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A Historical Sojourn Through India


Rajan Gurukkal

A HISTORY OF ANCIENT AND EARLY MEDIEVAL INDIA: FROM THE STONE AGE TO THE 12TH CENTURY
By Upinder Singh
Pearson Longman, Delhi, 2008, pp. xxvii 677, Rs. 3500.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 10 October 2008

  Structured into ten chapters, the book starts off with features of the main physiographic zones of the subcontinent, periodization, and changing interpretations of early Indian history. The first chapter constitutes a detailed discussion of literary and archaeological sources. It provides an analytical comprehension of the various literary, archaeological and numismatic sources of ancient and early medieval India with specific indications of the problems as well as potential such sources pose in the context of their utilization in the reconstruction of history. It helps the reader understand that production of verifiable evidence and facts of veracity based on authentic sources forms the basic requirement for historical reconstruction and that the corroboration of facts in the sources is an essential exercise. Since it is the transparency of the logical relationship between the source based premises and the explanatory conclusion that makes history reliable, the chapter draws on the need for and difficulties in the integration of different sources.   The second chapter is on the Stone Age hunter-gatherers whose history constitutes the longest part of the human past. The author discusses the geological ages and the corresponding life forms, archaeology of the hominid fossils, palaeo-environments, the tripartite classification of the Stone Age in the subcontinent, the tool technology and life-ways of the Stone Age hunter-gatherers, the Mesolithic graves, subsistence, settlement patterns, Microliths, and the Mesolithic Rock-art in detail with the help of beautiful visuals by way of drawings, photographs, line drawings, charts and maps. The chapter shows how Mesolithic people fanned out into new ecological niches.   Discussion of the late Stone Age people’s transition to food production that heralded the Neolithic Age of the Indian subcontinent and the subsequent development of material culture through the Neolithic-Chalcolithic, and Chalcolithic phases forms the content of the third chapter. It provides archaeological details of the earliest food producing villages in the Northwest, the Vindhyan Ranges and other areas of the Indian subcontinent, which date back to c. 7000 BCE and their subsequent spread to new areas in the North and Northwest areas like Rajasthan, the Malwa region, the Western Deccan, the Middle Ganga Plains and Eastern India besides Southern India during c. 3000–2000 BCE. The chapter notes the coexistence and interaction among the Neolithic, Neolithic-Chalcolithic, rural Chalcolithic, urban Chalcolithic and hunter-gatherer communities, and the subsequent emergence of trade and urban growth. The life of early farmers, their cults, belief systems and arts have received ample attention in ...


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