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Archaeological cultures of India II-early I millennium BC.

Changes in the cultural and ethnic environmentI

n the north-western region of India, in the middle of the second millennium BC, there is a gradual decline of the Indian civilization. The writing system and the monumental structures typical of Bronze Age cities are disappearing. The excavations of the Late Harappan centers show the centuries – long process of desolation of cities and the foundation of village settlements in their place. If in the southern regions of the spread of civilization, these changes occurred mostly peacefully, then in the areas of Sindh, Punjab and Haryana, external pressure and traces of migrations accompanied by a break in cultural traditions are clearly visible.

In the ruins of Changhu Daro, for example, the material remains of the Jhukar culture associated with Balochistan are found. In the more northern regions, in the area of Pirak, we can state the appearance of tribes that probably came from Central Asia. The culture of the Gandhar burial grounds of the IX-VII centuries BC finds analogies in Southern Tajikistan. The migrations of various tribal groups from Eastern Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia followed wave after wave both in the second and early first millennium BC. Judging by the pottery, we are talking about different ethnic groups, but the level of their socio-economic development was obviously similar. Bone remains indicate a pastoral life. Agriculture was also known — mainly barley was grown from cereals. Moving through vast territories was made easier by the use of wheeled carts.

“Culture of copper hoards»In th

e more eastern regions of Northern India, the so-called “copper hoard culture”was widespread. The copper products that gave the name to this culture are represented by characteristic swords with antenna-shaped handles, harpoons, spearheads with spikes, rings, which may have served as a measure of value. They are associated with ochre-colored ceramics. Along with the “yellow” ceramics, there are also gray, black and red with a white pattern or black ornament on a reddish background. The quality of its manufacture and firing is usually low.

The main area of distribution of copper hoards and yellow pottery culture is the area between the Ganges and Yamuna and even more eastern areas along the Ganges Valley-Bihar, West Bengal. Finds of this type are also found somewhat further south, for example in Noh (Rajasthan). The monuments of this culture date mainly from the first half of the second millennium BC — thus, they chronologically coincide with the Harappan and Late Harappan. There is evidence of links between the regions of distribution of both cultures. In the Ganges Valley, settlements were often located close to copper deposits, and it was probably from here that the metal was exported to the Harappan cities. However, in the settlements themselves, the yellow pottery culture of typically Harappan objects is practically not found, and it is quite possible that the connections of the Indus Valley cities with the more eastern regions were one-sided. In any case, the culture of copper hoards and yellow ceramics belongs to a lower stage of social development than the Indian civilization.

The hard soils in the Ganges Valley present considerable difficulties for cultivation, and the increased humidity has contributed to the emergence of dense rainforests. The settlements of the second millennium BC were very small, with a thin cultural layer. Apparently, in the era of “copper hoards” there were no traditions of a solid settlement. Despite the familiarity of the bearers of this culture with metal, stone products have remained of great importance in their economy — in particular, abundant finds of microliths are characteristic. Hunting and fishing remained the most important industries. Probably, with the help of a hoe, local tribes grew cereals: barley, rice, in some areas — wheat. Terracotta figurines of domestic animals indicate cattle breeding.

Cultures of the Western Deccan

Another important area of the developed Neolithic and Eneolithic was the Western Deccan. The most famous cultures of the region:

  • Ahar ( first half of the second millennium BC),
  • Malwa ( middle of the second millennium BC),
  • Jorwe (second half of the second — beginning of the first millennium BC).

Some continuity can be found between the main archaeological cultures, and therefore it can be argued that the roots of the Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age in this area go back to the Neolithic era.

The Eneolithic settlements in Western India were located in close proximity to the provincial centers of the Late Harappan culture (such as Daimabad), maintained contacts with them, and obviously could have been influenced by their northern neighbors, who were at a higher stage of socio-economic development.
The most famous settlements of the Malwa culture — Navdatoli, Nasik, Nevasa-were located on the banks of rivers, and, apparently, their economy was associated with primitive irrigation. Residential buildings on the remains of the foundation are reconstructed as rectangular in plan. There were also large mud huts with a conical roof. The population was mainly engaged in the cultivation of barley, in some places — wheat, in some places rice was known. There are stone tools (polished axes) and copper products (swords, daggers). Black and red ceramics were made mainly on a potter’s wheel. In Nevas, the remains of a silk cord were found — the oldest evidence of sericulture in India in the XIII century BC.

Recent excavations in Inamgaon show the presence at the very end of the II millennium BC of irrigation structures-channels, as well as embankments for flood protection. Archaeologists identify one of the quarters of the settlement as belonging to artisans-professionals.

South India

For the southern part of the Hindustan peninsula in the second millennium BC, we have to talk mainly about the Neolithic. There are, however, a certain number of copper products: swords, knives, spearheads-mainly in the layers of the second half of the second millennium BC. Some of them resemble works of North Indian craft, for example, swords with an antenna-shaped handle. The first millennium BC is represented primarily by the megalith culture. In Brahmagiri, a cemetery of several hundred burials, surrounded by stone slabs, has been excavated.

In South India, cattle breeding is well attested, and the finds of horse bits speak of the use of the horse. Agriculture-the cultivation of barley, wheat, yuyuba-can be traced quite poorly. This region did not know the developed bronze age. In Hallur, traces of acquaintance with iron were found in the layers of the late II millennium BC, but the widespread use of this metal dates back to a much later time. The culture of the Indian megaliths disappears only with the onset of the “historical period” — at the end of the first millennium BC, when the royal dynasties of Satavahans, Ikshvaks, etc. already rule in these regions.

North India

The first iron finds in Northern India also date back to the end of the second millennium BC (Atranjikhera). They are associated with the culture of gray painted ceramics (as well as with the culture of black and red ceramics in the eastern regions-West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh). The area of distribution of the culture of gray painted ceramics, currently known from excavations at several hundred monuments, covers primarily Haryana, the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, Eastern Punjab, as well as North-Eastern Rajasthan (Ujjain district). The earliest monuments in Punjab, Kashmir and Haryana date back to the last third of the second and early first millennium BC (about 1100-350 BC). This culture gradually spread in the eastern and south-eastern directions, most of the settlements belong to the VIII-VII centuries BC.

Samples of"gray painted ceramics".

Samples of”gray painted ceramics”.

In the northwest, the layers of gray painted pottery sometimes (in Bhagwanpur, Sanghal) directly follow the Late Harappan, and thus the bearers of both cultures lived side by side for a while, in the more eastern areas along the Yamuna and Ganges, the culture of gray painted pottery was preceded by another-copper hoards and yellow ceramics.

The culture of gray painted ceramics is known from finds in such centers as Bhagwanpur on the banks of the Saraswati River (modern times). Ghaggar), Atranjikhera, Hasti-napura, Rupara, on the territory of modern Delhi (Purana-kila-probably ancient Indraprastha), Ahichchhatra, Kaushambi. These settlements did not have the character of urban ones. We are talking about small villages, usually located on the river bank at a distance of 10-12 km from each other. Their average size is about 2-3 hectares, but there are also large ones-up to 13 hectares. Obviously, the latter can be referred to as the control centers of certain territories.

The houses were mud huts, round or rectangular in plan. The construction technique was as follows: thick bamboo trunks were fixed in the ground, and a rope frame was stretched between them. Then the reed netting was coated with clay, mixed with rice husks for strength. Outwardly, the larger structures, consisting of a dozen rooms (rooms and storerooms) — probably the residence of the rulers of the settlement-did not differ much from ordinary houses. Such structures as the mound found at Atranjikher required a collective effort-obviously the work of all the community members. Judging by the size of the hearths and kitchen utensils, the families were usually large — 7-10 people. Next to the adobe buildings, burnt bricks are found — rectangular and wedge-shaped. It can be assumed that they were used in the construction of altars. There are other evidences of the performance of sacrificial rites.

The remains of the vessel. 1000-600 BC.

The remains of the vessel. 1000-600 BC.

Household utensils, as well as the entire life of the population, seem to be very modest. The gray painted pottery itself, which gave the name to the whole culture, can be considered a luxury item. It was made of finely ground clay on a potter’s wheel and painted with black geometric patterns: spirals, swastikas and crosses, intersecting and concentric circles (applied with a compass). Ceramics are standardized in shapes and sizes — drinking water jugs, dishes with a semicircular base, etc. Such elegant and delicate dishes, however, are not more than 1/10 of the ceramic material. Along with it, there are also more coarse gray ceramics without painting, red, black-red and brown-red. The earliest examples are made by hand, without a potter’s wheel.

At the sites of excavations of the culture of gray painted ceramics, metal products are found. In Bhagwanpur and other settlements of the last third of the second millennium BC, these are copper tools and weapons: spearheads, a hoe, an axe. In Atranjikher and later monuments (from the XI-X centuries BC), iron is also found: nails, pins, knives, etc.It should also be noted objects made of bone, deer antlers, as well as glass beads and bracelets. Small terracotta figurines depict people and domestic animals (horse, bull, ram).

Any judgments about the nature of the socio-economic development of the tribes that created this culture have a preliminary character already for the reason that the settlements were excavated mainly by pits, without opening any wide territory (with the exception of Bhagwanpur). But there is already information about the occupation of agriculture and cattle breeding. In addition to barley and wheat, the cultivation of rice was widespread, and the finds of rice and wheat grains at the same time make it possible to assume two harvests per year. It is characteristic that among the bone remains, the bones of cattle predominate. The horse was harnessed to a wheeled cart, and there is reason to assume a cult of the horse. Hunting and fishing, most likely, remained important only as auxiliary branches of the economy.

Iron Age

For the periodization of the history of the culture of gray painted ceramics, the following observations may be important, in particular: in the last third of the II millennium BC, there are no traces of the use of iron on the settlements of this culture. It appears from the XI-X centuries BC, but even later – until about the VII century BC – it does not have a particularly important production value. Some time after the widespread use of iron in the VII-VI centuries BC, a fundamentally new era begins, associated with urbanization and the appearance of coins. But then there is a new archaeological culture of black-painted ceramics, with which gray painted ceramics only co-existed in the middle of the first millennium BC. Black-painted ceramics covers the entire area of distribution of its predecessor, but its range is much wider-to the lower reaches of the Ganges and Orissa, on the one hand, and to the Western Deccan and the south of the Kathiawar peninsula, on the other ( including also the Amaravati region in the southeast).

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