Ancient Bharat
Chalcolithic Cultures


The Ahar people had a rich ceramic tradition consisting of several fine and coarse wares. The fine wares include Tan ware, Thin Red ware and Black-and-Red ware, and the coarse wares include Thick Red ware and Grey ware. The fine wares are made of well-levigated clay, have a slipped and burnished surface, and are well baked and sturdy.

These wares were meant for eating and drinking. In the Tan ware, which has a close affinity, in its fabric and shapes, with Harappan pottery, the main shapes are carinated dishes, dishes-on-stand of various sizes, and globular jars with deep grooves between tall applique ridges on the outside. The Thin Red ware mainly consists of convex-sided bowls and lota-like vessels.

In the Black-and-Red ware the main shapes are straight-sided as well as carinated shallow and deep bowls. They are painted on both surfaces in white pigment with geometric motifs. The coarse wares are made of coarse clay and are poorly fired. They comprise jars and handis of various sizes for storage and cooking.

The upper part of the vessels is treated with a thick bright red or grey slip and is burnished. The vessels are decorated with shallow grooves below the neck and with a variety of incised, applique and cut designs below the grooves on the external surface.

Nearly thirty-five radiocarbon dates, mainly from Balathal, clearly establish the duration of the Ahar culture from 3000 B.C. to 1500 B.C. They show Balathal to be the oldest village in India outside the Indus Civilization.

The Northern Vindhyas and the Ganga Valley-

Geographical Extent -

The Neolithic culture of the northern Vindhyas and the middle Ganga valley was succeeded by Chalcolithic culture. During this period the number of settlements increased considerably and extended eastward into the lower Ganga valley in Bihar and West Bengal.

The new features are increase in the size of settlements, improvement in architecture, appearance of wheel-made pottery, diversification of wares, profuse decoration of vessels with painted and incised designs, addition of copper to technology, and appearance of beads of semi-precious stones, copper, steatite and terracotta and of terracotta animal and human figurines. A large number of Chalcolithic sites have been excavated.

These include Kakoria (B.B. Misra 1989), Magha (IAR 1980-81: 72-3), Koldihwa (V.D. Misra 1989), Banimilia-Bahera (IAR 1971-72: 39-40), Takiapar (IAR 1971-72: 49), Raja Nal Ka Tila (Tiwari and Srivastava 1997-98) in the Vindhyas and Jhusi (V.D. Misra et al. 1995), Kausambi (G.R. Sharma 1960), Sringverapura (Lal and Dikshit 1981), Prahladpur (Narain and Roy 1968), Rajghat (Narain and Roy 1977).

Masondih (IAR 1963-64: 57-58), Sohagaura (Chaturvedi 1985), Narhan (P. Singh 1994), Imlidih (P. Singh 1993; P. Singh et al. 1992), Khairadih (B.P. Singh 1988), Chirand (S.R. Roy 1989), Chechar (IAR 1977-78: 17-18), Maner (IAR 1984-85: 11-12), Oriup (IAR 1967-68:6), Champa (IAR 1982-83: 15-16), Sonpur (Sinha and Verma 1970), Taradih (Prasad 1981), Manjhi (T.N. Roy 1986), Senuwar (B.P. Singh 1990) and Agiabir (P. Singh 1999), Mahisdal (Mukherjee 1989), Mangalkot (Mukherjee 1989) and Pandu Rajar Dhibi (Das Gupta 1964) in the Ganga valley.

Chief Characteristics-

The chief characteristic of the Chalcolithic culture represented at these sites are given below:

The houses were generally made of wattle-and-daub as represented by postholes, burnt lumps of clay with bamboo and reed impressions, and compact mud floors. They were usually of rectangular shape. At several sites the houses contained hearths and chulhas and kitchen equipment like querns and mullers.

The ceramic assemblage consists of Red, Black-and-Red, and Black-Slipped wares. All these were made on wheel from well-levigated clay. The shapes comprise bowls of various sizes, including pedestalled and channel spouted, flat platters, dishes, basins, perforated vessels, jars and vases. The Black-and-Red and Black-Slipped wares were painted in white with a variety of geometric designs on both faces.

The technology of the Chalcolithic people comprised tools and weapons of copper, stone, bone and antler. Copper objects include knives, spearheads and arrowheads. Bone and antler tools comprise awls, points, tanged arrowheads and barbed arrowheads with socketed base. Microliths and blade tools have been found at almost all the sites. They include lunates, triangles, trapezes, blunted back blades, serrated blades, retouched blades, plain blades and flakes.

The ornaments of these people comprise beads, pendants, bangles, rings and earstuds. Beads are made of semi-precious stones, terracotta, bone, shell, faience, steatite, copper and occasionally gold. Bangles are made of copper, terracotta and bone.

Other objects comprise saddle querns, mullers, rubbers, hammerstones, discs of stone and terracotta, fishhooks, pins, needles and gamesmen. The economy of these people was based on a combination of plant cultivation, animal domestication and hunting and gathering. Cultivated plants include wheat, barley, rice, jowar, mung, gram, kodo, lentil, til, linseed and pea. Domesticated animals include buffalo, sheep/goat, pig and dog, and wild animals include several species of deer and antelopes, and boar. Remains of birds and acquatic creatures like fish and tortoise have also been found at several sites.

Evidence of disposal of the dead in the form of burial comes only from three sides, Kakoria and Magha in the Vindhyas and Sonpur in the Ganga valley.

A number of radiocarbon dates from several sites both in the Vindhyas and the Ganga valley range from 1500 B.C. to 700 B.C. They clearly show that the colonization of the Ganga valley by farmers took place much later than that of the western, central and south India.

Malwa or Western Madhya Pradesh-

In the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh, drained by the Chambal, Narmada, Betwa and their tributaries, two Chalcolithic cultures, namely Kayatha and Malwa, have been found.

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Kayatha Culture-

Over 40 settlements of the Kayatha culture have been found in the northern part of Malwa, adjoining the Mewar region of Rajasthan, in the valleys of the tributaries of river Chambal. Two of them, namely Kayatha (Ansari and Dhavalikar 1973; Wakankar 1967) and Dangwada (Wakankar and Khare 1981) have been excavated.

The Kayatha culture people lived in small huts having well-rammed floors. They cultivated wheat and probably barley and other crops although unfortunately no attempt was made to recover the plant remains. They domesticated cattle, sheep and goat. The presence of horse bones in the layers of the Kayatha and succeeding Chalcolithic cultures as also a terracotta figurine of mare at Kayatha is interesting because it takes back the antiquity of this controversial animal to the late third millennium B.C.

The typical ceramic of the Kayatha culture is the Chocolate-slipped, sturdy and well-baked Kayatha ware. The shapes in this ware are convex-sided jars and carinated dishes, similar to those of the Tan ware of the Ahar culture. Occasionally the pots were decorated with linear designs in black pigment. Other wares of this culture are Buff ware with paintings in red and Combed ware in which the decoration consists of groups of incised wavy lines. In addition, there is a handmade grey ware in which the main shapes are handis, basins and storage jars.

The Kayatha people used both copper and stone tools. Elongated axes represent copper tools and stone tools comprise microliths and blades. Kayatha has also provided copper bangles, beads of semi-precious stones and micro beads of steatite. Radiocarbon dates suggest a period of 2000 to 1800 B.C. for this culture. After a break in occupation, the site of Kayatha was reoccupied by people whose culture was similar to that of Ahar in Mewar.

Malwa Culture -

More than a hundred settlements of this culture have been located in the valleys of the Chambal, Narmada, Betwa and their tributaries. Of these, Nagda (Banerjee 1986), Kayatha, Navdatoli (Sankalia et al. 1958; Sankalia et al. 1971) and Eran (U.V. Singh 1962) have been excavated. Navdatoli was horizontally excavated and has provided the best evidence.

The Malwa culture people lived in wattle-and-daub houses of rectangular and round shape the evidence of which is preserved in the form of burnt wooden posts and clay plaster with bamboo and reed impressions. Round huts have diameters varying from 2. 40 to 3. 60 m and with walls from 30 to 60 cm thick.

The rectangular structures were more spacious, ranging in size from 3 x 3 m to 6 x 4.5 m. Both the type of houses had mud walls with wooden posts supporting a thatched roof. At Nagda a rampart made of mud and mud-bricks has been reported, probably constructed for protection against floods of the Chambal River.

A defence wall made of mud and having a width of 30 m at the base and a height of 6.4 m, and with a moat running parallel to it has been reported from Eran. Nagda had multi-roomed houses made of mud and sun-baked as well as kiln-baked bricks. One house contained a four-armed chulha with provision for three cooking vessels. The floors of the houses were rammed hard and multiple floor levels indicate that they were periodically repaired and relaid.

At Nagda a drain built of mud -bricks and measuring 2. 28 x 2. 13 m and with a height of about 1 m have been reported. At Navdatoli a squarish pit enclosed by mud walls and containing ash and burnt logs of wood has been identified as a sacrificial pit or yajnya kunda (Sankalia et al. 1971: 49).The Malwa people cultivated cereals, legumes, oil seeds and fruits. Cereals comprise bread wheat (Triticum compactum) and rice (Oryza sativa L.).

Among the pulses and legumes are lentil (Lens esculenta), black gram or urid (Vigna mungo), green gram (Phaseolus mungo) and khesari (Lathyrus sativus). Oil seed is represented by linseed (Linum usitatissimum) and fruit is represented by ber (Zizyphus jujube). The Malwa people domesticated cattle, sheep, goat and pig. They also consumed the flesh of wild animals like barasingha (Cervus duvauceli), rat, fish, turtle and molluscs.

The Malwa people used several ceramics. Their main pottery was Malwa ware. It is made on wheel and has a buff or cream slip and bears painted patterns in dark brown or black pigment. The main vessel forms are lota, storage jars, bowls and dishes. Of particular interest are channel spouted bowls and pedestalled goblets from Navdatoli.

They have significant parallels at Iranian sites and Sankalia (1964: 315-17) interpreted them as evidence of Aryan migration from Iran into India. The painted designs are primarily geometric such as triangles and lozenges but naturalistic designs of animals, birds, dancing human figures and plants are also found. In addition, Black-and-Red ware with paintings in white and Buff ware with paintings in red colour are also found at Malwa sites.

The technology of the Malwa people consisted of copper and stone tools. Copper tools comprise flat celts and spearhead or sword with a mid rib. Such a sword also has affinities with specimens from Bronze Age sites in Iran, particularly Tepe Hissar and has been interpreted by Sankalia (1963: 329, Fig. 23-24) as another evidence of Aryan migration into India. Malwa culture sites, particularly Navdatoli, have provided an impressive quantity of chalcedony blades and a variety of microliths.

The blades were produced by crested guiding ridge technique. The ornaments of the Malwa people included beads of semi-precious stones and rings and bangles of copper. Navdatoli has produced a large quantity of beads as also evidence of their manufacture on the site. Other technological items are saddle querns, elongated rubbing stones and hammerstones.

Terracotta female figurines found at several sites may be representations of mother goddess. A painted male human figure with dishevelled hair and holding a spear in his right hand has been interpreted by Sankalia as a proto Siva. Terracotta bull figurines found at Malwa sites may be associated with religious beliefs.Radiocarbon dates from Navdatoli suggest a period of 1700 B.C. to 1450 B.C. for the duration of the Malwa culture.
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