The Chalcolithic Age

With the end of the Neolithic Age, several cultures started using metal, mostly copper and low grade bronze. The culture based on the use of copper and stone was termed as Chalcolithic meaning stone-copper Phase. In India, it spanned around 2000 BC to 700 BC.

Copper metallurgy was likely developed in northern Mesopotamia; the earliest known sites are in Syria such as Tell Halaf, about 6500 years BC. The technology was known considerably longer ago than that–isolated copper axes and adzes are known from Catalhoyuk in Anatolia and Jarmo in Mesopotamia by 7500 cal BC. But the intensive production of copper tools is one of the hallmarks of the Chalcolithic period.

This culture was mainly seen in Pre-Harappan phase, but at many places it extended to Post-Harappan phase too. The people were mostly rural and lived near hills and rivers. The Chalcolithic culture corresponds to the farming communities, namely Kayatha, Ahar or Banas, Malwa, and Jorwe.

The Chalcolithic Age Culture

The term Chalcolithic is a combination of two words- Chalco+Lithic was derived from the Greek words “khalkos” + “líthos” which means “copper” and “stone” or Copper Age. It is also known as the Eneolithic or aeneolithic (from Latin aeneus “of copper”) is an archaeological period that is usually considered to be part of the broader Neolithic (although it was originally defined as a transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age).

A main identifying characteristic of the Chalcolithic period is polychrome painted pottery. Ceramic forms found on Chalcolithic sites include “fenestrated pottery”, pots with openings cut into the walls, which may have been used for burning incense, as well as large storage jars and serving jars with spouts. Stone tools include adzes, chisels, picks and chipped stone tools with central perforations.

Farmers typically raised domestic animals such as sheep-goats, cattle, and pigs, a diet supplemented by hunting and fishing. Milk and milk by-products were important, as were fruit trees (such as fig and olive). Crops grown by Chalcolithic farmers included barley, wheat, and pulses. Most of the goods were locally produced and used, but the Chalcolithic societies dabbled in some long-distance trade in figurines of laden animals, copper and silver ores, basalt bowls, timber, and resins.

Chronology of Chalcolithic Age Settlement

Early (5500–3500 [cal BC] years): started in the Near East (Anatolia, the Levant, and Mesopotamia).

The Near East, Central and Eastern Europe, SE Europe, the Carpathian basin, East-central Europe, SW Germany, and Eastern Switzerland all saw development (4500–3500 BC).

Arrived in the Central and Western Mediterranean late (3500–3000 BC) (North and central Italy, southern France, Eastern France and Western Switzerland).

Arrival in the Iberian Peninsula at the terminal (3200–2000 cal BD).

The first metal age of India is called Chalcolithic Age which saw the use of copper along with stone. It was also called Stone-Copper Age. Along with the use of copper and stone these people also used low grade bronze to make tools and weapons. Chronologically, there are several settlements.

Houses built by Chalcolithic farmers were constructed of stone or mudbrick. One characteristic pattern is a chain building, a row of rectangular houses connected to one another by shared party walls on the short ends. Most of the chains are no more than six houses long, leading researchers to suspect that they represent extended farming families living close together.

Another pattern, seen in larger settlements, is a set of rooms around a central courtyard, which may have facilitated the same sort of social arrangement. Some are Pre-Harappan or early Harappan (Kalibangan in Rajasthan and Bhanawali in Haryana) and some are Harappan and Post-Harappan.

The Chalcolithic culture mainly had farming communities and they existed between 2000 BC and 700 BC. In India it was mainly found in South-Eastern Rajasthan, Western part of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and in South and East India.

Characteristics of Chalcolithic Age

1. Agriculture and Animals

(a) People of Chalcolithic Age survived on hunting, fishing, and farming

(b) Hunting was one of the important occupations

(c) Animals such as sheep, buffalo, goat, cattle, and pig were reared and killed for food

(d) Remains of camels are also found. People ate beef but no traces of eating pork are found

(e) People of Navdatoli grew ber and linseed

(f) Cotton was produced in black cotton soil

(g) Traces of rice cultivation are also found. This shows that their food included fish and rice. Eastern India produced rice and Western India produced barley

(h) The major crops cultivated were barley and wheat, lentil, bajra, jowar, ragi millets, green pea, green and black gram

2. Tools and Weapons

(a) Metals such as copper and its alloys were used to make knives, axes, fishing hooks, chisels, pins, and rods

3. Houses

(a) Use of bricks was extensive during the Chalcolithic people of Harappa but there are no traces of burnt (baked) bricks.

(b) The planning of the houses was simple which was either rectangular or circular.

(c) The walls of houses were made from mud and plastered with cow dung and lime.

(d) The houses mostly had only one room, but sometimes multi-roomed houses were also seen.

(e) For influential people, large mud houses with 5 rooms, 4 rectangular and 1 circular in center of the settlement are found.

(f) In Inamgaon, ovens and circular pit houses are found.

4. Pottery

(a) Different types of potteries were used by the people of the Chalcolithic phase. The Black-and-Red pottery among them was quite common. The Ochre-Coloured Pottery(OCP) was also in use.

5. Burials

(a) People buried the dead in the floors of their houses in the North-South direction along with pots and copper objects.

(b) In Navas, children were buried with necklaces around their necks or with pottery of copper. These children were mainly from affluent families.

(c) In Kayatha region; bodies were found with 29 bangles and 2 unique axes.

6. Art and Craft

(a) The specialty of the Chalcolithic culture was wheel made pottery mostly of red and orange colour.

(b) Pottery was painted in linear designs, mainly in black pigment and was decorated with different shapes.

(c) Designs of flowers, vegetation, animals, and birds were used.

(d) The Black-and-Red pottery came into existence for the first time.

(e) People from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Bihar produced channel-spouted pots, dish-on-stands, and bowls-on-stand.

(f) The people of Chalcolithic Age were expert coppersmiths, ivory carvers, lime makers, and terracotta artisans.

(g) Ornaments were made from semiprecious stones and beads such as agate, jasper, chalcedony, and carnelian were used.

(h) People had knowledge of spinning and weaving. Flax, cotton, and silk thread is found from sites in Maharashtra

Importance of Chalcolithic Age Phase

1. Chalcolithic area expanded throughout the country except for alluvial region and thick forests.

2. People were settled mostly near hills and rivers.

3. People used microlithic tools of stone and copper.

4. They knew the art of smelting.

5. They used painted pottery for the first time. Mostly all used black and red, wheel turned pots. These pots were used for cooking, storing, drinking, and eating. Use of lota and thali is seen.

6. At some places where Neolithic phase transferred to Chalcolithic, it was called Neolithic-Chalcolithic.

7. Chalcolithic people were colonizers.

8. In Peninsular India there was their large village and a large amount of cereal cultivation is known/seen.

9. They grew wheat, barley, lentils, and rice.

10. Fish and rice were the important foods.

11. People from Kayatha, Inamgaion, and Eran were well-off while the people from Chirand and Pandi Rajar Dhibi were poor.

12. In Maharashtra, the dead were buried in north-south direction while in South India in the east-west direction.

Limitations of Chalcolithic Age Phase

The limitations of Chalcolithic phase were:

(a) Chalcolithic people could not make full use of domestic animals as they used them only for food and not for milk (they thought that milk is for animals’ young ones).

(b) They did not do much of cultivation. They lived in black cotton soil area which required iron tools for cultivation and there are no traces of plough or hoe.

(c) Chalcolithic phase did not show longevity. There are traces of a large number of children buried which indicate lack of nutrition and outbreak of epidemics.

(d) People had no knowledge of mixing two metals so they could not use the stronger metal bronze nicely.  Copper had its own limitations and its supply was also less.

(e) People were not aware of the art of writing and they could not gain any benefit from the technical knowledge of the Indus people.

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