Maharashtra State BoardHSC Arts 11th
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Beginning of Cultivation: Agricultural Production

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Beginning of Cultivation: Agricultural Production

The transition from hunter-gatherer’s life to the beginning of cultivation was a very slow process drawn over thousands of years. Beginning of cultivation is also the beginning of the neolithic age. It spans through 10000 – 8700 B.C.E. It may vary to some extent from place to place. This period marked the beginning of domestication of animals along with the beginning of cultivation. Barley was the main crop in this period. Other crops were wheat and flaxseed.

Different Ages of Man:

Man has come a long way in his evolution from the earliest times to modern times. In traversing this long journey he has passed through different ages from palaeolithic to what may be called space and cyber age. In this long and arduous journey technology has played an important role as the most important instrument of change. 

1. Palaeolithic Age:

  • Derived from two Greek words Palaios meaning ancient and lithos meaning stone.
  • Palaeolithic age refers to the old stone age.
  • It is the name given to the vast period of early human existence when man used crude stone tools and implements, was a food gatherer and led the life of a nomad.
  • This age is also known as hunter age and the Palaeolithic man is also called pre-historic or caveman. Though the term "Palaeolithic age' applies to all countries and peoples, it does not cover a uniform period for all countries of the world.
  • Palaeolithic man in India used crude stone implements made of hard rocks called Quartzite for hunting wild animals or for cutting and boring purposes and therefore he is known as 'Quartzite man'.
  • The quartzite man was ignorant of any metals, had no fixed home, had no idea of agriculture and did not use pottery or fire.
  • He belonged to the Negrito race - was short-statured with dark skin, woolly hair and flat nose.

2. Neolithic age:

  • Derived from two Greek words Neos meaning new and lithos meaning stone.
  • The term "Neolithic” stands for New Stone Age. The term refers to the period when man used polished stone tool cultivated crops, became a food producer and led a settled life.
  • He used stone implements except for quartzite but they were not merely chipped but also ground, grooved and polished.
  • He cultivated land and grew fruits and corn.
  • Besides cultivation Neolithic man also took to pastoral activities or domestication of animals such as ox and goat.
  • He used fire and pottery, lived in caves and decorated their walls by painting scenes of hunting etc.
  • Archaeological findings suggest that Neolithic man had started using boats, could spin cotton, wool and weave cloth.
  • An important characteristic of Neolithic age all over the world was the system of disposal of the dead also called Megalithic tombs (sometimes dead body was a put in a large urn known as Dolmens tombs which consist of three or more stone props in a circle supporting a massive roof stone.)

3. Mesolithic Age:

  • Meso + lithos = Middle Stone Age.
  • The term refers to the intermediate period or midway age between Palaeolithic and Neolithic age.
  • The people during the Mesolithic Age used extremely small tools and implements.
  • Hence, the period is also called as Microlithic Age.
  • Pastoral age started during the second phase of the period of the Mesolithic Age.

4. Chalcolithic Age or the Age of Metals:

  • The term 'Chalcolithic Age' refers to the period when man used both stone and copper tools.
  • This period marked the transition from stone to metal. It was a slow process characterised by the use of stone and metallic implements side by side.
  • Copper was the earliest metal used by man. Later bronze (an alloy of tin and copper) was used by man for making utensils, vessels, tools and statues etc.
  • In the beginning, man used metals for clearing forests Later metals were used for other purposes.
  • Iron was discovered later. The discovery and use of iron revolutionised man's life.

It is apparent that the common prerequisites were present in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Indian Subcontinent to initiate the onset of the Neolithic age and agriculture. The last Glacial period in the history of our planet came to an end at about 12000-11000 years ago. It was the beginning of a new epoch, which is known as ‘Holocene’. With the beginning of the Holocene, glaciers began to melt and the water volume in the water bodies like rivers and ocean increased. As a result, the availability of animals and vegetation for food increased. This period had also witnessed the extinction of species of gigantic animals like a mammoth. However, varied species of fish and small animals like goat, sheep, deer, etc. were amply available for food. The heavy tools of Palaeolithic times were of no use either for fishing or for hunting small animals. The technique of removing long stone blades had been developed in the Upper Palaeolithic age. In the Mesolithic age the same technique was used and blades as small as fingernails were removed to make tools. These blades known as microliths were either hafted on the tips of wooden/bone shafts or in the grooves made on those shafts. Thus, modified composite tools like fishing harpoons, spears and arrows could be made. Ample cereals and fruits, grown naturally, were available. Tools like sickle and scythe were made by hafting microliths for harvesting the cereals and fruits. Thus, the technology evolved; the techniques of hunting and obtaining food improved; food became available in plenty. This resulted in making the Mesolithic people stay at one place for a longer time of the year. Harvesting of naturally grown cereals led them into systematic cultivation. The technique of agricultural and pastoral operations (animal husbandry) continued to evolve. The nature of these operations is such that the farmer is compelled to settle down permanently near the cultivated land. He doesn’t need to go out in search of food. This is how the villages were settled on a permanent basis. This prepared the ground for the rise of the Neolithic Age. This transition was drawn over a prolonged period.

Nevertheless, considering radical changes in the way of life during the Neolithic Age, the Australian archaeologist Gordon Childe coined the term ‘Neolithic Revolution’.

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