As the name indicates, during the Chalcolithic (chalco = copper and lithic = stone) period, both metal and stone were utilized for the manufacture of the equipment in day-to-day life.
Since this is the first metal age, copper and its alloy bronze which melt at low temperature were use for the manufacture of various objects during this period. By far the most important sites of this period are the Indus valley sites. The Indus valley civilization is basically urban civilization with all advanced amenities. On the other hand, the Chalcolithic culture of Central, Eastern and Southern regions of India show somewhat entirely different features than those of the Indus valley sites, and deserve to be dealt in a different footing. The Chalcolithic cultures of the above regions basically represent the farming communities that existed during 2000-700 BC.
Depending on the features exhibited, four important cultural trends have been identified. They are
1) Kayatha (Dt. Ujjain, MP)
2) Ahar or Banas(Rajasthan)
3) Malwa (Nagda, Navdatoli, Maheswar, Eran, Mandsor in MP and Diamabad and Inamgaon in Maharashtra)
4) Jorwe (Jorwe, Nasik).
A comprehensive view of the Chalcolithic culture as revealed by the different sites can be discussed as under.
- Though the Chalcolithic people of Harappa made extensive use of bricks, the Chalcolithic people in the rest of India did not use any such material.
- The walls were constructed out of mud or mud and wattle.
- The houses were either circular or rectangular on plan.
- The houses usually had only one room, but multi roomed houses were also existing as evident at Inamgaon.
- The houses used to be plastered with cow dung and lime.
- They had some light roof supported on wooden posts as post-holes were encountered in large number in all the Chalcolithic sites.
- Inamgaon also has yielded evidence of a pit house which is circular on plan (3 M. Dia.) with post holes on the periphery.
- The Chalcolithic people subsisted on farming and hunting-fishing.
- They reared cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo and pig, which were also slaughtered for food.
- A variety of crops were grown.
- The principal cereal was barley though wheat was also cultivated.
- Rice is reported from Inamgaon.
- Other crops included Bajra, Jowar, Millets, Ragi, Green pea, lentil, green gram, black gram, etc.
- Absence of dishes in Jorwe ware indicates that the preparations were semi-liquid.
- Neither plough nor hoe has been attested to at Chalcolithic sites, but perforated stone discs, which were used as weights for the digging sticks abound.
Fish and animal flesh formed an important part of the diet of the Chalcolithic people. Fish bones and fishhooks attest to active fishing. Hunting also was an important occupation for bones of wild animals like wild pig, deer, stage, sambhar, cheetah, etc. were found in the excavations. Cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, pig and rarely horse were among the domesticated animals.
- Wheel made fine pottery is the speciality of the Chalcolithic culture, though hand made pottery is also present.
- Most of the pottery used to be given fine slip of red, orange or russet colour.
- Pottery used to be decorated with linear, curvilinear and intricate designs in black pigment.
- Floral, vegetal, anima, bird and fish motifs were also used in the decorations.
- Spouted vessels are another speciality of this period.
- The characteristic Black and Red ware made its first appearance in the Chalcolithic sites at many places.
- Though copper and bronze came to be used, its usage was limited due to the scarcity of the material.
- They depended more on stone tool equipment.
- The Neolithic trend of using polished stone tools continued in this period also.
- Microlithic tools on silicious material were very common.
- Copper and its alloys were used in making axes, chisels, knives, fishhooks, pins, rods, etc.
- Stone grinders, mullers and hammers were used for processing food.
- Personal ornaments mostly composed of beads of semiprecious stones like chalcedony, jasper, agate, carnelian, etc.
- Gold beads and ear ornaments were also reported from some sites.
- Copper beads, bangles and anklets were found in good number.
- During the Chalcolithic period, the dead used to be buried in the habitational area itself.
- The adults were buried in extended position.
- Sometimes, the feet used to be chopped off probably to prevent the dead from returning to this world or to prevent them from going away.
- There are also occasions when they bury their dead in big earthen urns.
- Infants and small children used to be buried in pots arranged ‘mouth to mouth’.
- When two urns were not sufficient, upto five urns with pierced bottoms were used as evident at Daimabad.
- Female figurines of clay, either, backed or unbaked, have been reported from Inamgaon and Nevasa.
- This probably indicates worship of mother goddess and also fertility cult.
- Bull worship was also prevalent as noticed at Kayatha.
- There is also meager evidence of other male and female divinities, but more confirmative evidence is required.
The chronological assignments of different Chalcolithic cultures of India are as follows:
1. Kayatha culture 2000-1800 BC
2. Ahar or Banas culture 2000-1400 BC
3. Malwa Culture 1700-1200 BC
4. Jorwe culture 1400-700 BC.
The above dates for different Chalcolithic cultures suggest that this culture can broadly be dated between 2000-700 BC. At many places this culture has been succeeded by Iron Age cultures. On the whole we can say that the rural life pattern, started in Neolithic period has been perfected in the Chalcolithic period, and this period forms the transition from stone ages to pure metal age.