History: The Geographical Setting and Pre-Historic Cultures of India: The Neolithic Cultures and The Advent of Food

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The Neolithic Cultures and the Advent of Food Production

The term ‘Neolithic’ was coined by Jonn Lubbock. The chief characteristic of this age was the new type of ground and polished stone tools. This period also marked the beginning of cultivation of plants and the domestication of animals. It led to the beginning of settled life and the growth of village settlements.

Meaning of the ‘Neolithic Revolution’

The use of the sharp and polished Neolithic tools made it easier to cultivate the soil. It was accompanied by the practice of domestication of animals. These changes in turn resulted in the emergence of settled agricultural communities. The Neolithic people also produced pottery for the purpose of storing grains. As the redevelopment in the Neolithic phase greatly affected the human life, some scholars have used the term “the Neolithic Revolution” to signify those changes.

Tools of the Neolithic Period

The ground stone tools of the Neolithic period included different types of axes called ‘Celt’. Besides the stone tools, the sites of this period have also yielded various types of bone objects such as needles, scrapers, borers, arrowheads, pendants, bangles and earrings.

Geographical Distribution of the Neolithic Sites

In the northwestern region Mehrgarh is a classic site in the Kachi plains of the important sites in Kashmir Valley include Burzahom and Gufkral. The dwelling pits, either circular or rectangular, at these sites form an important feature of Neolithic culture. The Belan Valley along the edge of Vindhyan plateau near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh also has many Neolithic sites such as Koldihwa and Mahagara. The Neolithic tools (both stone and bone), pottery, other artefacts, floral and faunal remains have been found from these sites. In Bihar and mid-Gangetic Valley region Chirand is the most popular Neolithic site. Several Neolithic sites are present covering the hills of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. The tools like Neolithic Celts, small ground axes along with the remains of pottery have been found from this area.

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Subsistence Pattern

Agriculture gave impetus to animal domestication. Hunting still remained an important occupation. The people domesticated animals which included sheep, goat, cattle, etc. and also hunted wild animals such as boar, nilgai, gazells, etc. Different kinds of stone tools were made by Neolithic people, which has already been discussed.

The Prehistoric Art

The rock paintings were an important and distinct feature of the Mesolithic people though their beginning may be traced to the upper Palaeolithic period. These paintings are made on the walls of rock shelters, maximum of which have been found at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh. These throw light on the social and economic life on Mesolithic people. The main subjects of paintings are hunting, fishing and food gathering. Animals like boar, buffalo, monkey and nilgai are often depicted in these paintings.

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