- Neinuo was eating her favourite food — boiled rice, squash, pumpkins, beans and meat.
- Her grandmother had grown the squash, pumpkin and beans in the little garden plot at the back of her house.
- She remembered the food had been so different when she had been to Madhya Pradesh as part of a school trip.
- It was hot and spicy.
Varieties of foods
- Different plants grow in different conditions — rice, for example, requires more water than wheat and barley.
- That is why farmers grow some crops in some areas and not in other areas.
- Different animals too, prefer different environments — for instance, sheep and goat can survive more easily than cattle in dry, hilly environments.
The beginnings of farming and herding
- Men, women and children probably observed several things: the places where edible plants were found, how seeds broke off stalks, fell on the ground, and new plants sprouted from them.
- They began looking after plants — protecting them from birds and animals so that they could grow and the seeds could ripen.
- In this way people became farmers.
- Women, men and children could also attract and then tame animals by leaving food for them near their shelters.
- The first animal to be tamed was the wild ancestor of the dog. Later, people encouraged animals that were relatively gentle to ome near the camps where they lived.
- These animals such as sheep, goat, cattle and also the pig lived in herds, and most of them ate grass.
- People protected these animals from attacks by other wild animals. This is how they became herders.
- It is the name given to the process in which people grow plants and look after animals.
- Very often, plants and animals that are tended by people become different from wild plants and animals.
- This is because people select plants and animals for domestication.
- They select those plants and animals that are not prone to disease.
- They also select plants that yield large-size grain, and have strong stalks, capable of bearing the weight of the ripe grain.
- Seeds from selected plants are preserved and sown to ensure that new plants (and seeds) will have the same qualities.
- Those that relatively gentle are selected for breeding. As a result, gradually, domesticated animals and plants
become different from wild animals and plants.
- The teeth and horns of wild animals are usually much larger than those of domesticated animals.
- Domestication was a gradual process that took place in many parts of the world.
- It began about 12,000 years ago.
- Virtually all the plant and animal produce that we use as food today is a result of domestication.
- Some of the earliest plants to be domesticated were wheat and barley.
- The earliest domesticated animals include sheep and goat.
A new way of life
- When people began growing plants, it meant that they had to stay in the same place for a long time looking after the plants, watering, weeding, driving away animals and birds — till the grain ripened.
- Then grain had to be used carefully.
- As grain had to be stored for both food and seed, people had to think of ways of storing it.
- In many areas, they began making large clay pots, or wove baskets, or dug pits into the ground.
- Animals multiply naturally.
- If they are looked after carefully, they provide milk, which is an important source of food, and meat, whenever
required. In other words, animals that are reared can be used as a ‘store’ of food.
Finding out about the first farmers and herders
- To find out whether these sites were settlements of farmers and herders, scientists study evidence of plants and animal bones.
- One of the most exciting finds includes remains of burnt grain.
- These may have been burnt accidentally or on purpose.
- Scientists can identify these grains, and so we know that a number of crops were grown in different parts of the subcontinent.
- They can also identify the bones of different animals.
Look at the table below to see where evidence of grain and bones of domesticated animals have been found.
|Grain and Bones
|Wheat, barley, sheep, goat, cattle
|Mehrgarh (in present day-Pakistan)
|Rice, fragmentary animal bones
|Koldihwa (in present-day Uttar Pradesh)
|Rice, cattle (hoof marks on clay surface)
|Mahagara (in present-day Uttar Pradesh)
|Wheat and lentil
|Gufkral (in present-day Kashmir)
|Wheat and lentil, dog, cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo,
|Burzahom (in present-day Kashmir)
|Wheat, green gram, barley, buffalo, ox
|Chirand (in present-day Bihar)
|Millet, cattle, sheep, goat, pig Black gram, millet, cattle,
|Hallur (in present-day Andhra Pradesh)
Millet, cattle, sheep, goat, pig Black gram, millet, cattle,
- Archaeologists have found traces of huts or houses at some sites.
- These may have provided shelter in cold weather.
- Archaeologists have also found cooking hearths both inside and outside the huts, which suggests that, depending on the weather, people could cook food either indoors or outdoors.
- Stone tools have been found from many sites as well.
- These are different from the earlier Palaeolithic tools and that is why they are called Neolithic.
- These include tools that were polished to give a fine cutting edge, and mortars and pestles used for grinding grain and other plant produce.
- Mortars and pestles are used for grinding grain even today, several thousand years later.
- Palaeolithic types continued to be made and used, and remember, some tools were also made of bone.
- Many kinds of earthen pots have also been found.
- These were sometimes decorated, and were used for storing things.
- People began using pots for cooking food, especially grains like rice, wheat and lentils that now became an important part of the diet.
- Moreover they began weaving cloth, using different kinds of materials, for example cotton, that could now be grown.
WAYS IN WHICH GRAIN WAS USED
- AS SEED
- AS FOOD
- AS GIFTS
- STORED FOR FOOD
What about other customs and practices?
- Scholars have studied the lives of present-day farmers who practise simple agriculture.
- They have also studied the lives of herders.
- Many of these farmers and herders live in groups called tribes. Scholars find that they follow certain
customs and practices that may have existed earlier as well.
- Usually two to three generations live together in small settlements or villages.
- Most families are related to one another and groups of such families form a tribe.
- Members of a tribe follow occupations such as hunting, gathering, farming, herding and fishing.
- Usually, women do most of the agricultural work, including preparing the ground, sowing seeds, looking after the growing plants and harvesting grain.
- Children often look after plants, driving away animals and birds that might eat them.
- Women also thresh, husk, and grind grain.
- Men usually lead large herds of animals in search of pasture.
- Children often look after small flocks.
- The cleaning of animals and milking, is done by both men and women.
- Both women and men make pots, baskets, tools and huts.
- They also take part in singing, dancing and decorating their huts.
- Some men are regarded as leaders.
- They may be old and experienced, or young, brave warriors, or priests.
- Old women are respected for their wisdom and experience.
- Tribes have rich and unique cultural traditions, including their own language, music, stories and paintings.
- They also have their own gods and goddesses.
- One of the distinctive features of a village is that most people who live there are engaged in food production.
A closer look —
(a) Living and dying in Mehrgarh
- This site is located in a fertile plain, near the Bolan Pass, which is one of the most important routes into
- Mehrgarh was probably one of the places where women and men learnt to grow barley and wheat, and rear sheep and goats for the first time in this area.
- It is one of the earliest villages that we know about.
- Archaeologists who excavated the site found evidence of wild animals such as the deer and pig.
- In later levels, they found more bones of sheep and goat, and in still later levels, cattle bones are most common,
suggesting that this was the animal that was generally kept by the people.
- Other finds at Mehrgarh include remains of square or rectangular houses.
- Each house had four or more compartments, some of which may have been used for storage.
- When people die, their relatives and friends generally pay respect to them.
- People look after them, perhaps in the belief that there is some form of life after death.
- In one instance, the dead person was buried with goats, which were probably meant to serve as food in the next world.
Earlier and later levels
- After hundreds of years, this leads to the formation of a mound.
- When this mound is dug up, what is found from the upper layers of the mound is generally from a later time than what is found from the lower layers of the mound, which are older.
- These upper and lower layers are often referred to as levels.
A closer look — (b) Daojali Hading
- Daojali Hading is a site on the hills near the Brahmaputra Valley, close to routes leading into China and Myanmar.
- Here stone tools, including mortars and pestles, have been found.
- These indicate that people were probably growing grain and preparing food from it.
- Other finds include jadeite, a stone that may have been brought from China. Also common are finds of tools made of fossil wood (ancient wood that has hardened into stone), and pottery.
- Turkey is One of the most famous Neolithic sites, Catal Huyuk, was found in Turkey.
- Several things were brought from great distances —flint from Syria, cowries from the Red Sea, shells from the Mediterranean Sea — and used in the settlement.
- Beginnings of domestication (about 12,000 years ago)
- Beginning of settlement at Mehrgarh (about 8000 years ago)