Contribution à la connaissance du paléolithique inférieur-moyen en Inde

Abstract : Palaeolithic remains are available all over the Indian subcontinent but the scarcity of contextual data, especially about chronology, do not help in the understanding and reconstructing of the prehistoric occurences and particularly the evolution of lithic assemblages.

Presentation of the salient features of Palaeolithic in India emphasizes the sharp contrast existing between the assemblages of the subhimalayan belt, the Siwaliks, and those of the peninsular India. The former comprise mostly trimmed pebbles/cobbles without handaxes or cleavers : these are soanian industries.
The latter are characterized, in the Lower Palaeolithic, by handaxes and sometimes cleavers and also small tools among which side scrapers are in majority ; trimmed pebbles are more or less frequent. These types of assemblages are comparable to the Acheulian industries of the rest of the world. The transition between Lower and Middle Palaeolithic is very progressive and mostly marked by the disapearance of handaxes.

This contribution to the knowledge of the Lower-Middle Palaeolithic of India is modest if compared to the wealth of available data, but it offers an exemple of precise study of selected cases which aims at working out the way of life of prehistoric people and also to look at the differences between Soanian and Acheulian through statistics.
The main part of this work bears on a locality in Rajasthan, the small city of Didwana, situated in an area where the climate is semi-arid since the end of Middle Pleistocene. Prehistoric groups used to live in a landscape composed of dunes and temporary lakes retained in the depressions. They settled either on the bank of the lakes, as for instance at the site of Singi-Talav, or on the stabilized dunes as at the site of 16R.

The lithic industry from these two sites is principally made of raw materiel provided by metamaorphic hills bordering the plain of Didwana. Singi-Talav is about 3 km away from this outcrop, but the industry is almost entirely made of rocks coming from it. The grey, slightly shistous guartzite was especially used for making handaxes, which are in a good number in the lower level and which look quite rough, probably due to the properties of this rock. The prehistoric people collected also raw materials, mostly quartzite cobbles, at least 20 km away from their site.

They used to make core tools or flakes out of them, according to the quality
of the rock. These flakes were prefered for the small tools but most of the
small tools are of local rocks ; side- and end-scrapers are the prominent types. Moreover, the lower level of this site, which is typically acheulian,
yielded six quartz crystals which were undoubtly brought by prehistoric people themselves, but which were not used as tools. The site of 16R is very close to these hills and the upper archaeological level seems to be a workshop site.

These two sites didn't provide any faunic remains, except small Gastropods found only in the two archaeological levels of Singi-Talav. There is no objection to correlating these two sites of the Didwana plain and the datations worked out in the dune sequence of 16R lead to assume that the âge of the lower level of Singi-Talav is at least 200 000 years.
At Renigunta as at Didwana, the assemblages are almost completely lacking in cleavers. But cleavers are weli represented in the Acheulian of Central India, as for instance at Suraj-Kund, on the bank of the Narmada, very close to the site where a skull of Homo erectus was found for the first time in India.
These cleavers are very well trimmed on large flakes removed from quartzite cobbles and they are guite similar to the tools of the saine
type known in Africa. In the Siwalik range, the lithic assemblages appear completely different from those found in peninsular India. They mostly consist in trimmed pebbles/cobbles and they belong to the Soanian tradition,
contrasting with the Acheulian of the rest of India, and of the world.

On the terrasses of the river Beas these cobble tools are in majority unifacially trimmed. Apart from their unifacial or bifacial flaking, the analysis brings out several groups : cobble tools whith extended cutting edge, elongated tools with transversal cutting edge, rounded tools showing sometimes striking marks and tools with a convex side cutting edge which are the most frequent.
Along with these trimmed cobbles, there are some blank and retouched flakes and a few artefacts which deserve the naine of handaxe and cleaver. Therefore the break which is usually established between Acheulian and Soanian may not be so fondamental, indeed. It appears that the differences between these two technological traditions were stressed by the fact that comparisons were preferentially based on some selected types of tools and didn't take into account the whole production of prehistoric people.

Anyway, the shadow hanging over this question won't be removed before the assemblages are placed in a precise chronological and environmental setting.

In view of the significant progress the prehistoric research is making at present in India, one can expect that after a few years the discoveries will bring out steady pieces of answer
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Submitted on : Monday, September 7, 2009 - 2:36:01 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 12:14:14 PM
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Claire Gaillard. Contribution à la connaissance du paléolithique inférieur-moyen en Inde. Anthropologie biologique. Museum national d'histoire naturelle - MNHN PARIS, 1993. Français. ⟨tel-00413953⟩

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