Archaeology in South Asia is no late arrival. Well over a century ago the ran-
dom gleanings of antiquarians there were channeled into the systematic study of
the past through the formation of the Archaeological Survey of India. Within a
decade of the first acceptance of "paleoliths" as artifacts in Europe, Robert Bruce
Foote and Meadows Taylor were making similar collections in India. From such
early beginnings, the discovery of the past has proceeded apace in this century,
especially in the last fifty years. It is no exaggeration to state that discoveries that
could have been made only by archaeological methods have radically transformed
our understanding of the region's cultural and historical development. Little more
than half a century ago, to choose the most conspicuous example, not only was
the Indus Civilization unknown, but its very existence was virtually unsuspected.
With this extraordinary discovery, and others after it, an entire set of new prob-
lems has been posed regarding the area's cultural development.
Yet in the present context of archaeological exploration it seems likely that the
major, history-changing discoveries all belong to the past. The outlines of the early
periods in South Asia are well established. In the main, it will be the business of
the next fifty years of archaeology to fill out the framework with specific content.
To attack the still unsettled problems, the strategy must adopt a regional ap-
proach. So long as archaeological questions remained basic and general, concern-
ing, for example, the advent of food production, it was feasible to couch answers
in broad terms. One might speak then of a "Neolithic Period." But with increased
knowledge of the paths of cultural evolution in South Asia it becomes evident how
different were the actual nature and pace of changes in the several regions that,
after all, make up a subcontinent. Indeed, it is quite characteristic for South Asia
that in the past, as in the present, societies at different developmental stages have
coexisted for long periods. But with such diversity comes complexity. The need
for sorting out the regional dynamics is nowhere more apparent than in the ter-
minological confusion that besets South Asian archaeology. Basically, the early
19th-century model—"Stone," "Bronze," and "Iron" Ages—still provides the
scaffolding for interpretations; but it is seriously inadequate, surviving only for
want of general agreement on proposed substitutes. In the following discussion,
the designations "Early Stone Age" and "Middle Stone Age" follow the tradi-
tional terminology. This seems justified, since the archaeological record shows
both a widespread internal cultural uniformity and marked similarities to assem-
blages of the same name and age elsewhere in the Old World. But it should be
said that such usage is also an admission of ignorance in circumstances where a
more precise and therefore more confining classification is not possible. The labels
used for later periods are makeshift, arising from the conditions they describe.
Their selection follows no single principle of classification, but we hope that the
loss in consistency will be offset by a gain in clarity.
The preparation of distribution maps similar to those of section II, though gen-
erally to a larger scale, is a basic archaeological procedure. Used properly, they
may make it much easier to recognize cultural patterns. In their interpretation, it
is to be understood that the absence of a plotted site on the map may, but need
not, mean the real absence of the feature plotted. Thus a blank space may merely
reflect a lack of knowledge.
The sources used in compiling these plates were either individual reports or,
much more commonly, briefly published notices of surface finds. By far the most
important of the currently published journals in which the latter appear are Indian
Archaeology: A Review and its sister publication, Pakistan Archaeology. Re-
cently, Ancient Ceylon has joined this group. But reports of archaeological dis-
coveries have also appeared in many other places, and while considerable efforts
were made to achieve a comprehensive coverage for each map, it was not always
possible to consult the more obscure journals.
The three maps on plate II.1. "The Stone Age," cover a very long period of
time and deal with it in only the broadest of categories. As Stone Age research
progresses these categories will certainly be subject to much refinement in both
cultural differentiation and dating. There are as yet very few physicochemical
dates available for the Stone Ages. The inclusion of the climatic chart on this plate
represents an approximation, for comparative purposes, of the South Asian se-
quence to the far better studied European one. It should be noted that the onset
of the Pleistocene lies well beyond the 600,000 years with which this chart begins.
Plate II.2, "Neolithic and Chalcolithic Cultures," presents two maps that over-
lap chronologically. Apart from some pollen finds in Rajasthan suggesting grain
cultivation as early as c. 7500 B.C. (see text for plate I.C.1), the earliest traces of
the transition to food production and sedentarization in South Asia are recogniz-
able in Baluchistan and Sind. In peninsular India this process is initiated only
after the appearance of urbanization in the northwest. The regional chronological
chart attempts to define these developments more closely. The recognizable pat-
terns it projects show that the earliest villages are established in central India and
that this way of life later gradually arrives in the south and then the east.
The archaeological evidence, clearer in some places than in others, suggests that
the entire process first of sedentarization, then of urbanization, in South Asia was
the result of a diffusion from the West. The process is depicted on plate II.3, "Cul-
tures of Northwest India and Southwest Asia," c. 3500–900 B.C., especially maps
(a)–(c). Map (d) on the same plate shows that after the decline of the great
early urban civilization centered in Sind and the Punjab, new influences arrived,
again from the West. Indeed, here is a key to understanding the stream of South
Asian history: throughout all periods the northwest corridors of the subcontinent
have channeled Western influences into the peninsula. But once present, the new
ideas, peoples, and artifacts rapidly undergo "Indianization," resulting in a syn-
thesis that is well described by the oft-heard slogan "unity in diversity."
Plates II.4 and II.5 show something of the diversified material culture of the
Indus/Harappan Civilization and subsequent periods, complementing for the for-
mer the illustrations presented on plate II.3. The objects selected for illustration
are intended to be broadly representative; but it must not be forgotten that all
archaeological evidence is by its nature selective. Accidents of survival determine
what is recovered and what is lost. Baskets, for example, are likely to have been
common containers, but no specimens have been found. On the other hand, pot-
tery is virtually indestructible and, because of its limitless variability in form and
decoration, serves as a major archaeological indicator.
The final plate in this section, plate II.6, depicts the distribution of cultures at
the beginning of, or just before, what is usually called the "Iron Age." The sig-
nificance of this period in South Asia is that it is one of renaissant urbanization.
The cities of the mid-first millennium B.C. in the Gangetic Plain are the first since
the disappearance of the Indus Valley cities some 1,000 years earlier. In the
South, references in Tamil literature suggest that city life may also have become
established there before the close of the last millennium B.C. Archaeologically,
however, the period remains almost wholly unknown.
Annual bibliography of Indian archaeology. Leiden, 1926–.
Fürer-Haimendorf, Elizabeth von. An anthropological bibliography of South Asia.
3 vols. (vol. 1, not numbered, to 1954; vol. 2 for 1955–59; vol. 3 for 1960–69).
Ancient Ceylon (1971–); Ancient India (1946–); Ancient Pakistan (1964–);
Indian Antiquary (1872–); Indian Archaeology: A Review (1953/54–); Mem-
oirs of the Archaeological Survey of India (1919–55); Pakistan Archaeology
(1964–); Purātattva (1967/68–).
Allchin, Bridget, and Raymond, F. The birth of Indian civilization: India and
Pakistan before 500 B.C. Baltimore, 1968.
Banerjee, N. R. The Iron Age in India. Delhi, 1965.
Childe, Vere Gordon. New light on the most ancient East. . . . 4th ed. London,