Stone Technology in India

 

K. Paddayya

Emeritus Professor of Archaeology

Deccan College

(Deemed University)

Pune 411 006

 

Introduction

 

Rock and water, representing the hard and soft components of the planet earth, form the basis of all organic life including the human species. The findings of prehistoric archaeology from Omo and Gona valleys of Ethiopia reveal that manís utilization of stone for making artifacts has an antiquity of 2.5 million years. The discoveries at Riwat near Peshawar and Uttarbaini in Jammu show that tool-making traditions began two million years ago in the Indian subcontinent. Such findings are used by archaeologists to define man as the tool-maker. This essay seeks to present an overview of manís use of stone in India across ages for catering to his material, emotional or religious, and aesthetic military needs.

 

Stoutly opposing the long-entrenched Biblical view of the origin of world and man in 4004 B.C., Charless Lyell argued that the various rock formations we see on the earth formed one after the other over a long period of time due to natural processes such as volcanism, erosion and deposition which are still active. He thus founded the discipline of geology and published his three-volume book entitled The Principles of Geology between 1830 and 1833. Geologists group rock formations into three major types on the basis of natural processes which led to their formation. These are a) volcanic rocks like basalts and granites resulting from outpouring and cooling of magma; b) sedimentary rocks like shale, limestone and sandstones resulting from deposition and hardening of soft sediments like clays, silts and sands by water and other agencies; and c) metamorphic rocks like gneisses, schist and marbles resulting from transformation of previously existing rocks due to heat and pressure.

 

By developing appropriate techniques and methods human communities in India made use of these various rock types right from the Stone Age. This long story of man-stone interaction can be divided into four major periods: a) Stone Age or prehistoric phase lasting till about 3000 B.C.; b) Proto historic phase lasting till about the middle of the first millennium B.C.; c) Historical period lasting till about the 12th century A.D.; and d) Medieval period from the 12th century A.D. till the rise of colonial power. Let us examine how and for what purposes stone was used in these periods.

 

Prehistoric

 

Period It is very probable that organic materials like wood and animal bones were also used by prehistoric groups for preparing tools and weapons but unfortunately very few examples have survived the ravages of time. Stone was the most commonly used material and therefore prehistoric technology is often regarded as synonymous with stone technology. Depending upon improvements made by man both in the techniques used for working stone and in the types of artifacts fashioned out of it, prehistoric period is divided into Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) and Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), the former subdivided into Lower, Middle and Upper stages. During this long period of infancy man led a nomadic, hunting-gathering way of life. Based upon the evidence of absolute dates provided by scientific methods, the Lower Paleolithic in India is dated from about two million years to two lakh years ago; the Middle Paleolithic from two lakh years to 40,000 years ago; the Upper Paleolithic from 40,000 years to 10,000 years ago. The Mesolithic lasted from 10,000 years to 5000 years ago. These chronological ranges are broad ones and overlook both regional variations and cases of cultural continuity. The following aspects of stone technology during these stages are noteworthy.

 
 

Figure 1 : 2.5 million-year-old stone artifacts (chopper and flakes) from Omo and Hadar valleys in Ethiopia.