Chalcolithic Period in India



  • Rajasthan
    1. ‘Ahar’ or ‘Banas’ Culture
    2. Ganeshwar-Jodhpura Culture
  • The Ganga Valley
  • Bihar, Bengal, Odisha
  • Madhya Pradesh
    1. Kayatha Culture
    2. Malwa Culture
  • Gujarat


Chalcolithic Period in India:

The discipline of architecture, town planning of the Mature Harappan period was absent in the Late Harappan settlements, established on the ruins of the Harappan cities. The designs found on the burial pots in ‘Cemetary H’ at Harappa were different. These designs include motifs like sun, moon, fish, deer and peacock, which do not occur on the Mature Harappan pottery. On one of the cemetery ‘H’ pots, dead humans are seen carried by peacocks in their stomach. In brief, the characteristics of the Late Harappan culture were different. Some archaeologists are of the opinion that the Late Harappans were perhaps Vedic Aryans. However, more research is required to know whether the Late Harappans were the successors of the Mature Harappan people or whether they were the Vedic Aryans.

1. Rajasthan:

(i) ‘Ahar’ or ‘Banas’ Culture:

The chalcolthic cultures in India generally belong to the post-Harappan period. However, the ‘Ahar’ or ‘Banas’ culture in the Mewad region of Rajasthan was contemporary to the Harappan civilisation. Balathal and Gilund near Udaipur are the important sites of Ahar culture. ‘Ahar’ culture at Balathal is dated to 4000 B.C.E. It was first discovered at Ahar near Udaipur, so it was named as ‘Ahar’ culture. Ahar is located on the banks of Ahar, a tributary of the river Banas, So it is also known as ‘Banas’ culture.

Typical Ahar pottery is a Black-and-Red ware (BRW) with linear and dotted designs painted on it in white pigment and has a limited range of shapes, which include bowls, bowls-on-stands, elongated vases and globular vases. The Ahar culture also had equally distinctive brightly slipped Red Ware, a Tan ware, ceramics in Burnished Black that were incised Thin Red ware, as well as incised and otherwise decorated Gray ware fabrics.

The pottery had a black top and reddish bottom, with paintings in white on the black surface. Because of these distinctive features, Ahar, when it was first noticed by R C Agrawal, was called the "black and red ware culture". This is in a way true because this was primarily the pottery used by the inhabitants of Ahar for drinking and eating. They used fine and deluxe table-ware like the china-ware or stainless steel we use today. However, a subsequent and more extensive excavation showed that the Ahar people produced other kinds of fine and distinctive pottery as well.

(ii) Ganeshwar-Jodhpur Culture:

Many sites of the culture known as ‘Ganeshwar-Jodhpur’ culture have been found in the vicinity of the copper mines at Khetri. The settlements there are earlier than the Harappan civilisation. During the excavations at Ganeshwar copper artefacts like arrowheads, spearheads, harpoons, bangles, chisels and also pottery was found. The people of Ganeshwar-Jodhpur culture supplied copper objects to the Harappans.

With its microliths and other stone tools, Ganeshwar culture can be ascribed to the pre-Harappan period. Ganeshwar saw three cultural phases: Period 1 (3800 BCE) which was characterized by hunting and gathering communities using chert tools; Period II (2800 BCE) shows the beginnings of metalwork in copper and fired clay pottery; Period III (2000 BCE) featured a variety of pottery and copper goods being produced. Nearly one thousand pieces of copper were found here. Red pottery was found here with black portraiture. Ganeshwar mainly supplied copper objects to Harappa. The Ganeshwar people partly lived on agriculture and largely on hunting.

2. The Ganga Valley

(i) Ochre Coloured Pottery and Copper Hoards:

Initially, the Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP) was mostly found in river beds. Generally, the potsherds of OCP are found in worn-out, rounded and brittle conditions as they remained in flowing water for a long time. Now, a number of sites of the OCP culture are found in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and the Western region of Uttar Pradesh House floors of these people were made by ramming. On the house floors were found traces of hearths, terracotta male figurines and bull figurines. Remains of cattle bones, rice and barley were also found. This evidence indicates that people of this culture stayed in settled villages and practised agriculture. The OCP culture in Rajasthan is dated to about 3000 B.C.E. The same culture existed in Ganga-Yamuna Doab around 2000 B.C.E. The Copper Hoards found in India come from various regions, such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, and Madhya Pradesh. The copper objects found in these hoards indicate that the artisans who fashioned them were very highly skilled. The archaeological sites of OCP and the find-spots of the copper hoards often seem to be situated in the same vicinity, not very distant from each other. Hence, OCP and copper hoards are supposed to belong to one and the same culture Bihar, Bengal, Odisha Copper hoards have been found in Bihar, Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. However, OCP is not found in these regions.

(ii) Bihar, Bengal, Odisha:

Chalcolithic sites have been discovered in these regions. The excavations at sites like Chirand, Sonpur, etc. yielded earthen pots of black-and-red ware. Shapes of these pots are similar to those of Harappan culture. It seems that the Harappan people had gone as far as Bihar and the local cultures were influenced by them. In Bengal and Odisha also some chalcolithic sites have yielded pottery that shows Harappan influence as far their shapes are concerned.

3. Madhya Pradesh:

(i) Kayatha Culture:

The Kayatha culture represents the earliest known agriculture settlement in the present-day Malwa region. It also featured advanced copper metallurgy and stone blade industry. Using calibrated radiocarbon, Dhavalikar dated this culture to a period spanning from 2400 BCE to 2000 BCE. However, calibrated dates by Grwegory Possehl place it between 2200 BCE and 2000 BCE. Kayatha culture was contemporary to the Harappan civilisation. The people of Kayatha culture subsisted on agriculture and animal husbandry. They mainly used handmade pots and microliths. Artefacts like copper axes and bangles, necklaces made of beads of semi-precious stones and small disc beads of steatite were found in the Kayatha houses. People of Kayatha culture and Harappan culture seem to have been in contact much before the rise of the Harappan cities.

(ii) Malwa Culture:

The name ‘Malwa’ obviously tells us that this culture originated and spread first in the Malwa region. It existed in Madhya Pradesh during 1800- 1200 B.C.E. ‘Navadatoli’ situated on the river Narmada, on the opposite bank of Maheshwar, is an important site of Malwa culture. The other important sites are Eran (District Sagar) and Nagda (District Ujjain). They were surrounded by protective walls.

4. Gujarat:

The chalcolithic settlements in Gujarat coincide with the following phases

of the Harappan culture :

  1. Early Harappan phase (3950-2600 B.C.E.)
  2. Mature (urban) phase (2600-1900 B.C.E.)
  3. Post-Harappan phase (1900-900 B.C.E.)

There are ample sources of semi-precious stones in Gujarat. Making beads of these stones was a big industry during Harappan times. The Neolithic settlements in Gujarat played a major role in procuring these stones. People residing in the neolithic settlements of Gujarat were mainly pastoral, that is people whose primary occupation was animal husbandry. Probably, some of these pastoral people were semi-nomadic. There are regional variations in the characteristics of chalcolithic cultures of Gujarat. The chalcolithic pottery of Kutch- Saurashtra and Northern Gujarat are distinct from each other. The chalcolithic villages in Kutch-Saurashtra were abandoned by 1900 B.C.E. In the post-Harappan period, there were two chalcolithic cultures in Gujarat. The culture in south Gujarat was known as ‘Prabhas’ culture and the one in northeastern Gujarat was known as ‘Rangpur’ culture. The pottery of these chalcolithic cultures was akin to Late Harappan pottery with regards to the colour, shapes and designs. These cultures existed till 1800-1200 B.C.E.

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