Stone Age: Ancient History of Rajasthan: a prehistoric period when weapons and tools were made of stone or of organic materials such as bone, wood or horn. Rajasthan’, the name itself conjures up a desert landscape ringed by jagged mountains, on the other side of which lie the fertile plains of Mewar and Marwar. A harsh land of valourous heroes and virtuous heroines.
Stone Age: Ancient History of Rajasthan
A land of hardship and romance. This story of Rajasthan, though, is its more recent, medieval history and a history of Rajput rulers of this period. What, then, was the story of Rajasthan before the coming of the Rajput clans in the 8th-9th century CE? Well, it goes back billions of years! Did you know that the Aravalli Hills, which play such a central role in the history of the state, go back 3.8 billion years? Or that the earliest recorded habitation here was 7,00,000 years ago, as is evident in old Palaeolithic sites here? We take you back to those times.
The Aravallis: Defining the State’s Geology Rajasthan is an old and ancient land. The Aravallis are made up of some of the oldest folded rocks on the planet, some of which date back to the Archean series in geology and are as old as 3.8 billion years. The Aravalli Hills derive their name from ‘Ada-vah’, literally meaning ‘an obstruction lying in the path’. This range is older than the Himalayas and is considered one of the oldest folded mountain ranges in the world. They run in a North-East-South-West direction and divide the state of Rajasthan into two parts.
To the north and west of the Aravallis lie the arid plains of the Thar Desert and the Luni Basin. This region comprises 60 per cent of the land area of the state and is arid. To the east of the Aravallis lie the fertile plains of the Banas, Chambal, Gambhiri and Mahi rivers and their tributaries. This region is known as ‘Mewar’ or ‘Mewad’ and comprises the remaining 30 per cent of the area of the state. This area is comparatively fertile though in some areas it is semi-arid.
The Lower Palaeolithic:- The Early Old Stone Age There is a lovely story about the discovery of Didwana told by Prof S N Rajaguru, well-known archaeologist and doyen of geoarchaeology. Dr Rajaguru and Prof V N Misra along with a student had briefly visited the site in 1978-79 and found nothing obviously belonging to the Lower Palaeolithic during a surface survey. They were about to leave when a young PhD student with them asked to be excused for a few minutes to relieve himself.
As he went around the sand dune, he came across a pit dug by the Public Works Department (PWD), and lying among the debris was a large Lower Palaeolithic stone tool (actually a very fine hand axe). He came back shouting and the team raced back and realised that they had almost missed out on what would become one of the greatest Palaeolithic sites of South Asia. Rajasthan is an ancient land it was occupied by early human settlers during the Lower Palaeolithic, Middle Palaeolithic and Upper Palaeolithic periods, as seen in the excavations at the site of Didwana (in Nagaur District in Rajasthan) by prehistorian Prof V N Misra of the Deccan College, Pune, in 1980.
The work was done by him, his colleague geoarchaeologist Prof S N Rajaguru and palaeoclimatologist Gurcharan Singh. Their work dated the site to a minimum 4,00,000 years ago and perhaps even going as far back as 7,00,000 years. Over 300 Acheulian bifaces (hand axes) were recovered from the excavations.
- Paleolithic age: Paleolithic, The cultural period of the Stone Age that began about 2.5 to 2 million years ago, marked by the earliest use of tools made of chipped stone. The Paleolithic Period ended at different times in different parts of the world, generally around 10,000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East.
Paleolithic site in Rajasthan: Nagaur and Didwana.
- Mesolithic Age: Mesolithic, also called Middle Stone Age, ancient cultural stage that existed between the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), with its chipped stone tools, and the Neolithic (New Stone Age), with its polished stone tools. Most often used to describe archaeological assemblages from the Eastern Hemisphere, the Mesolithic is broadly analogous to the archaic culture of the Western Hemisphere. Mesolithic material culture is characterized by greater innovation and diversity than is found in the Paleolithic. Among the new forms of chipped stone tools were microliths, very small stone tools intended for mounting together on a shaft to produce a serrated edge.
Mesolithic sites in Rajasthan:
- On the bank of river Kothari in Bhilwara District.
- Most ancient source of animal husbandry is found here.
- Tools are excavated in large numbers.
- Excavated by Virendranath Mishra.
- Biggest Mesolithic Site in India.
- On the bank of river Luni in Barmer district.
- Evidence of animal husbandry is found here.
- Excavated by Virendranath Mishra.
3. Chalcolithic Age: Chronology of Chalcolithic Settlement. The first metal age of India is called Chalcolithic Age which saw the use of copper along with stone. It was also called Stone-Copper Age.
Paleolithic-Old Stone Age in Rajasthan (5, 00, 00 BC – 10,000 BC)
Man is said to have appeared in the early Pleistocene in Africa about 3 million (30 lakh) years ago. In India, based on recent evidence, man is said to have appeared 1.4 million (14 lakh) years back at Bori, Maharashtra.
- This Man had no knowledge of cultivation and house building till 9000 years B.C. From there first appearance to beginning of 3000 BC man used tools & implements only made up of stone and so early phase of human existence has been Called as Stone-Age. Based on nature of stone tools and nature of change in climate the stone-age is divided into Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic age period to study history till 1000B.c.
The Paleolithic age has been divided into 3 sub-ages namely:
- 5,00,000 BC – 1,00,000 BC: Lower Paleolithic or Early Old Stone Age
- 1,00,000 BC – 40,000 BC: Middle Paleolithic or Middle Old Stone Age
- 40,000 BC – 10,000 BC: Upper Paleolithic or Later Old Stone Age
1. Lower Paleolithic or Early Old Stone Age (5, 00,000 BC – 1, 00,000 BC)
Acheulian-Handaxes: These areSpecial characteristic stone tools – Hand axe and cleaver.Raw materials used for making stone tools included – quartzite, quartz and basalt. The sites of early Stone Age discovered in Rajasthan have been identified as belonging to Acheulian culture, named after French site of St. Acheul which was the first effective colonization of the Indian subcontinent.The Acheulian culture was a hunter-gatherer culture.Sites of lower-Paleolithic age are located in Nagaur and Didwana of Rajasthan, Barkhera, Bhimbetka and Putlikarar in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh.
2. Middle Paleolithic or Middle Old Stone Age (1, 00,000 BC – 40,000 BC)
The Acheulian culture of Old Stone Age was slowly transformed into the middle Paleolithic by giving some of the tool types and by developing new tools & technology. Special characteristic of stone tools – Flakes.
- In comparison to the lower Paleolithic era, the tools in middle Paleolithic became smaller, thinner and lighter.
- The New raw materials used for making stone tools included fine-grained siliceous rocks like chert and jasper.
- In our Rajasthan, sites of Middle Paleolithic age are located at Luni valley, around Didwana, Budha Pushkar.
The Middle Palaeolithic: The Middle Old Stone Age A number of Middle Palaeolithic sites were also found at Budha Pushkar in Ajmer District of Rajasthan. The Berach-Banas Basin (in Mewar) had already yielded similar tools in the mid-60s. Recent explorations by Dr J Blinkhorn (from the Universite Bordeaux, France) of surface sites in the Thar Desert have also revealed further Middle Palaeolithic sites. His work at the site of Katoati in Jayal Tehsil of Nagaur District has revealed not just typical Middle Palaeolithic tools but also shell fragments of the ostrich (Struthio camelus). These eggshells found alongside Levallois cores have been carbon-dated to 45,300 years ago and stratified deposits have yielded ostrich eggshells that have been dated to greater than 58,000 years and greater than 62,000 years (hyper-accurate carbon dating of such early periods is difficult).
3. Upper Paleolithic or Later Old Stone Age (40,000 BC – 10,000 BC)
The tools of Upper Paleolithic Era are further refined upon the lower and middle periods and show a marked regional diversity with respect to the refinement of techniques and standardization of finished tool forms.
1. Special characteristic of stone tools of Upper Paleolithic age – Flakes and blades.
2. One important discovery is of the Ostrich egg shells at over 40 sites in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, which shows that ostrich, a bird adapted to arid climate.
3. The upper Paleolithic settlements also show a distinct trend of being associated with permanent sources of waters.
4. Society was ‘Band Society‘- small communities, usually consisting of less than 100 people. They were nomadic to some extent moving from one place to another.
5. The earliest form of art by humans also belongs to upper Paleolithic period in the form of rock Paintings (Bhimbetka).
6. Sites of Upper Paleolithic age in Rajasthan included Chittorgarh, Kota and basins of rivers Wagoon, kadamli, Sabarmati & Mahi.
4. Mesolithic-Middle Stone Age in Rajasthan (10,000 BC – 5,000 BC)
The last stage of Old Stone Age or Paleolithic Age was followed by Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age in Rajasthan (in India). The transition from the Paleolithic period to Mesolithic period is marked by transition from Pleistocene period (2.58 million years ago – 10,000BC) to Holocene (10,000 BC – till now) and favorable changes in the climate. The climate became warmer and humid and there was expansion of flora and fauna contributed by increased rainfall. This led to availability of new resources to humans.
Tools of Mesolithic Age: The tools are Mesolithic age were smaller in size and better in finishing (more geometric) than the Paleolithic age and are called as Microlith.
- The main tool types are backed blades, obliquely truncated blades, points, crescents, triangles and trapezes.
- Some of the Microlith were used as components of spearheads, arrowheads, knives, sickles, harpoons and daggers.
- Use of bow and arrows for hunting has been documented by Mesolithic man in rock art of the period.
Changes in Society of Mesolithic Age:
1. Domestication of Animals & Farming: The early period of Mesolithic age was based on the hunting, fishing and food gathering, slowly domestication of animals and cultivation of crops made their way into human life.
- The earliest evidence of domestication of animals has been provided by Adamagarh in Madhya Pradesh and Bagor in Rajasthan.
- The first animals to be domesticated were dog, cattle, sheep and goat and the first crops to be cultivated were wheat and barley.
2. Nomadism to Sedentary settlements:
The favourable climate, better rainfalls, warm atmosphere and increased food security led to reduction in Nomadism to seasonally sedentary settlement and increased population.
They moved to new areas such as nearby rivers which provided water and First human colonization of the Ganga plains took place during this period.
3. Beginning of customs
- The Mesolithic age saw beginning of the tradition of various ways of intentional disposal of the dead.
- Mesolithic human burials have been found at Bagor in Rajasthan, Langhnaj in Gujarat, and Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh etc.
4. Emergence of Arts:
- The rock painting of Mesolithic period is found in Adamagarh, Bhimbetka of Madhya Pradesh and Pratapgarh, Mirzapur of Rajasthan.
- The paintings are made mostly in red and white pigments, made from the nodules found in rocks and earth. (Red made by minerals of iron oxide and white by limestone).
- The subject matter of the paintings are mostly wild animals and hunting scenes, though there are some related to human social and religious life such as sex and child birth.
Mesolithic sites in Rajasthan:
- The Pachpadra basin, Sojat Area & Tilwara of Rajasthan is rich Mesolithic sites and lot of Microlith has been discovered.
- However, Bagor is the largest Mesolithic site in India.
Neolithic Age in Rajasthan (5,000 BC – 1,000 BC)
Neolithic or new Stone Age, which followed Mesolithic age, was the last phase of Stone Age. 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 people began settle down in agricultural communities which led to establishment of villages.
- Man for first time domesticated cattle, sheep and goats.
- As efficiency of agriculture improved, man was able to produce surplus food. As a consequence, some people moved away from agriculture and new occupations like dancers, musicians, masonry came up.
- The people of this age used tools & implements of polished stone. Neolithic tool kit was composed of heavy ground tools – pestles, mortars, grinders and pounders – as also axes and sickles which have a characteristic sheen on them, the result of harvesting wild or domesticated plants and grasses.
The use of pottery and the wheel and the subsequent invention of crafts like spinning, weaving and bead making also serve to demonstrate the uniqueness of the Neolithic phase. This transition from hunting gathering to food production is called the Neolithic revolution.
Causes of Neolithic Revolution: Factors that pushed humans in vastly separated parts to adopt agriculture and animal domestication included:
i. Climatic change at the beginning of the Holocene period
ii. Increasing population density
iii. Evolving cultural and technological strategies of human groups.
Features of Mehrgarh Neolithic Culture:
Mehrgarh is located on bank of the Bolan River, a tributary of the Indus, at the eastern edge of the Baluchistan plateau overlooking the Indus plain. It is considered as the oldest agricultural settlement in the Indian subcontinent.
- The main domesticated animals in Mehrgarh were cattle, sheep, goat and water buffalo while the main cultivated plants were wheat and barley.
- Houses made in mud and mud-bricks, created rooms to store grains, buried dead under floors of houses where they lived, used ornaments of steatite, turquoise, sea shells etc.
- Domesticated cotton for the first time. Used pottery decorated with images of birds, animals.
- Learnt use of making stone beads, copper smelting, timber, terracotta, commercial transactions.
- The first evidence in human history for the drilling of teeth in a living person was found in Mehrgarh.
Neolithic Age in Rajasthan
There are no significant Neolithic sites that fall in modern Rajasthan.