The history of human settlements in India goes back to prehistoric times. No written records are available for the pre-historic period. However, plenty of archaeological remains are found in different parts of India to reconstruct the history of this period. They include the stone tools, pottery, artifacts and metal implements used by pre-historic people. The development of archaeology helps much to understand the life and culture of the people who lived in this period.
In India, the prehistoric period is divided into the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), Neolithic (New Stone Age) and the Metal Age. However, these periods were not uniform throughout the Indian subcontinent. The dating of the pre-historic period is done scientifically. The technique of radio-carbon dating is commonly used for this purpose. It is based on measuring the loss of carbon in organic materials over a period of time. Another dating method is known as dendro-chronology. It refers to the number of tree rings in wood. By counting the number of tree rings in the wood, the date of the wood is arrived at.
A remarkable progress is noticed in human civilization in the Neolithic Age. It is approximately dated from 6000 B.C to 4000 B.C. Neolithic remains are found in various parts of India. These include the Kashmir valley, Chirand in Bihar, Belan valley in Uttar Pradesh and in several places of the Deccan. The important Neolithic sites excavated in south India are Maski, Brahmagiri, Hallur and Kodekal in Karnataka, Paiyampalli in Tamil Nadu and Utnur in Andhra Pradesh.
The chief characteristic features of the Neolithic culture are the practice of agriculture, domestication of animals, polishing of stone tools and the manufacture of pottery. In fact, the cultivation of plants and domestication of animals led to the emergence of village communities based on sedentary life.
There was a great improvement in technology of making tools and other
equipments used by man. Stone tools were now polished. The polished axes were
found to be more effective tools for hunting and cutting trees. Mud brick
houses were built instead of grass huts. Wheels were used to make pottery.
Pottery was used for cooking as well as storage of food grains. Large urns were
used as coffins for the burial of the dead. There was also improvement in
agriculture. Wheat, barely, rice, millet were cultivated in different areas at
different points of time. Rice cultivation was extensive in eastern India.
Domestication of sheep, goats and cattle was widely prevalent. Cattle were used
for cultivation and for transport. The people of Neolithic Age used clothes
made of cotton and wool.