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Pre Historic India

Prehistory The prehistoric period in the history of humankind can roughly be calculated from 200000 BC to about 3500-2500 BC, when the first civilizations began to take shape. The history of India is no exception to the above-mentioned fact. The first modern human beings or the Homo sapiens set their foot on the Indian subcontinent anywhere between 200000 BC and 40000 BC and they soon spread throughout a large part of the subcontinent, including peninsular India. They continuously flooded the Indian subcontinent in wave after wave of migration from what is present-day Iran. These primitive people moved in groups of few 'families' and mainly lived on hunting and gathering. While the males in the group spent most of their time in hunting, fishing, and gathering food like fruits, roots, and berries, the females gathered food, looked after the children and the dwellings where they lived. Stone Age The age when the prehistoric man began to use stones for utilitarian purpose is termed as the Stone Age. The Stone Age is divided into three broad divisionsPaleolithic Age or the Old Stone Age (from unknown till 8000 BC), Mesolithic Age or the Middle Stone Age (8000 BC-4000 BC) and the Neolithic Age or the New Stone Age (4000 BC-2500 BC) on the basis of the specialization of the stone tools, which were made during that time. Paleolithic Age The human beings living in the Paleolithic Age were essentially food gatherers and depended on nature for food. The art of hunting and stalking wild animals individually and later in groups led to these people making stone weapons and tools. First, crudely carved out stones were used in hunting, but as the size of the groups began to increase and there was need for more food, these people began to make "specialized tools" by flaking stones, which were pointed on one end. These kind of tools were generally used to kill small animals and for tearing flesh from the carcass of the hunted animals. The basic technique of making these crude tools was by taking a stone and flaking its sides with a heavier stone. These tools were characteristic of the Paleolithic Age and were very rough. By this time, human beings had come to make and use fire.

Mesolithic Age As time passed and the size of "families" grew in small communities, there was a constant need to feed all the members of the community and to lead a life of subsistence. In the Mesolithic Age, the stone tools began to be made more pointed and sharp. To ensure a life that had abundance of food and clothing (rough animal skin garments were being worn by the Stone Age man), the stone tools began to appear in increasingly specialized way. The simple handheld stone tools were now attached to thick branches from trees with rope made from animal skin and sinew. These tools are known as hand axes, which could be flung at fast-moving animals from a distance. Apart from hand axes, they also produced crude stone-tipped wooden spears, adzes, borers, and burins. This period also saw the domestication of plants and growing of wild varieties of crops. Because of farming, small settlements began to take shape. Archaeological excavations have unearthed Mesolithic sites in the Chotta Nagpur area of central India and the areas south of the Krishna River. The famous Bhimbetka caves near Bhopal belong to the Mesolithic Age and are famous for their cave paintings. The art of the prehistoric man can be seen in all its glory with the depiction of wild animals, hunting scenes, ritual scenes and scenes from day-to-day life of the period. The exact date of these paintings is not certain, but the oldest paintings are as old as 12,000 years. The prehistoric artist used natural white and red pigments in depicting the various themes, which were close to his heart and sustenance. Neolithic Age The Neolithic Age (4000 BC-2500 BC) or the New Stone Age was the last phase of the Stone Age and is characterized by very finely flaked, small stone tools, also known as blades and burins. These stone blades are so sharp that the modern blades cannot match their smooth surface and cutting edges. The Neolithic Age also saw the domestication of cattle, horses, and other farm animals, which were used for dairy and meat products. An important invention of this time was the making of the wheel. The Neolithic Age quickly gave way to a number of small "cultures" that were highly technical. These people used copper and bronze to make a range of utilitarian tools. This phase or period is termed as the Chalcolithic Age (1800 BC-1000 BC). A number of such sites have been found in the Chotta Nagpur Plateau region, the upper Gangetic basin, Karnataka and near the banks of river Narmada.

Rock art and paintings

The only painting in the caves showing, "a man" being hunted by a beast, Bhimbetka Cave paintings Bhimbetka rock painting The rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka have a number of interesting paintings which depict the lives and times of the people who lived in the caves, including scenes of childbirth, communal dancing and drinking, and religious rites and burials, as well as the natural environment around them.[7] Executed mainly in red and white with the occasional use of green and yellow with themes taken from the everyday events of aeons ago, the scenes usually depict hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant riders animal fighting, honey collection decoration of bodies, disguises, masking and household scenes. Animals such as bisons, tigers, lions, wild boar, elephants, antelopes dogs, lizards, crocodiles etc. have been abundantly depicted in some caves popular religious and ritual symbols also occur frequently The superimposition of paintings shows that the same canvas was used by different people at different times. The drawing and paintings can be classified under seven different periods. Period I - (Upper Paleolithic): These are linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge figures of animals such as bison, tigers, and rhinoceroses. Period II - (Mesolithic): Comparatively small in size the stylised figures in this group show linear decorations on the body. In addition to animals there are human figures and hunting scenes, giving a clear picture of the weapons they used: barbed spears, pointed sticks, bows and arrows. The depiction of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking, and burials appear in rhythmic movement. Period III - (Chalcolithic) Similar to the paintings of the Chalcolithic, these drawings reveal that during the period the cave dwellers of this area were in contact with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains and exchanged goods with them. Period IV & V - (Early historic): The figures of this group have a schematic and decorative style and are painted mainly in red white and yellow. The association is of riders, depiction of religious symbols, Tunic-like dresses and the existence of scripts of different periods. The religious beliefs are represented by figures of yakshas, tree gods and magical sky chariots. Period VI & VIl - (Medieval) : These paintings are geometric linear and more schematic, but they show degenerations and crudeness in their artistic style. The colours used by the cave dwellers were

prepared combining manganese, hematite (soft red stone), and wooden coal. Sometimes the fat of animals and extracts of leaves were also used in the mixture. The colours have remained intact for many centuries due to the chemical reaction resulting from the oxide present on the surface of the rocks. One rock, popularly referred to as Zoo Rock, depicts elephants, sambar, bison and deer. Paintings on another rock show a peacock, a snake, a deer and the sun. On another rock, two elephants with tusks are painted. Hunting scenes with hunters carrying bows, arrows, swords and shields also find their place in the community of these prehistoric paintings. In one of the caves, a bison is shown in pursuit of a hunter while his two companions appear to stand helplessly nearby; in another, some horsemen are seen, along with archers. It is a marvel that the paintings have not faded even after thousands of years. Many archaeologists ponder on the possibility that these paints were made of colored earth, vegetable dyes,[dubious discuss] roots, and animal fat. Brushes were made of pieces of fibrous plants. Because of the natural red and white pigments the artists used, the colors have been remarkably well preserved. The oldest paintings are considered to be 12,000 years old, but some of the geometric figures date to as recently as the medieval period. The colours used are vegetable colours which have endured through time because the drawings are generally made deep inside a niche or on inner walls. The presence of the figure of a horse, which is supposed to have come into India in relatively recent times, indicates that some of the drawings date back a few thousand years but there are other drawings which have been established as of the paleolithic age by archaeologists, using carbon dating techniques.[citation needed]