Pre-historic Manipur :: Part 1
Extracts from the book 'Emergence Of Manipur As A Nation State'

N. Joykumar Singh *

 'Emergence Of Manipur As A Nation State' : Book Cover

Since the time of Herodotus and Thercydides many people who took a keen interest on life and nature of the human past always made an attempt to define the term history' with different perspective. Some scholars observed history as a re-enactment of the past experience thought through the minds of the historians. And some said history as an unending dialogue between past and present. It is also of the view that the continuous dialogue is the work of the man with an objective past.1

From this view history may be treated as the living past of man.2 Karl Marx also said, 'History is the activity of man pursuing his image'. The history of man and nature of lifestyle gradually evolved with their appearance on this earth. The history of their developmental stage is discovered broadly from two angles i,e, 'Pre-history' and 'history'. In between this two some writers suggested another stage called 'Proto-history'.

The 'Pre-history' and 'history' is also called as 'non-literate' and 'literate' stages. The Pre-history period begins right from the appearance of human and continued till the invention of script. The reconstruction of the nature of the the past activities of human being is a great challenging task and it depends entirely on the cultural remains like cultural, stones, bones, tools, weapons, potteries, plants and animal etc. The pre-history stage is also described as 'text free' period of human history.

The appearance of human is more or less directly related with the geomorphology of the movement of earth. The concerned scientists claimed that the earth began to exist in 4500 million years ago This stage is called as 'Pre-Cambrian' era. Since then for quite a long time there was no life on the earth until one cell organism came into being between the period of 'Archean' and 'Algom kien'. This cell organism cannot be identified either as plant or animal. Then in course of time various forms of living being both plants and animals began to appear during the different periods of geological era. Then in later stages the mammals emerged but they were also branched off.

One branch had developed into apes which are believed to be the ancestor of man.4 It is also a general belief among the scientists that the first appearance of human being was only during the periods between 'Pleistocene' and 'Holocene' or the geological age called 'Quaternary' era i,e, two million years. Since then they began to concentrate their whole activities only for the growth and development of their life. During this long period of time they used various types of tools of different metals.

On the basis of these tool industries the developmental stages of human being is classified as 'stone age', 'bronze age', 'Iron age' etc. Stone age is the first period of the developmental stage of the human civilization. This period is also again divided into two as 'Paleolithic' or 'Old stone Age' and 'Neolithic' or 'New stone Age'.

But on the basis of their stone culture and technological development this period is again classified into five i,e,
(1) the Lower Palaeolithic,
(2) the Middle Palaeolithic,
(3) the Upper Palaeolithic,
(4) Mesolithic and
(5) Neolithic.

The evolution of man from the primates stage to the modern man was a long process. And during this long period of time the following evolutionary changes have taken place in their anatomy.

They were
(1) assumption of erect posture,
(2) shortening of arms,
(3) reduction in size and number of teeth from 44 to 32,
(4) loss of jaw power,
(5) development of prominent chin,
(6) increase of skull capacity,
(7) increase in size and complicity of brain,
(8) reduction the height of eye-brow ridges,
(9) development of stereoscopic vision,
(10) development of flexible-skeleton,
(11) development of nail,
(12) perfection of apporability of thumb,
(13) perfection of articulate speech,
(14) perfection of heel and toe walking,
(15) obtaining omnivorous diet,
(16) use of clothing and fire,
(17) Development of community life and
(18) growth of population.

This evolutionary stages is again classified into several parts by the anthropologists, paleontologists and geologists on the basis of the nature of changes in the features of man. It is said that the evolutionary stages was first developed from the Oligopithecus, a kind of ape-like creature. The existence of this creature was discovered from Oligocene deposits of Fayeem in Egypt. It was followed by a number of discoveries of different form of ape like creature.

The 'Pliopithecus', a creature of Mio-Pliocene period which was also considered to be quite similar with present day Gibbon. The discovery of 'Dryopithecus' from the Mio-Pliocene deposits of India, France, Germany, China, Africa and England also had added another encouraging contribution in the study of the evolution of man. It is believed that 'Dryopithecus' represents the ancestral stock from which evolution took place in two directions.

One leading to the evolution of the modern apes (Gibbon, Orangutan, Chimpanzee and Gorilla) and other leading to the man like ape showing almost ape like feature but man like dentition which gave rise to the modern man in due course of time. From the discovery of 'Ramapithecus' stage of Upper Miocene period it is quite evident that the feature of man like ape began to change by having a wide curving jaw with arched plates.

It is believed that they lived in grassy lands. Next stage of the human evolution was 'Australopithecus' which was discovered from the Early Pleistocene cave deposit of South Africa. At this stage the feature was change with brain capacity between 600-700 c.c. Limbs like man and could walk in upright posture. Jaw projected forward. Forehead, cheekbones, teeth, occipital condylis and pelvic girdle like man. But eyebrows are like apes. It is said that they were the first tool users.

Then come 'Home habilis'. Some scientists claims that Homo habilis were similar to that of the feature of Australopithecus. The discoveries of the first sub-human fossils from the 'Middle Pleistocene' deposit in Central Java and Algeria was a significant development in the study of the evolution of human beings. The features consists of the brain capacity from 900 to 1200 c.c. and 165 cm long. Head was flat with receding forehead, Jaw was proportional without the chin. Teeth like man but eyebrows like ape. They are known as Pithecanthropus or Homo erectus. They are also called 'Java man'. This type of people lived about half a million years ago.

They were the forest dwellers and moved in small groups. Then the scientists also discovered another sub-human fossil in China who had thick cranial bones, low receding forehead and strong canines. Their brain capacities ranges from 850 to 1200 c.c. Limb bones like modern man. It is also said that they learned the use of fire for cooking and warmth. They lived in about one and half million years. They are also known as 'Sinanthropus Pekinensin' or 'Peking man'. After this a series of discoveries of new features having more develop form of brain capacities was continued.

They are Homo heidelbergensis, Homo-rodesiensis or Rhodesian man, Eoanthropus dawsoni or Piltdown man, Homo Sapiens fossain or Cro Magnon man etc. Then comes Homo Sapiens Sapiens or modern man. At this stage they spread all over the world and it is said that they represent Neolithic culture.

It is a general belief among the people that Africa was the cradle of man. But this theory is strongly challenged by the paleontologists. The prominent among them is Jia Lanpo. He gave a strong argument against the view of Africa as the original place of human being. He wrote ,"Africa is the home of the gorilla and chimpanzee which are close to the human species. Since 1920s, more anthropoid ape and early man fossils have been found on that continent, giving rise to high popularity of the thesis that man had evolved in Africa. But Asia is the place which has yielded the greatest number of fossils of simian species that had not known tool making but are mort akin to man".

He further said that during the transition from Ape to man, the Qinghai Tibet Plateau was a region with suitable for the evolution of higher primates. And this region is still a suitable place for seeking missing links in the evolution of man. On the basis of this argument he strongly concluded that southern part of east Asia is the original place of human being.6

In the mean time a group of researchers of international repute has announced the discovery of 'Afrasia djijidae' a new fossil primate from Myanmar. They claimed that the thirty seven million year old Afrasia closely resembles another early anthropoid, 'Afrotarsius libycus', recently discovered at a site of similar age in the Sahara Desert of Libya. According to them this primate was a critical step with evolution of early anthropoids that includes humans, apes and monkeys.

Therefore the discoveries of the fossils of Afrasia in Myanmar, China and other Asian countries gave a good room to alter the opinion that anthropoid evolution was rooted in Africa. Chris Beard, a renowned Paleontologists and one of the member of discovery team said, "Afrasian is a game changer because for the first time it signals when our ancestors initially colonized Africa. If this ancient migration had never taken place, we wouldn't be here talking about it".7

Thus with this new discovery a new arena for debate is opened among the paleontologists about the original place of the cradle of man.

The moment the stages of the development of the human being reached the Homo-erectus status they began to move out to other areas beyond their original boundaries. It is said that this territorial expansion most likely began around 1.8 1.7 million years ago, coinciding with progressively cooler global temperature. The scientists are of the view that the expansion of the territorial boundary was made possible during the period of 'Ice Age'.

They also claimed that ,"There have been eight 'Ice age' in the 800,000 years interspersed with warmer period of about 10,000 years known as interglacial, brief and extreme parts of this cycle".8

It is further mentioned that the last 'Ice Age' period was occurred, which was also known age LGM ( Last glacial maximum), about 20,000 years ago. During this period, when the major land masses formed as a single unit, the human beings was able to move out in the form of small group in search of more favourable habitation. Under the consistent process, by 10,000 years ago, the human was able to colonise the whole area of the habitable world.

In a chart prepared by the scientists they presented that the movement of the human started from the two places of Africa i,e, 'Klasies River Mouth -' in Southern Africa and 'Oma basin' of Ethiopia where the earliest modern looking human skull of about 130,000 years old were discovered.9

Under this evidence they believed that the earliest people had slowly migrated from this place to other areas of the globe by crossing the land bridges. During this stage of life these people were nomads. Their livelihood was based on hunting and food gathering. Therefore they moved from place to place for getting good places for hunting and gathering. Whatever the opinion may be but it is a fact that the man began to spread in various places of the earth in the different time periods.

To be continued..

* This is the Chapter 2 from the book 'Emergence Of Manipur As A Nation State' by N. Joykumar Singh
This article was posted on February 25, 2015.

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