Early India: From the Beginnings to the Indus Civilisation
India experienced an early development of cultures and civilisations. Since the Old Stone Age, several groups in India had migrated multiple times and made cultural adaptations to diverse eco-zones. Each group evolved its own culture responding to their living experiences in each place, which eventually led to pluralistic beliefs and systems. From a life of foraging through nomadic pastoralism, the settlers in Indus region reached a matured stage of living in the Bronze Age.
This chapter focuses on the history of India from the first settlement of humans in the Stone Age, up to the decline of the Indus Civilisation. It dwells on the Neolithic cultures as well.
Archaeological sources form the bedrock of information for us to understand this long span of time in Indian history. They include archaeological sites, geological sediments, animal bones and fossils, stone tools, bone tools, rock paintings and artefacts. There is no written evidence for this period. Although the Harappans used a script, it is yet to be deciphered.
The faunal (animal) and floral (plant) sources are important for understanding the relationship of the Stone Age people with their environment. Floral evidence found in the form of charred seeds, pollens and phytoliths (plant stones) helps us to gain knowledge of farming practiced by Stone Age people.
The human genes also constitute an important source for understanding pre-historic migrations. The mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA) studies provide information on pre-historic migrations. Scientists are trying to extract ancient DNA from the bones of the pre-historic era to understand human dispersals.
Language is another important source of history. Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families have flourished in India. These languages developed and evolved during the various phases of migrations in Indian history.