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Early India: Mesolithic Culture

Mesolithic Culture

  • Mesolithic sites are found in most parts of India.
  • They occur in all eco-zones from the coasts to the hills: sand dunes, rock shelters, deltaic regions, lake areas, forested territories, hilly and mountainous areas, rocky terrains and coastal environments.
  • Mesolithic sites in India are found in Paisra (Bihar), Langhnaj (Gujarat), Baghor II, Chopani Mando, Sarai Nahar Rai, Mahadaha and Damdama (all in Uttar Pradesh), Sankanakallu (Andhra) and Kibbanahalli (Karnataka).
  • Rock shelter sites are found in Adamgarh and Bhimbetka.
  • Coastal sites are seen at Mumbai, teri sites in Thoothukudy district (Tamil Nadu) and Vishakapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), these sites also have microlithic evidence.
Teri:A coastal landscape caused by sand dunes.These soils may have originated in the Pleistocene epoch of the Quaternary period.

Climate

  • After the Ice Age, with the advent of global warming, human groups became highly mobile and began to occupy various eco-zones.
  • The monsoon pattern had already emerged.
  • Some regions witnessed higher rainfall.
  • At Didwana in western Rajasthan, fresh water lakes were known to exist between 10,000 and 3500 BP.
  • The animal bones from this period suggest a dry deciduous type of forest during the Mesolithic period.

Chronology

  • The date of the Mesolithic culture varies in different parts of the world.
  • This culture is assigned to pre-agricultural times in certain areas.
  • In Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), they are dated between 20,000 and 9500 BCE.
  • In India, Mesolithic cultures appeared around 10,000 BCE.
  • In certain parts of India including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it continued up to 1000 BCE, till the beginning of the Iron Age.
  • In Sri Lanka, the microliths appeared about 28,500 years BP.

Economy

  • Hunting wild animals and gathering plant food and fishing were people‚Äôs main occupation during this age.
  • Agriculture was not practised in the early stages.
  • At the end of the Mesolithic period, humans domesticated animals and paved the way for the Neolithic way of life.
  • The rock paintings of Central India depict hunting, trapping, fishing and plant food collection.
  • The faunal evidence from this period shows that people belonging to this period hunted cattle, gaur, buffalo, barasingha, porcupines, sambar, chital, gazelle, hog deer, nilgai, jackal, turtle, fish, wild hare, lizard fox and monitor lizard.
  • Bones of rhinoceros and elephant have also been found.
  • They used spears, bow and arrow and traps.
  • The paintings of Bhimbetka show that various animals were hunted and for this men and women went together.
  • The people used fire and perhaps roasted food.
  • Domestic animal bones of cattle, sheep, goats, pig and dog have been found at Kanewal, Loteshwar and Ratanpur, and from Adamgarh and Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh sites.
  • Camel bones have been found from Kanewal.

Camps and Houses

  • The Mesolithic people were highly mobile.
  • They moved in search of animals and plant foods.
  • They made temporary huts and also used caves and rock shelters.
  • Circular huts with postholes and burnt clay lumps bearing reed impressions have been found. Many of caves and shelters feature paintings.
  • Circular huts are seen in rock paintings.
  • The temporary huts were built using perishable materials.
  • Traces of oval and circular huts and possible wattle daub are found in Chopani Mando and Damdama in Uttar Pradesh and Bagor and Tilwara in Rajasthan.

Burials

  • The Mesolithic people buried the dead, which suggests their beliefs and humane relationships.
  • Human skeletons have been found in Mahadaha, Damdama and Sarai Nahar Rai in Uttar Pradesh.
  • At Mahadaha, a man and a woman were buried together.
  • One burial had an ivory pendant as the grave good.

Art

  • Art is an integral part of human existence.
  • While evidence of art is found in Europe in large volume, they are found only at a few sites in India.
  • A chert stone used as a core had geometric engravings from Chandravati in Rajasthan, bone objects from Bhimbetka and human tooth engraved with geometric design.
  • Rock paintings are found in the rock shelters of Madhya Pradesh and Central India.
  • They show people hunting, trapping animals and fishing and dancing.
  • Bhimbetka near Bhopal, Raisen and Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh and South Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh are some of the sites. Haematite, an ironrich stone with traces of rubbing, has been found.
  • These people might have decorated themselves with flowers and leaves.

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