The end of the Neolithic period saw the use of metals of which copper was the first. Consequently, several cultures came to be based on the use of stone and copper implements. Such a culture is called chalcolithic which means the copper-stone phase.

The use of copper and bronze led to the new technology of smelting metal ore and making metal artefacts. As the obtaining of raw material called for travel, the networks of Chalcolithic cultures widened.

Specialization in crafts was encouraged in some areas, generally where raw materials were easily available and where the craftsmen would gather. The patterns of living became more complex with the question of who would control the new technology, for those who were in authority were not necessarily those produced the artefacts.

Chalcolithic cultures are often referred to as ‘proto-historic’ if the use of a script was present, thus differentiating them from prehistoric cultures lacking the knowledge of metal and a script. As the use of bronze increased, the period is also referred to as the Bronze Age.


Many parts of the Indian subcontinent saw the appearance of Chalcolithic cultures in the second- first millennium BC. Sometimes these incorporated earlier Neolithic cultures. These were non-Harrapan and non-urban; they were characterised by the use of stone and copper tools.

Chronologically, there are several series of Chalcolithic settlements in India. Some are pre- Harrapan, others are contemporaries of the Harrapan culture and still others are post-Harrapan.

Pre- Harrapan strata on some sites in the Harrapan zone are also called early Harrapan to distinguish them from the mature urban Indus civilization. Thus the pre-Harrapan phase at Kalibangam in Rajasthan and Banwali in Haryana is distinctly Chalcolithic.

So is the case with Kot Diji in Sindh. The Kayatha cult in Madhya Pradesh (2000-1800 BC) is a junior contemporary of the Harrapan culture.


It has so’ pre-Harrapan elements in pottery, but it also shows Harrapan influence. Several post-Harrapan Chalcolithic cultures in these areas are influenced by the post-urban phase of the Harrapan culture.

Several other Chalcolithic cultures, thou younger in age than the mature Harrapan culture are not connected with the Indus Civilization. The Malwa culture (1700-1200 BC) found in Navadatoli, Eran and Nagda is considered to be non-Harrapan.

So is the case with the Jorwe culture (1400-700 BC) which covers the whole of Maharashtra except part of Vidarbha and Konkan. In the southern and eastern parts of India, Chalcolithic settlements ex­isted independently of the Harrapan culture.

In south India they are found invariably in continuation of the Neolithic settlements. The Chalcolithic settlement of the Vindhyan region, Bihar and Bengal are also not related to the Harrapan culture.


Pre-Harrapan Chalcolithic cultures spread farm­ing communities in Sindh, Baluchistan, Rajasthan, etc., and created conditions for the rise of the urban civilization of Harappa.

Chalcolithic cultures in central and western India disappeared by 1200 BC or so; only the Jorwe culture continued until 700 BC. However, in several parts of the country the Chalcolithic black-and-re ware continued till the second century BC.

The eclipse of the Chalcolithic habitation is attributed to a decline in rainfall from about 1200 BC onwards. In fact, the Chalcolithic people could not continue for long with the digging stick in the black soil area which is difficult to break in the dry season.

In the red soil areas, especially in eastern India, however, the chalcolithic phase was immediately followed, without any gap, by the iron phase which gradually transformed the people into full-fledged agricultur­ists.


Similarly, at several sites in southern India Chalcolithic culture was transformed into megalithic culture using iron.

On the basis of their geographical location, the chalcolithic cultures have been identified as the Banas culture, located in the Banas basin, in Rajasthan; Kayatha culture, type site Kayatha on the bank of river Kalisindh, an affluent of the Chambal, and represented by other sites in Central India (in the Narmada, Tapi and Mahi valleys); Malwa culture, located in Malwa, and extending into other parts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra; and the Jorwe culture in Maharashtra.

Settlements in Tapi, Godavari and other valleys were probably deserted to be reoccupied in the fourth-fifth centuries BC.

In places like Kayatha, Nasik, Nevasa and others in central and western India, four to six centuries may have elapsed between the Chalcolithic settlements and the early historic culture.


In the eastern parts or the red soil areas, and in South India, the Chalcolithic phase was followed without a gap by the early iron phase.

Besides cultural material of this phase, found at excavated sites, in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Karnataka there have been finds of caches of copper/bronze objects. As these have been found in hoards these sites were thought to represent a distinct copper hoard culture.

The Chalcolithic people were the first to use painted pottery. More than a hundred sites in the Ganga-Yamuna region have yielded a type of pottery known as Ochre Colored Pottery (OCP) and these sites are described as belonging to the OCP culture.

The OCP culture is succeeded by Black and Red Ware (BRW) and Painted Grey Ware (PGW) cul­tures, which are characterised by diagnostic pottery types.


In North India, there is a distinct concentra­tion of PGW sites in Haryana and the Upper Ganga Valley, of which thirty have been excavated.

Iron makes its appearance in the PGW culture, and in the ensuing phase, known as the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP) culture, its use becomes more widespread.