Revising the Indian Stone Age Sequence: Update

Revising the Indian Stone Age Sequence


I had circulated a small writeup which I emailed to people involved in Indian palaeolithic studies. I also began a blog – – where I posted the same writeup so people I missed could respond. I asked people to respond by 1st November so that the combined responses could be complied and people would have a chance to make their final statement after considering other viewpoints. I have had some responses but I realize I was not clear about  about what I wanted. The format of the session in Lucknow was also not clear. I also got distracted and did not have my more detailed response ready by the deadline either. The responses I have got are all relevant and valuable, but mostly do not directly confront the issue at hand.

The Lucknow session:

The organizer of the Lucknow joint annual conference of ISPQS has talked to me and agreed to have the “Revision of the Indian Stone Age” as one session in the Special Seminar on Recent Archaeological Achievements in India sponsored by ICHR. We will have 1.5 hrs for our discussion during this session. I realized that the discussion has to be much more focused to achieve any real consensus. I am therefore breaking the discussion down into shorter topics to which people should directly respond—could be a simple agree/disagree or a more elaborate discussion (especially if you disagree).   Agreement is welcome and disagreement expected.  The session will be organized to discuss these questions one by one. There will not be any individual papers or presentations as such. The discussion on the twelve questions will be summarized and presented at the seminar.

will be written up and published with all commentators as co-authors of the paper. I will make a post on each of these questions in the sequence given, hopefully in the next two weeks, so that all of you have ample time to respond to each question, before we meet at Lucknow. People who are not coming to Lucknow will have their comments incorporated into the final paper. Everyone will see the final paper for approval before it it published.

The questions to be discussed are as follows:–

  1. Why is it important to revise the Indian Stone Age sequence? (Why bother?)
  2. The only discontinuity in the Indian Stone Age Sequence is between the Middle Palaeolithic and the Upper Palaeolithic.
  3. Indian Acheulian is Large Flake Acheulian
  4. Soanian is NOT Lower Palaeolithic
  5. Significance of Riwat and Pabbi Hills
  6. Acheulian of sub-Himalayan India, Pakistan and Nepal
  7. Significance of non Acheulian assemblages of Narmada – Durkhadi, Samnapur and Mahadeo Piparia
  8. Middle Palaeolithic – Acheulian continuity
  9. Upper Palaeolithic – Mesolithic continuity
  10. Archaeological discontinuities and population replacements?
  11. Comparing Indian Stone Age sequence with Europe, Africa, SE Asia, and China
  12. Proposed changes in Indian Stone Age Sequence
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One Response to Revising the Indian Stone Age Sequence: Update

  1. Riza Abbas says:

    In Eastern Rajasthan and parts of Western Madhya Pradesh (Haraoti Plateau comprising districts of Kota, Bundi, Baran and parts of Bhilwara) the tool assemblage other than LFA (Large flake Acheulian have been found in the river gravels, colluvial deposit as well incorporated with the channel lag) is a flaked based industry that may be called as “Middle Palaeolithic” (which lacks the characteristic features of Mousterian as the other industries of same period do in Indian Subcontinent). The tool assemblages of this (“Middle Palaeolithic”) phase in Haraoti Plateau include small flakes (at times retouched and notched). These assemblages have sizable amount of discoid’s/ discoidal cores, polyhedron and small bifiaces (mostly handaxes). These tools are made on siliceous material found in thin vain of quartzite outcrops and hills. These assemblages are generally found on the surface of these outcrops where they are part of thin regolithic cover. These artefacts can be easily traced nearby eroded patches of regolithic that has denuded recently. The context of these sites remains almost same in the Haraoti area. A cursory look of the LFA assemblages and Middle Palaeolithic assemblages suggests that LFA (at times found in the gullies and Nalas located in the vicinity of the Middle Palaeolithic sites) are entirely absent from all these outcrops/hills where Middle Palaeolithic assembles are found thereby suggesting a considerable time gap between the denudation of these two assemblages. In the nalas hardly any Middle Palaeolithic assemblage is found with the LFA (possibly due to the sorting of alluvium). The study of excavated material of the Astoli nala suggest that the colluvial material of the alluvial fan has artefacts which have affinity with the LFA rather than the Middle Palaeolithic of the same area as suggested by the total absence of small bifacial discoidal /unifacial discoidal cores. Although a few cores and flakes of the Acheulian assemblage of Astoli nala suggests blade element. The excavated material as well as the surface collection from other nalas suggests that there is a late Acheulian phase which has miniature handaxes and cleavers.
    All this suggests that definitely there a phase other than late Acheulian (small bifaces and flakes) which has a characteristic tool types (tools held in finger like small scrapers, borers, notches and small bifaces) which are chronologically different from the large flake Acheulian as well as from the succeeding blade based industries of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. Whether to call this industry “Middle Palaeolithic/ Late Acheulian/ Final Phase of LFA is yet to be decided.
    Indian Middle Palaeolithic lacks the character of European middle Palaeolithic (Mousterian), but there is an industry which does not seem to have survived for a long duration (? They might have not survived for a duration comparable of LFA, but the concentration of these assemblages suggests that the hominids of this period occupied vast tracts of Malwa and Harauti Plateau and their concentration in this area is more than the microlithic assemblages) but is certainly independent of LFA.

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