Chalcolithic Period of India


  • By the end of the Neolithic period, a full-fledged civilization was developed in the Indus and Saraswati valleys in the northern part of India.

  • A completely different kind of culture known as Chalcolithic Culture was developed in central India and Deccan region. They, however, never reached the level of urbanization in spite they were using metal. They were contemporary of the Harappan culture, but some other were of later Harappan age.

  • Important Chalcolithic cultures were −

    • Ahar culture c. 2,800-1,500 B.C.

    • Kayatha culture c. 2,450-700 B.C.

    • Malwa culture c. 1,900-1,400 B.C.

    • Savalda culture c. 2,300-2,000 B.C.

    • Jorwe culture c. 1,500 -900 B.C.

    • Prabhas culture c. 2,000-1,400 B.C.

    • Rangpur culture c. 1,700-1,400 B.C.

Common Features

  • The people of Chalcolithic culture had used unique painted earthenware usually black-on-red.

  • They used specialized blade and flake industry of the siliceous material like chalcedony and chert. However, the use of copper and bronze tools also evidenced on a limited scale.

  • The Economy was largely based on subsistence agriculture, stock-raising, hunting, and fishing.

  • Painted pottery is the most distinguishing feature of all Chalcolithic cultures.

  • The Kayatha culture is distinguished by a sturdy red-slipped ware painted with designs in chocolate color, a red painted buff ware, and a combed ware bearing incised patterns.

  • The Ahar people made a unique black-and-red ware decorated with the white designs.

  • The Prabhas and Rangpur wares both were derived from Harappan culture and are called Lustrous Red Ware because of their glossy surface.

  • The Malwa ware is slightly coarse in fabric, but has a thick buff surface over which designs were made either in red or black.

  • Jorwe ware is painted black-on-red and has a matt surface treated with a wash.

  • Well-known pottery forms used in this culture are −

    • Dishes-on-stand,

    • Spouted vases,

    • Stemmed cups,

    • Pedestalled bowls,

    • Big storage jars, and

    • Spouted basins and bowls.

  • The centers of Chalcolithic cultures flourished in semi-arid regions of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.

  • The settlements of Kayatha culture were mostly located on the Chambal River and its tributaries. They were only a few in number and relatively small in size and the biggest may not be over two hectares.

  • The settlements of Ahar Culture were larger in comparison to Kayatha culture.

  • Excavations revealed that they used stone, mud bricks, and mud for the construction of houses and other structures. Balathal settlement was a fortified settlement.

  • The settlements of Malwa culture are mostly located on the Narmada and its tributaries. The three best known settlements of Malwa culture are at Navdatoli, Eran, and Nagada.

  • Navdatoli was one of the largest Chalcolithic settlements in the country. It was spread in almost 10 hectares. Some of these sites were fortified. Eran had a fortification wall with a moat. Nagada had a bastion of mud-bricks.

  • Very few not more than half dozen settlements of Prabhas culture are known.

  • The settlements of Rangpur culture are located mostly on Ghelo and Kalubhar rivers in Gujarat.

  • More than 200 settlements of Jorwe culture are known. Greater number of these settlements are found in Maharashtra.

  • The best known settlements of Jorwe culture are Prakash, Daimabad, and Inamgaon. Daimabad was the largest one that measured almost 20 hectares.

  • The houses of Chalcolithic people were rectangular and circular. They were made of mud wattle and daub. The circular houses were mostly in clusters.

  • The roofs of these houses were made up of straw, which were supported on bamboo and wooden rafters. Floors were made of rammed clay.

  • They cultivated both Kharif and Rabi crops in rotation and also raised cattle with it. They cultivated wheat and barley in Malwa region. Rice was cultivated in Inamgaon and Ahar.

  • They also cultivated jowar, bajra, kulth, ragi, green peas, lentil, and green and black grams.

  • Largely, the Chalcolithic cultures flourished in the black cotton soil zone. This reflects the ecological adaptation by the Chalcolithic people in developing a system of dry farming, dependent on moisture retentive soils based upon then available technology, knowledge, and means.

Chalcolithic: Trade and Commerce

  • The Chalcolithic communities traded and exchanged materials with other contemporary communities.

  • A large settlement serves as the major centers of trade and exchange. Some of them were Ahar, Gilund, Nagada, Navdatoli, Eran, Prabhas, Rangpur, Prakash, Daimabad, and Inamgaon.

  • The Ahar people settled close to the copper source and were used to supply copper tools and objects to other contemporary communities in Malwa and Gujarat.

  • Identical marks embedded on most of the copper axes found in Malwa, Jorwe, and Prabhas cultures that might indicate that it may be the trademarks of the smiths who made them.

  • It is found that Conch shell for bangles was traded from the Saurashtra coast to various other parts of the Chalcolithic regions.

  • Gold and ivory come to Jorwe people from Tekkalkotta in Karnataka and semiprecious stones may have been traded to various parts from Rajpipla in Gujarat.

  • Inamgaon pottery has been found at several sites located for away. This shows that the Jorwe people used to trade even the pottery to distant places.

  • Wheeled bullock carts were used for long distance trade, besides the river transport. The drawings of wheeled bullock carts have been found on pots.

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