India Recent Archaeological Excavations

By | December 16, 2021

Prehistory. – The results obtained twenty-five years ago by H. De Terra with a classification of the Pleistocene cultures of India, have had in recent years a control through various stratigraphic excavations. De Terra was able to establish, with regard to the Panjab, that two lithic cultures coexist with divergent characters, the abbevillio-Acheulean one of Madras, characterized by the so-called handax industry, and that of Sohan, with the production of tools from splinters and pebbles (flake and pebble industry). In Gujarat, in the Sabarmati and Mahi valleys, the existence of a mixed culture has been ascertained, which seems to be due to a meeting of late-Sohan and middle-and late-Acheulean elements. Likewise on the middle course of the Narmadā (Madhya Bharat), although most of the objects are of the splinter type, a mixed Sohan-Madras culture can be considered attested, while the excavations at the Gaṅgāpur dam on the Godavari, to the north- west of Nasik, they have not produced results that can be taken for granted. To limit ourselves to the most important of the other numerous excavations carried out in the various regions of India, we mention that in Karnāṭak which gave material like Madras, although the pebble tools are missing, and that near Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh), of fundamental importance for the relations between the two traditions of Sohan and Madras. For India history, please check

The picture of the Holocene lithic industries is more complex and obscure, above all for the value to be given to the numerous microlithic finds scattered throughout the India, not infrequently associated with Neolithic pottery and copper utensils. The most important, among the recent excavations intended to clarify the problems of Holocene cultures, are that of Sangankallu, near Bellary (phase I), which revealed Levalloisian elements, for the late Paleolithic, those of Nasik, Jorwe and Bahal in the valley of Godavari, and finally those of Birbhanpur in Bengal. Here the microlithic products were found in association with painted pottery and flat copper axes; also in Bahal the presence in the upper layers of the pottery known as northern black polished ware (northern smooth black pottery) allows us to attribute the microlithic phase to 1000-750 BC with verisimilitude. C.

For the problem of the chalcolithic in India and its correlations, the excavation of Brahmagiri (Mysore) is of particular importance. The chalcolithic phase seems peculiar to the India west and south-west, where it developed towards the end of the Neolithic, and is characterized by polished stone axes together with which bronze objects appear, albeit rarely. Likewise the excavation of Maski (distr. Raichur; formerly Hyderabad state) revealed a chalcolithic phase (beginning I mill. -400 BC approximately) characterized by the discovery of microliths and a few copper fragments. The ceramic is of two types, gray and pink, substantially contemporary, but the second is more frequent in the lower layers. The Chalcolithic period is followed by a megalithic culture in Maski, after an interruption. In Nevasa (Aḥmadnagar district, in the alto Godavari) the Palaeolithic phase is followed by a Neolithic-Chalcolithic phase dating back to 1000 BC. C. about, with a usually turned ceramic, with thin walls, painted in black on a red or chocolate-colored background.

Protohistory. – In the upper Ganges basin, the excavations of BB Lal in Rājpur, Parsu, Bisaulī and Hastināpura and those of YD Sharma in Bahādarābād have shed new light on the protohistoric cultures of this region, in many respects different from the more well-known in the Indus valley. Hastinapura (Uttar Pradesh) has revealed three phases that can be considered protohistoric, separated by gaps: the oldest, which seems to precede the arrival of the Arî, is characterized by an ocher ceramic; while it is period II, in which a painted gray ware is produced), which seems to correspond to the allocation of the “Vedic” populations. To this second period, for which the 11th-8th century date has been hypothetically proposed. to. C., a third happens (first half 6th-first half 3rd century BC?) Which, next to a poorer gray ceramic, no longer painted, presents the well-known northern black polished ware ; in the same phase we also witness the introduction of the use of iron and coins: punch-marked coins of copper and silver and fused copper coins were found.

For the India central and western, thanks to the excavations carried out at Maheśwar (on Narmadā), Raṅgpur, Nāsik, Tripurī, Jorwe, etc., it was possible to establish in principle a succession of cultural phases from a “proto-microlithic” pottery free to a chalcolithic with usually red pottery, painted or not, and copper objects, to a third phase, finally, with punchmarked coins, iron tools, northern shiny black pottery and a black red pottery. Particularly interesting is the ceramic with black decoration on a red background belonging to the Chalcolithic phase, with geometric motifs and stylized animals. Finally, as regards the contacts with the Indus valley civilization, the excavations of Lothal (distr. Aḥmadābād) have shown that the culture of Harappa also extended in Saurashtra to the northern margins of the state of Bombay, thus profoundly modifying the common opinion on the area of ​​diffusion of this culture.

The interesting problem of the megaliths of the India south, which had not received adequate contributions from the excavations until a few years ago, has been taken up again in the archaeological field starting from 1947. The excavations of Brahmagiri (Mysore), of Porkalam (Cochin), of Sānūr (Madras) have confirmed that the megalithic culture is quite late. With Brahmagiri, in particular, this culture appears to be associated, in its most ancient phase, with the delays of a lithic culture and it continues until the beginning of the Āndhra period (mid-1st century BC): the beginning term it is most likely the 3rd century. to. C.

India Prehistory