Neolithic Phase The Neolithic transition involved less a technological revolution than one in land use. After millennia of success as hunters and food gatherers people settled down to village life as farmers or stockbreeders. It cannot be coincidental that this process of settling down and tending to wheat, barley, cattle, sheep and goat species is first found in South Asia at a site in a frontier region, Mehrgarh. There was no particular period in South Asia when hunters and gatherers took to agriculture and animal rearing. The Neolithic stage appeared in different regions at different times in each case with a unique stone and ceramic technology and range of domesticates.
Neolithic cultures in the Jhelum valley and in the Garo and North Cachar hills exhibit a frontier character with artefactual links with cultures outside the subcontinent. On the other hand in Orissa we may have mingling of traditions from the northeast and the Deccan plateau. Like the Kachhi plain the region comprising the Belan valley at the edge of the Vindhya plateau and the adjoining Ganga plain around Allahabad is an important zone.
After the Harappan civilization we have a sequence of Chalcolithic cultures which span the second millennium BC and extend geographically from the Banas and Berach basins northeast of Udaipur through Malwa and into western Maharashtra up to the Bhima valley. Stratigraphy at key sites such as Dangwada and Kayatha near Ujjain and Daimabad on the Pravara shows that the Kayatha culture was succeeded by the Banas, Malwa and Jorwe cultures in turn. These cultures exhibit some similarities in subsistence economies, house form, flaked stone tools, and limited use of copper. Thus it is possible to consider a process of cultural development and transmission of ideas for about a millennium along the important marshland of west-central India which gave access to the productive basins of the Krishna and Tungabhadra where settlements of the southern Neolithic flourished.
Early Iron Phase
Just as the emergence of settled village life took different forms in different parts of the country so also the introduction of iron occurred at different times in different contexts. On the basis of available radiocarbon dates it was suggested that iron working might have begun in Malwa around 1100 BC. This was based on the argument that there was continuity between Chalcolithic and Iron Age material cultural at sites in Malwa and the dates for the terminal phases of the Chalcolithic period here around were around 1300 BC. Since 1963 when D D Kosambi made the assertion that extensive forest clearance and agrarian settlement would not have been possible in the Ganga plains without the use of iron, archeologists have been exploring the connection between the introduction of iron technology, settlements patterns and political developments in northern India.
Geographical distribution and characteristics of Pastoral and Farming communities (2000-500 BC)
The region falls into three major areas: the stretch between Peshawar and Taxila comprising the Peshawar valley and the Potwar plateau, the area between Swat and Chitral and finally the valley of Kashmir. The Neolithic levels of Saraikhola in the Potwar plateau gave way to Kot Diji related horizon and in some way this region as a whole was within the trading network of the contemporary Indus plains. In the Swat Chitral region the large number of sites that have been excavated show the use of different metals, stone and other objects among which are shell, coral and ivory which must have reached this region from the Indus plains. The rock shelter site of Ghaligai which perhaps goes back to 3000 BC provides the baseline in Swat -Chitral. The proto-historic graveyards of the region are dated between the second quarter of the second millennium BC and the late centuries BC. The evidence of such graveyards and associated settlements has been categorised as the Gandhara Grave Culture.
These Copper Age graves are marked by in-flexed burials and urn burials after cremation. Grave sites and associated settlements have been investigated at a large number of sites including Loebanr, Aligrama, Birkot Ghundai, Kherari, Lalbatai, Timargarha, Balambat, Kalako-Deray and Zarif Karuna located in the valleys of Chitral, Swat, Dir and Buner etc. In Kashmir more than 30 Neolithic sites have been found scattered but most of them are in the Baramula, Anantnag and Srinagar regions. This distribution points out that this was not a culture isolated from the plains. Handmade grey pottery with a mat impressed base is a distinguishing feature of the ceramic phase of the Kashmir Neolithic at both its excavated sites - Gufkral and Burzahom. The Neolithic phase in Kashmir merged into a megalithic phase around the middle of the second millennium BC. Handmade grey pottery with a mat impressed base is a distinguishing feature of the ceramic phase of the Kashmir Neolithic at both its excavated sites- Gufkral and Burzahom. The Neolithic phase in Kashmir merged into a megalithic phase around the middle of the second millennium BC.
Ladakh and Almora