latter two attributes are typical of the Megalithic period that follows). Terra cotta figurines, faience beads and other precious stones are also found in many instances from this period.
We have briefly dealt with the evidences of the first period. The other two periods can be broadly taken as co-eval with the Maharashtra Chalcolithic period. What is most surprising is that a transition to a level of the knowledge of metal had very little impact on either cultural efficiency or cultural change.
In the absence of any other data one can explain the situation as caused by a lack of an adequate demographic strength to launch into a labour intensive agriculture. The seeds domesticated by them also show a different level of farming. Millet, horse gram, bajra and legumes besides date palm and acacia species seem to have been their main food.
For a community of mainly hunters and cattle keepers a shift to intensive farming requires a much complex super-structure and kinship organization. Developing symbiotic relationship with already settled communities lying between northern Maharashtra to Malwa would instead be an easier course.
Thus, metals obtained in exchange were put to-at the most-tree felling, bush clearing and fishing but seldom to hunting. In ceramics decoration is virtually gone except a line along the border or radiating triangles. The fabric is thick and gritty and in the younger phases wheel thrown.
Shallow dishes, lipped, spouted or channel spouted vessels, handled and hollow footed bowls, jars, dish-on-stand and perforated pots are the usual types known from all the phases. Beads of gold, copper terra cotta, agate and carnelian are also found in some sites.
The stone implements include a large number of extremely slender and long microlithic blades which are in a minority of cases retouched into types. Some axes, adzes, wedges, bolas and saddle and quern are quite common. Metal objects include axes (very flat) and fish hooks.
The rocky habitat provided the base of their dwelling with mud plastering on the floor. These are round houses of only 2-3 meter diameter, with few cases of post-hole evidences. At Sangankallu a hut of 5 m diameter has been found with as many as 13 post-holes.
Hearths and storage jars are quite commonly found in these huts. Terra cota figurines of bulls, horns and male human forms are known from some sites, while in others the rocks and boulders around the Huts have art executions with brushings. These represent cattle, long-horned humped bulls, and deers.
There are some riding or hunting human figures as well as some wheeled carts. At Tekkalkota a flat Terra cotta lid carries almost similar pattern of art execution with pin like punches done when the clay was leather hard. This shows a scene of a bull, cobra and two antelopes.
In addition an important terra cotta object identified as head-rest forms a significant find from some of these sites. Finally, it must be mentioned that some of the peripherally lying sites among them especially Utnur, Kupgal, Kodekal and Palavoy have yielded huge deposits of cow dung ash.
At Utnur even the hoof imprint has been found within this once wet cow dung heap. All these evidences taken together leave very little doubt about considerable livestock maintenance as part of these Neo-Chalcolithic groups. It is argued by some that these cow dung heaps were deliberately set aflame as a part of some festivity which marked the completion of a seasonal cycle of migration.
That is, shortly after harvesting the population would move out with their animals to graze them. They would return to the site, burn the cow dung heaps and start settling for a short period of cultivation of their sturdy crops. At the present state of our knowledge this would merely appear as one of the possibilities only.