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The South Asian Paleolithic Record and Its Potential for Transitions Studies

  • Parth R. Chauhan
Chapter

Abstract

The Indian subcontinent contains a rich and continuous behavioral record of hominin occupation since at least the early Middle Pleistocene. All lithic assemblages demonstrate the presence of Lower, Middle, and Upper Paleolithic features and variable patterns of blank reduction, being in general congruence with other parts of the Old World. However, empirical lacunae continue to persist, such as the lack of absolute dates for many important sites and well-excavated spatial information. As a result, it has been challenging to assess the timings and nature of these technological transitions and compare that data with other regions. Although broad ages have been assigned to most assemblages on the basis of lithic typology, stratigraphy, and biochronology, they are inadequate when discussing the precise causes of the behavioral shifts and resulting adaptive strategies. Accumulated data, to date, reflect diverse techniques of raw material acquisition, transport, and reduction. The few stratified sites that have yielded evidence of technological phases include both open-air and rock-shelter/cave contexts. Both the Lower to Middle and Middle to Upper Paleolithic transitions vary at an interregional level, particularly in peninsular India. This probably reflects the collective impact of a suite of factors: demography, raw material type, topographical prominence, water resources, cognitive capabilities, mobility and settlement patterns, and subsequent hominin dispersals from peripheral regions. This paper discusses the dynamic character of the archaeological record in Pleistocene South Asia and attempts to highlight key behavioral changes. From a broader comparative perspective, the general contextual, technological, and chronological attributes are also discussed for the best-known sites.

Keywords

Indian Subcontinent South Asia Paleolithic Transitions 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank my many mentors and colleagues for their contributions, encouragement, and intellectual discussions regarding the South Asian Paleolithic record: P. Ajitprasad, S. Athreya, R. Bednarik, P. Biagi, U. Chattopadhyaya, G. Corvinus, R. W. Dennell, C. Gaillard, R. Jhaldiyal, K. A. R. Kennedy, A. P. Khatri, S. J. Lycett, S. Mishra, V. N. Misra, G. C. Mohapatra, K. Paddayya, J.N. Pal, S. Pappu, R. Patnaik, M. D. Petraglia, S. N. Rajaguru, V. Sathe, V. Soni and Martin A.J. Williams. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer for constructive comments. I am thankful to the Stone Age Institute and CRAFT (Indiana University) for their ongoing support and access to resources. My research in India has been funded by the Fulbright Scholar Program, National Geographic Society, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and INQUA. I am also grateful to the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India for research visas and field permits respectively, over the years. Needless to say, all errors and assumptions, if any, are entirely my own. Last but not least, I am indebted to my co-editor, Marta Camps, for her hard work and patience since we first organized the UISPP session; this paper and volume would not have seen the light of day without her constant encouragement and positive attitude.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Parth R. Chauhan
    • 1
  1. 1.Stone Age Institute and CRAFT Research CenterIndiana UniversityGosportUSA

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