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Stone Age in India and Pakistan

Paleolithic and Mesolithic

The Paleolithic in these areas is not well studied. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning the assumptions (however, which need further confirmation) that people lived, at least on the territory of Pakistan, already about 2 million years ago. With more confidence, we can talk about the Acheulean complexes, whose age is estimated at 500-600 thousand years. The Soan industry identified for this period combines the characteristics of Acheulean and Mousterian tools and tools made of pebbles. Throughout the peninsula, traces of hunters, gatherers and fishermen of the Middle Stone Age — Mesolithic were found. They used bows and arrows, microlith tools, spears, and fishhooks. Mesolithic cultures in different areas have distinctive features. In Neolithic times, it seems that most of the peninsula was inhabited by hunters and gatherers. Obviously, they did not lay the foundation for subsequent civilizations, the basis of which was developed agriculture and cattle breeding. For a long time, the scarcity of archaeological materials allowed only guessing about the origins of civilization. The complexity of the situation was compounded by the fact that on an alluvial plain with a high level of ground water, the oldest layers are inaccessible. For example, in one of the largest cities of the Harappan civilization, Mohenjo-Daro, the mainland lies almost 12 m below the surrounding plain. About 8 m of sediments have accumulated near Mohenjo-Daro since 2000 BC to this day.


A female figure from Merhgrar. C. 2800-2600 BC

Female figure from Merhgarh. Ca. 2800-2600 BC.

A. Basham wrote about the Harappan Indus Valley civilization: “This great civilization borrowed very little from the Middle East, and there is no reason to believe that it was created by aliens.” Indeed, located at a considerable distance from other civilizations, it was distinguished by a striking peculiarity. At the same time, as more and more information shows, it arose and existed not only due to its own development, but also due to close contacts with the Ancient Eastern world, the diversity of which is becoming more and more obvious.

The Harappan civilization was agricultural. But what is known about the origin of the producing economy in the East does not suggest that cereals and most animals could have been domesticated on its main territory — the alluvial plain. Lands where they could be domesticated were sought in neighboring territories, primarily in Balochistan. Pakistan is included in the third, Central Asian center of N. I. Vavilov, where, according to him, wheat, legumes such as peas and lentils, oilseeds, and probably cotton could be domesticated.

Some new points in the study of the prehistory of the Harappan civilization were clarified in the 70s of the XX century, when the excavations of the settlement of Mehrgarh (Mergarh), located in the Kachi valley on the bank of the Bolan River and partially destroyed by it, were started. Its location is significant-not far from the Bolan Pass, one of the main ones connecting Western and Central Asia with South Asia. Various traces of habitation (from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age) were found on an area of more than 200 hectares. The Neolithic strata have a thickness of about 7 m, the lower ones belong to the Ceramicless period. Residential buildings are small, standard layout, built of mud bricks, covered with clay coating. There was a hearth in the corner. Storage facilities consisting of small rooms were found. In the second half of the VII millennium BC, ceramic dishes appeared. In the strata of the second half of the VI millennium BC, multi-room storage facilities (probably collective) with charred grains and their prints were found. It has been suggested that artificial irrigation may have been used in agriculture at this time.

Funeral equipment

In the Neolithic burials found at the settlement, the relative abundance of inventory is noteworthy — here are found

  • containers made of unburned clay, stone, as well as wicker, coated with bitumen,
  • bone and stone tools, including polished ones,
  • bones of domestic animals,
  • various ornaments made of sea shells, stone
  • ornaments, in particular lapis lazuli and turquoise.

All these findings suggest the existence of broad exchange relations. The rites, the meaning of which remains unclear, are indicated by burials of small cattle cubs. Copper beads have already been found in the pre-ceramic layers. The data of the burials indicate, according to the researchers, the existence of differentiation by gender, age and / or social status.


The inhabitants of Mehrgarh during the Ceramicless Neolithic sowed wheat and barley of several types. Sowing, as can be assumed, was carried out in the fall. The land was cultivated with hoes, the harvest was collected with the help of reaping knives with small stone plates inserted into a straight base, the grain was ground on stone grain grinders. Yuyuba and date palm fruits were also used.

Starting with the breeding of goats, they soon began to breed sheep and cattle, possibly zebu-shaped, which were in the economy and the carriers of the subsequent Harappan culture.

Cultural links with other areas

The Neolithic settlement of Mehrgarh in India.

The Neolithic settlement of Mehrgarh in India. The excavation plan and the excavation itself.

The location of Mehrgarh, its proximity to the westward-bound routes, and the general appearance of the culture (architectural structures, burial practices, anthropomorphic plastic, etc.) give rise to similarities with the cultural phenomena that are known in the Zagros region, far to the west. However, the similarities in material culture are too general to allow for the migration to Balochistan from a particular area. Perhaps new data from the intervening territories will help clarify the origin of this bright, but still isolated settlement. At present, it is possible to assume both the perception of individual elements of culture from the western regions, and the existence of a local environment that is ready to receive influences because they were felt to be urgently needed.

At the level of modern information, Mehrgarh is the most expressive Neolithic early agricultural settlement near the Indus Valley, which provided material that allows us to assume that it is one of those that stood at the origins of the Harappan civilization.


Settlements and crafts

Bichromic vessel, with the image of bulls. Mehrgarh. III thousand BC

Bichromic vessel, with the image of bulls. Mehrgarh. III thousand BC

The situation changes in the Chalcolithic (V-IV thousand BC), in an era from which a significant number of settlements in Balochistan and in the Indus Valley itself have survived. Mehrgarh again gave important materials that attest to the state of culture in this era. It was found that in the middle of the V — beginning of the IV millennium BC, people lived in multi-room houses with an area of 20×15 sq.m. with small rooms. Workshops were grouped in one place, which indicates the existence of a specialized craft. Already at the beginning of the IV millennium BC. or, according to another opinion, half a millennium later, ceramics were made on a circle of slow rotation, which was replaced in the next millennium by a more perfect circle. The creamy-orange surface of the vessels was covered with dark red paintings, first geometric, then figurative (animals and birds, anthropomorphic creatures were depicted). When firing dishes in ceramic furnaces, it was possible to obtain high temperatures. This achievement was also associated with the development of copper smelting. At that time, awls, knives, axes, and pins were made of copper. The spread of copper is believed to be associated with a reduction in the number of stone products (microliths and plates were used); copper ingots were found, as in the Harappan period, spherical in shape. At this time, jewelry made of various minerals, shells, and even gold was used. The material was also steatite, so common in the neighboring territories, which was also used later, in the Harappan period. At the end of the IV th. B.C. there are seals-stamps made of ordinary and ivory, stone.

Neolithic complex in India

Mehrgarh. Neolithic complex.

In Mehrgarh, as in other Chalcolithic settlements of Balochistan, clay was used to make figures of seated women, who were eventually depicted in magnificent hairstyles, with necklaces and bracelets. The Chalcolithic cultures of Balochistan belong to the cultures of painted ceramics, on the study of which hypotheses are often built about the origin of certain cultures and the connections between them. In the second half of the IV th. B.C. In the north, the “Quetta style” pottery is spreading, the vessels of which, along with pipal leaves, images of animals, fish and birds, were ornamented with geometric figures in the form of crosses and semi-crosses with jagged edges. The ornamental motifs are similar to those found on the vessels of the Anau culture of Southern Turkmenistan (Namazga III period), which, along with the similarity of the appearance of anthropomorphic figurines and seals, served as the basis for the assumption of the migration of the population from Turkmenistan to Baluchistan. Now these similar phenomena tend to be considered as the result of various contacts, including the movement of individual groups of people, but not mass migrations.

Figure of a woman with a lush hairstyle.

Figure of a woman with a lush hairstyle. Ca. 3000 BC

In the Chalcolithic settlements of Balochistan, buildings made of mud bricks, tools made of stone and copper, including weapons, clay figurines of women with riveted details and ornaments, and animal figures were found. It is believed that during this and partly earlier periods, people defined the relationship of man-water-soil and mastered the methods of primitive irrigation. It is believed that the inhabitants of Mehrgarh were able to conduct channels.

In the IV-III millennium BC, ceramic products, seals, and funerary rites in the plains and mountainous regions of Baluchistan show both peculiar and common features that suggest the existence of complementary forms of farming, agriculture, and mobile cattle breeding.

The connection of the Chalcolithic cultures (Kot-Diji, Amri, Zhob, Quetta, Kulli-mehi) with the subsequent Harappan civilization

Although much of the prehistory of the Harappan civilization remains unclear, research in recent decades has provided more and more material for understanding the stages that preceded the formation of this phenomenon in its mature forms. Among them is the Kot — Diji culture, which got its name from a settlement located on the banks of the Indus, 40 km from one of the largest cities of the Harappan civilization — Mohenjo-Daro. The lower layers of this settlement were attributed by F. A. Khan, who studied it, to the Pre — Harappan, and the upper layers to the Harappan. Ceramics with black, red, and less often — white paintings are found not only here, but also in Northern Balochistan, Jalipur-near Harappa, in Kalibangan. This cultural phenomenon is widespread over a wide area and, according to the available calibrated dates, predates the mature Harappa period by 800 years. In the settlements of this type, things that could be considered Harappan in other stratigraphic conditions were found — most of the forms of vessels and their decorative elements, steatite seals, signs of writing, cubic weights. A number of researchers tend to refer to the Kot-Diji culture as Early Harappan rather than pre-Harappan on the basis of these similarities. Thus, the beginning of the process, which culminated around the middle of the third millennium BC, should be attributed to the second half of the fourth millennium BC. It should be noted that the opinion was expressed about the coexistence of the Kot-Diji and Harappa cultures at a certain stage, after which the former was replaced by the more powerful Harappan. Such phenomena include the Amri culture, attributed by researchers to the Early Harappan time.

Female statuette with rich ornaments from Mehrarch

A female statuette with rich ornaments from Mehrarch. Height 7.4 cm. Approx. 3500-2000 BC.

One of the largest researchers of pre-Harappan and Harappan cultures, W. Ferservice, believed that the carriers of cultures such as Kot-Diji and Amri (Sindh, Pakistan) reached a high level of economic and social development in the pre-Harappan period. They lived in villages ruled by elders, and in cities surrounded by walls, in Kot-Dji, built of limestone blocks and unfired bricks. In the settlements, the existence of buildings of a religious nature is assumed. Signs of specialized production and developed exchange were found. In societies, the symbiotic relations of shepherds and farmers, cities and villages were realized.

In Northern Baluchistan, the Chalcolithic cultures of Zhob and Quetta are distinguished, which are characterized by peculiar styles of painting vessels, figurines of the” mother goddess ” and humpback zebu bulls made of clay, stone and copper tools and weapons. In the south of Balochistan, settlements of the vibrant Kulli-Mekhi culture are known, the early phase of which dates back to the Pre-Harappan period. Residential buildings made of bricks on stone foundations were found. In Nindovari, the area of which is believed to have been 25 hectares, buildings were found presumably for administrative and religious purposes, a storage for grain with probable evidence of the performance of ritual actions here-figures of anthropomorphic creatures and animals. The settlement lies in a valley where terraced farming was practiced. This culture is characterized by vessels with black and red paintings depicting stylized animals and plants.

In Kalibangan on Saraswati, a fortified settlement with a proper layout dates back to pre-Harappan times.

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