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  • MEDIEVEL – 07

HISTORY ANCIENT & MEDIEVEL - 07

The real home of the Handaxe Culture seems to be according to our present knowledge, Peninsular India, the country south of the  Ganga plain. Since the type tools of this culture, this is a purely regional name which should be given up, as the latest researches show that the Handaxe Culture covered almost the whole of India – Andhra Pradesh, Madras, Mysore, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Eastern Rajasthan and the plateau regions of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal – except Western Rajasthan, Sind, Kashmir, Assam and the coastal strips of Andhra, Madras and Kerala. Such a distribution pattern may be due to geographical or ecological reasons. Assam, for instance, is so heavily forested even now that it would have been  impossible for the Early Stone. Age man to eke not a living.

Altitudes higher then 750 m. and heavily forested regions would also appear to have been avoided by man. No Early Stone Age tools have been found at Mount Abu (Rajasthan), Mahabaleshwar (Maharashtra) and the Nilgiris (Madras and Mysore) – ranging from 1,350-2100m.)

The handaxes and other associated tools first occur in the deposits of the Second Interglacial Age in Western Punjab, whereas in Peninsular India they occur in the earliest pebble conglomerate bed in the Narmada, which overlies the basal rock or laterite. 

Recent studies in The Mahi And Narmada Basin indicate that this period could not be later than early Upper Pleistocene.

The Early Stone Age tools in the Peninsula include, besides the various forms of handaxes, cleavers, choppers and chopping tools made out of pebbles or pebble-halves and scrapers, some with a regular, well-made place to facilitate holding, picks and a few two-ended, and beaked tools which could have been used for engraving or cutting only. The last mentioned tools occur in the Krisna basin in Karnataka (Northern Mysore).

The handaxe was an all-purpose tool, which assumed various forms. That is true also of cleavers, which could have been used for cutting wood and chopping meat.

So far, nowhere in India anything but single or groups (some amazingly large) of tools have been found. These are but assemblages which give some insight into the art and industry of their makers, but throw very little light on man and his culture as a whole. The reason, of course, is that so far man’s relics namely tools have been found in secondary deposits and his likely habitation sites have to be searched. It is still customary to call these assemblages. Handave Culture.

Except in very few cases, the association of the tools and contemporary animals in not proved, so that we can only tentatively say that certain animals whose remains have been found mostly in the Narmada and Godavari valleys were hunted by man. These animals, however, suggest the environment in which man lived – comparatively thick forest, as we find around Hosjamgabad and other places in Madhya Pradesh in which Teak, Banyan, Pipal, Palas (Butea Frondosa) grew in abundance. 

This is but a faint picture of Early Man and his environment in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. In the absence of precise date, except for the two major geographical divisions (the Himalayan foot-hills which were often affected by peri-glacial conditions and Peninsular India which seems to have experienced heavier rainfall) in the middle Pleistocene with their district tool traditions, nothing definite can be said about various regions – their climate, flora and fauna.

While further development of the Sohan Industry has been found in the Punjab, until recently nothing definite could be said about the fate of man in Peninsular India.

Cores and flakes showing previous preparation occur in the deposits basal Potwar gravel and silt – of the Third Glacial Age.

Handaxes have been found in Kangra valley in 1966-67. They belong to the lowest terrace, probably quite late in the Pleistocene. In Peminsular India, deposits containing similar handwork of man are found resting on or against the older river deposits consisting of pebbly gravel conglomerate and silt. 

The tools found in the deposits are as a ruld, made of fine-grained material such as flint, jasper, agate and chalcedony, though in some areas like Kurnool and Madras quartzite also was employed. They are comparatively small. A normal assemblage consists of several kinds of scrapers, points, awls or borers, small choppers and chopping tools. All these are generally made out of flakes or flake-like nodules which are flat on one or both sides. In some regions, such as Western Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, on the Rivers Lini And Betwa and its tributaries, there is a distinct improvement in the technique of making flakes. This is what is known as “the prepared core” or “faceted platform” technique, reminiscent of the famous Levallois method in France. 

Sine all over India such assemblages of tools are found in deposits assigned to the Middle Stone Age, it is conceivable that these tools were employed for fashioning larger tools and weapons such as spoke haves, arrows, lances, and bows of wood, none of which has survived being of perishable nature.

The nature of the tools as well as the deposits in which these occur suggest a lightly wooded environment where rain was not very heavy  and certainly less in intensity and duration than in the Early Stone Age. Man lived along the foot-hills where raw material in the form of veins of chert, agate and flint was easily available. Some of the older mammalian fauna such as the Bos Namadicus And Elephas Antiquus seem to have survived, at least in Maharashtra where their remains have been found in 

direct association with Middle Stone Age tools. In the absence of skeletal remains, it is difficult to say whether the same race of man  continued to inhabit India during this period. Though he was still a hunter-fisher and a savage.

Almost all over India and Pakistan the Middle Stone Age industries are followed by still smaller tools (microliths). there is nowhere a clear stratigraphical succession corresponding to a typological evolution. In a large number of cases, the microliths are found on the surface, in sandy or barren rocky surroundings. 

Instead of keeping the stone tools in the hand, man now hafted them in a bone, wonden or bamboo handle or shaft, and thus were born the prototypes of several kinds of later copper and iron sickles, arrows, harpoons and drills. This device had its origin in the Middle Stone Age, but reached its culmination in this period. Now the tools were universally very small, sometimes barely an inch or a half inch long, and so could not be used otherwise.

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