The prehistoric phase forms the longest period in human history covering a few millennia whereas the knowledge of writing which could be used for the reconstruction of history, was acquired by man only five thousand years ago. The development of human culture can be properly understood only by studying the prehistoric past. The antiquity of man now goes back to 3.6 million years, and since then man has been progressing in the face of all odds. Man the hunted became man the hunter, later acquired the technique of food production which further led to sedentary existence, fashioned artefacts to cope with environment, learnt the use of metals and established trading contacts, finally leading to urbanization.
In India the first Stone Age tools were discovered in Tamil Nadu which have recently been dated to 1.5 million years (but could not be included in the present volume as it was too late). The proper study of prehistory received a boost in the post-Independence period. Hundreds of prehistoric sites have since been discovered almost all over the country, even in the north-east which was archaeologically a terra incognita till now. Systematic excavations have been carried out and the data scientifically analysed, stages of evolution of culture from food gathering to food producing have been traced and the further development into the glorious Indus - Harappan - civilization has also been critically reviewed.
The volume includes contributions from acknowledged experts in the field. Greater emphasis has been laid on scientific evidence which brings out the role of environment in the evolution of cultures. The study ends with the advent of Aryans which is one of the knottiest of issues in human history.
M.K. Dhavalikar (b.1930), retired as Professor of Archaeology and Director, Deccan College Post-Graduate Research Institute, Pune; educated at Fergusson College and Deccan College, University of Poona; joined Archaeological Survey of India (1953-65), Nagpur University (1965-7); Deccan College (1967-90); participated in the excavation at Pella (Alexander's capital in Greece); excavated at Inamgaon (1968-83), Prabhas Patan (1972-5), Kuntasi (1987-90) and many other sites.
His publications include Indian Protohistory (1997), Historical Archaeology of India (1998), Environment and Culture: A Historical Perspective (2002), The Aryans: Myth and Archaeology (2006), and several research papers.
This volume of the Comprehensive History of India Project covers the period of Early Stone Age to the Later Stone Age and Bronze Age as they developed in different parts of the country. Such a comprehensive contribution would, undoubtedly, be of considerable value for the scholars and the lay public. It also shows the advance of studies on India's pre-history by scholars since H.D. Sankalia's Pre-history of India (1977). Dr. M.K. Dhavalikar, former Dean of Deccan College, Pune, and Editor of this volume has made great efforts to bring together the papers for this volume. We are grateful to him, and to all those who have contributed to the volume.
The Harappan or Bronze Age continues to be a matter of controversy among scholars: chiefly whether it was Aryan, or pre-Aryan. Both points of view have been presented in the volume. However, the question about the original homeland of the Aryans, their identity, the age of the Rigveda, etc., will be dealt with the following volume, Vol. I (pt. 2), The Vedic Age.
It is a matter of regret that this volume could not be printed during the lifetime of Professor R.S. Sharma, who was the first Chairman of the Comprehensive History of India Society, under whom the publication programme of the Society made steady progress.
At the end I would like to thank Shri Ramesh Jain of Manohar Publishers & Distributors, for his personal interest and the arduous labour of his associates in bringing this volume to press, and all those associated with the publication of this volume. In particular, I am grateful to Prof. R.C. Thakran for assisting in proof-reading, and making the volume ready for press.
The present volume is the first in the Comprehensive History of India series planned by the Indian History Congress of which some have already been published. It covers the entire prehistoric period starting from the advent of man in India up to the end of the Bronze or the Chalcolithic age (c. 1000 BC).
The contributors, who are leading authorities in their respective fields of specialization, readily agreed and sent in their contributions. They have placed us under a deep debt of gratitude. It may, however, be stated that the views expressed by them are their own.
Archaeology in India has been making rapid strides in the post-Independence period and naturally, therefore, what formerly could be covered in one chapter, 'Prehistoric Period', has to now be compressed in a massive tome. Every care has been taken to include the latest discoveries and their significance but, considering their pace, I can only say, following Sir Mortimer Wheeler, that fifty years ago, this book could not have been written, and I am sure it will have to be rewritten before long.
It is my bounden duty to record my grateful thanks to the Editorial Board, more particularly Prof. R.S. Sharma and Prof. Satish Chandra, who entrusted the task of editing this volume to me, as also to the scholars who have contributed chapters to the book.
Some of the illustrations have been made by Sri Srikant Pradhan, artist. Sri Sharad Gosavi did the computer typing. To them both, my thanks are due.
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