In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Introduction to the History of Western India 2. History of Rajasthan 3. Gujarat.
Introduction to the History of Western India:
Since the western region of India is contiguous with Punjab, although vastly different in ecological features, we might consider Rajasthan and Gujarat as a separate zone in Western India. Today, except for a strip of coastal zone in Gujarat and the region east of the Aravallis, the majority of Northern Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and the plains of Punjab can be broadly counted as forming a single ecozone. The Palaeolithic occupation in this combined area is fairly rich and well represented.
In fact one of the tentative dates for the Lower Palaeolithic culture in this zone has also a U/Th date which indicated its antiquity as being around 120,000 years ago. This is also an estimate, done purely on faunal grounds, of the Narmada basal gravel, which has also added a Homo erectus skull fragment in the recent years. Both Saurastra and Rajasthan also have received a great deal of attention from several other allied sciences in the last one decade.
Eustatic beaches, miliolite formation and their absolute dates from Saurastra coast and pollen profiles and their dates from Rajasthan lakes and lately at Didwana near Jodhpur comply with an almost complete picture of climatic succession in this area from almost as early as 20,000 years. This shows that the region has been passing through numerous wet or moist periods in the past. Besides helping the development of a finer and firmer chronology for the region, these studies also carry a ‘moral’ for the archaeologists.
Our trying to establish two wet phases in most of the Indian rivers on the basis of the number of gravels observed might in reality be blanketing out finer details of climatic fluctuations in these regions. Minor moist phases might not carry gravels and, in common sense logic; such phases would seem more congenial to human occupation than an acute pluviation.
In other words, if between two pluviation there had been ‘n’ number of moist phases of say 1000 to 5000 years duration, all these ‘n’ number of cultures are bound to be considered as contemporaneous if a subsequent pluviation sweeps them into one gravel deposit. We have no possible way to remedy this in-built problem unless Didwana-like excavations are conducted in suitable chosen alluvial zones in the peninsular areas.
As one proceeds south of Punjab through Haryana, an area of nearly 300,000 square kilometers of desert occupies this region. Further south, one encounters a little less arid area of a seasonal rainfall not exceeding 100 cm in the Saurastrian landmass. This entire western zone has yielded a rich harvest of Harappan and associated Chalcolithic sites.
For long the possibility of Palaeolithic sites from this area was taken to be very little but recent studies have shown that in all likelihood the area was perhaps as heavily occupied during the Palaeolithic period as in the rest of the river valleys in India. Across the Aravallis, which maintain a much moister climate today, one of the richest Palaeolithic sites has been discovered by Misra in Chittorgarh.
Of the many streams that originate in the Aravallis and flow eastwards to meet the Banas and through the Banas meet the Chambal which finally joins the Jamuna, river Gambhiri is the southernmost one. It is almost in the southeastern corner of Rajasthan. A large number of sites along this river show an exposed pebbly conglomerate – the pebbles never exceeding 3-4 cm in diameter.
This is a very hard and completely concretized deposit occurring at places overlying a fairly thick clayish deposit. It is believed that the clay which forms the lowermost deposit is caused by weathering of the primary rock before the conglomerate was laid down.
In the absence of adequate fauna it would appear that the implementiferous deposit belongs to the Upper Pleistocene period, especially because there is no other gravel deposit recorded in this river or for that matter the other tributaries of Banas in the north. The tools collected from numerous localities along the Gambhiri and Berach basin show quite an advanced typo-technological status.
Nearly 38 percent of the specimens are handaxes and cleavers, the rest are choppers, discoids and flakes. The quartzite chosen for the tools has a very fine texture and almost all the tools show a very high degree of refined working. The most important feature of this industry is the occurrence of a fairly good number of diminutive handaxes (4 cm – 6 cm) along with the normal sized (22 cm to 15 cm) bifaces.
Almost all the varieties of Upper Acheulian biface types including ovates and cordates have been recorded in this industry. The flakes include several levalloise flakes besides some retouched into side-scrapers and knives. The cleavers are both unifacial and bifacial in type-mostly U- Shaped. Pointed-butt cleavers are virtually absent.
Considering that here we are dealing with a Late Acheulian industry the absence of pointed butt cleavers on the one hand and the presence of numerous choppers on the other would seem surprising. Archaeologists might be tempted to hurry into giving some explanation for this, but in the light of what has just been discussed about depositional sites will refrain from trying to attempt any explanations.
Up north, along the Chambal valley as well, several massive Lower Palaeoliths have been picked up by Misra. There evidences will clearly indicate a much congenial climate around the eroded and desiccated Aravallis. The northernmost extension of these ancient hills cuts across south and south-western Delhi, and even here, more than a dozen Lower Palaeolithic clusters have been recently reported.
All these occurrences show an Upper Acheulian technique and typological characteristic. Unfortunately, beyond Delhi, Haryana and the plains of Punjab still remain almost terra incognita in-so-far as the presence of Lower Palaeolithic man is concerned.
The spectacular discoveries at Didwana near Jodhpur in western Rajasthan would indicate that these Lower Paleolithic colonies were by no means located on the eastern slopes of the Aravallis only. More than 30 Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites have now been recorded on the hilly terrains lying west of Aravallis.
Most of these have been recorded in the ancient river beds of the region and are situated at an elevation of more than 1000 feet above mean sea level. This would seem to indicate that the sites are more concentrated on the upper reaches of this ancient drainage network.
Since January 1980 Misra had organized a multidisciplinary investigation of a very rich Acheulian site called Singi Talav near the town of Didwana in Nagour district of Rajasthan. Misra felt that the tools show enough evidence of being in primary contact. The extensive study of the excavated material showed three distinct depositional phases in this region.
These are termed as Jayal, Amarpura and Didwana formations. Of these the Jayal group seems to have been laid down during late Tertiary and lower Pleistocene and shows an extremely powerful drainage force. Huge deposits of boulders in concrete form measuring 20m to 60m in thickness have been found lying over a stretch of nearly 16 km.
Apparently human habitation occurred in this region immediately after this period, during the Amarpura phase, which shows a very slow sedimentation rate probably because of the gradient having become very low as a result of excessive rise of the bed during the earlier depositional phase.
Most of the evidences of early man in this region come from this deposit. Acheulian tools are found from around the middle part of Amarpura formation and Middle Palaeoliths are found in the upper part of the same formation. Misra felt that in all likelihood the Acheulian industry at Singi Talav should rate to be Middle to upper Middle Pleistocene.
In his own words, “If this dating proves to be correct, then the Acheulian industry found at Didwana will be one of the earliest Lower Palaeolithic industries found in the Indian sub-continent.” The tools collected from the excavations at a number of rich sites in and around the district show a group belonging to an Early Acheulian stage as also a Middle Acheulian stage.
The Early Acheulian types stratigraphically occur earlier than the later stages. The tool types show a high frequency of choppers and chopping tools with massive handaxes prepared only by stone hammer technique in the Early Acheulian period. The subsequent stages of Acheulian show progressive development in both types and techniques.
Most of these show consistent occurring of coppers with handaxes while cleavers are always absent. It is only in two Upper Acheulian layers that cleavers occur with thin and symmetrical Late Acheulian handaxe types. The exceedingly high proportion of debitage found in almost all the digs leaves no doubt to the fact that in western Rajasthan open air river bank occupation was the usual manner of human occupation.
Increased wind activity with small periods of relatively humid climate marked the Didwana phase. Apparently, there was a thinning of the human colonies at this phase, although both Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites are reported from other adjoining regions in Western Rajasthan.
Two important river systems flow through this region which is for the most part covered with the Deccan trap in the south and Pleistocene and recent soil in the north. Besides Sabarmati and Mahi, which are situated in the north and the central regions, numerous other water courses including the gigantic Narmada flow all along the coast.
Being situated south of the largest desert in India, it shows a remarkably steep cline in rainfall as one proceeds from the south (200 cms) to the north (70 cms). The Saurashtrian appendix is further arid as compared to the south Gujarat coasts because of the absence of as many water courses in this region.
However, it is not unlikely that like Rajasthan, this area also maintained a large number of water courses which are nearly all extinct in the present. The river Bhadar along which the late Harappan site of Rojdi occurs at present is the only river of substantial flow. Lower Palaeolithic sites have been found in almost all the river courses of Gujarat including the ones in the Saurashtrian peninsula.
In fact, the richness of these sites can be taken as an indicator that most of Gujarat maintained a favourable dry tropical forest and, perhaps, also a deciduous forest in some parts, for periods in Pleistocene. The stratigraphy recorded in Bhadar shows distinctly two gravels, but in Sabarmati only one basal gravel was found.
In Mahi, Orsang and Karjan (the two tributaries of Narmada), the two-gravel succession is again repeated. Almost all the Lower Palaeoliths are recorded either in-situ or are eroded from this basal gravel. It is extremely difficult to put any broad chronological status to this industry but typological evidences show, beyond doubt, that a very late and advanced Acheulian is invariably present in almost all the known Lower Palaeolithic sites in this region.
In fact at Orsang finds associated with the Acheulian include a long blade prepared by levalloise technique. This leaves no doubt that the first aggradation in many of the northern courses might have taken place as late as Upper Pleistocene. However the evidence from Umrethi in coastal Saurastra, which puts the presence of man to approximately 120,000 years ago, can be taken to surmise that the earliest aggradation in the Gujarat rivers may have commenced as early as late Middle Pleistocene to early Upper Pleistocene and continued with short phases of drier spells for a fairly long period of time, may be extending to several thousand years.
It is only in some regions that the later end of this depositional phase is recorded while in others more duration is covered by the deposition. There is no doubt that fairly archaic character of Clactonian flakes, primitive choppers prepared by the removal of only a couple of flakes and massive Abevillian handaxes are fairly common in almost all the sites on these water courses but the late Acheulian elements accompanying them are also remarkably advanced in technique.
These include both pebble-butted handaxes and flake-cleavers prepared by cylinder hammer technique. Levalloise flakes, discs or discoidals are typically Middle Palaeolithic in size and shape and yet they have been described within the Lower Palaeolithic assemblage.
So, here we can almost clearly demonstrate that our depositional gravels of the river beds, if taken as the delimiting frame for different cultural periods, can create more confusion in our understanding than other wise. It will, therefore, be sufficient to accept that Lower Palaeolithic population was not only present in Gujarat but they remained there for a sufficiently long period to be able to evolve into the successful late Acheulians.