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date: 23 March 2023

A Reappraisal of the Chalcolithic of Central and Deccan Indialocked

A Reappraisal of the Chalcolithic of Central and Deccan Indialocked

  • Shweta DeshpandeShweta DeshpandeSymbiosis School for Liberal Arts
  •  and Esha PrasadEsha PrasadSymbiosis School for Liberal Arts


This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article.

The Chalcolithic period of India, first identified at the site of Jorwe in the 1950s, is an important period in the history of India’s cultural and civilizational development, especially for the central, Deccan, southern, and eastern regions of the subcontinent. The period ranges from the 3rd millennium bce to the mid-1st millennium bce and covers the origin, development, and decline of these cultures in the region. While traditionally referred to as two distinct groups, the Central and Deccan Chalcolithic cultures represent a cultural continuum across the region of southeast Rajasthan or Mewar, Central India or Malwa, and the Deccan. Mewar is drained by the Banas, a tributary of the Chambal; Malwa by the Narmada, Tapi, Mahi, Chambal, and Betwa; and the Deccan, located between the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats, is drained by the Tapi, Bhima, and Godavari. The archaeological sites are found along the river valleys, and some of the typological sites include Ahar, Balathal, Gilund, etc., in Mewar; Kayatha, Eran, Navdatoli, among others, in Malwa; and Savalda, Inamgaon, Daimabad, etc., in the Deccan region. The Central and Deccan Chalcolithic cultures form a cultural community defined by the black-on-red ware and the black-and-red ware ceramic type along with their associated pottery types that have helped frame the chronology and cultural sequence of origin, development, and decline. Also referred to as the early farming communities, they are defined by a sedentary lifestyle with permanent and semi-permanent structures, an agro-pastoral economy with production of goods for exchange and commerce, along with variations in religious practices which include fire worship, bull worship, and burial systems, among others, as identified by the excavators. Based on stratigraphic sequence, stylistic similarities, and material culture, five distinct cultural phases have been identified in Central India and the Deccan, namely, the Ahar, Kayatha, and Savalda, followed by Malwa and Jorwe. The origin of these cultures, while not distinctively clear, has been attributed to various native and foreign elements, including the Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures of the region, contemporary pre-, early, mature, and late Harappan cultures, and West Asian influence, among others. The Chalcolithic period in the history of the Indian subcontinent, while forming a bridge between prehistory and early history, also raises relevant questions with regard to its identity in terms of its origin and influence; its placement within the general frame of existing archaeological chronology between the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Iron Age; and interaction and trade networks with contemporary cultures such as the Southern Neolithic Harappans, including the early, mature and late periods of Haryana, Gujarat, and north Rajasthan that contributed to its rich material assemblage. In addition to these, it is important to look again at the excavated material from these sites and possibly undertake fresh excavations, in light of new information from sites in southeast Rajasthan, to establish the cultural continuum that these Chalcolithic cultures represent within the chronology of cultural development of the subcontinent.


  • Archaeology