Pre-historic Manipur :: Part 2
Extracts from the book 'Emergence Of Manipur As A Nation State'

N. Joykumar Singh *

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

The migration or spread of people from their original place to other areas covers a fair amount of time. The paleontologists had estimated that the process of migration took about 2(two) million years. This period covers several species of hominids, the evolution of modern man, a wide range of climate changes as ice age came and went, and the dispersal of various hominids species across the globe.

This long years of 'Paleolithic', as already mentioned above, is broadly divided into three as Lower, Middle and Upper. Again archeologists further divided this three periods on the basis of their nature of habitation and character. According to their nature of division the Lower Paleolithic period is again divided into three i,e,
(1) Oldowan (2.6 0.5 million years ago, earliest known stone tool industry),
(2) Acheulian (1.65 -100k years ago, earliest use of fire, about 1.5 mya), but about the information of the use of fire is still a controversy, and
(3) Clactotonian (400K 200K years ago, Oldest 'home' construction, Terra Amata).

The middle Paleolithic period is divided into two i,e, (1) Mounterian (300K 30,000 years ago, Age of Neanderthals) and (2) Aterian (100K 30,000 years ago, Bead Jewelry, 80,000 years old from Morocco). The Upper Paleolithic is again divided into five parts i,e,
(1) Chatelperronian (35,000 29,000 years ago, Cave art at Chauvet),
(2) Aurignacian (42,000 26,000 years ago, earliest carving of human, Venus of Hohle Fels),
(3) Gravellian (28,000 22,000 years ago, Venus of Willendorf),
(4) Solutrean (19,000 15,000 years ago, Altamira cave paintings) and
(5) Magdalenian (18,000 10,000 years ago, earliest permanent settlement in Nile Valley).10

It has already mentioned above about the nature of the migration of the people just after their appearance as a species of Homo erectus. They began to disperse from their original places in and around 100,000 years ago.11 Since then they began to migrate into the areas of other parts of the globe during the different period of times. The discoveries of the remains of the species of Homo-erectus in China in the year 1921 at the site of Zhoukoudian12 and Java in 1891 by Eugene Dubois13 was a good evidences of the presence of this hominid genes in other parts of Asia and South East Asia.

From the anthropological term the elements of human beings discovered in the areas are known as Pithecanthropus. It is also said the migration was not in a large scale way. They moved in a form of small groups which the scientists called it 'bottle neck'14 process. This type nature was continued for thousands of year. It is further mentioned that checking of the growth of migration population might be due to the volcanic eruption of 'Toba' which is situated in the north-west Sumatra in 70,000 years ago.15

The degree of this environmental catastrophic was so big that parts of India were covered with ash up to 10 ft. deep, global temperature were lowered for a million of years.16 As a result of this possibilities of large scale colonization were reduced in an extreme level. Then for 100,000 years ago second major dispersal began when anatomically modern people Homo sapiens emigrated Lo Sub Saharan Africa.17

Since then the people began to disperse in different directions even to the very far places of Antartica like Swan River, Wareen cave, Malakunanka. The people migrated to Australia through the areas of South East Asia. In regard to the year of migration in the pre-historic, the concerned scientists wrote,"Homo Sapiens appear to have occupied all of Africa 150,000 years ago, moved out of Africa 70,000 years ago, and had spread across Australia, Asia and Europe by 40,000 years B.C. Migration to America took place 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, and by 2,000 years ago most of the pacific Islands were colonized".18

Thus along with the colonization of all entire globe by the Homo Sapiens Sapien. They were again classified into several groups of people called 'race'. The concept of 'race' was developed by anthropologists and biologists during the 19th and early part of 20th century. While developing this concept they adopted a method called 'typological method'.

The root of the method was from the model of the classified people of Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnacus in 18th Century. According to He classified into four categories such as (i) Homo sapiens Eoropeus albesceus ('White', people from Eueope), (ii) Homo sapiens Africanus negreus ('black' people from Africa), (iii) Homo sapiens Asiaticus focus ('dark' people from Asia) and (iv) Homo sapiens Americanus rubesceus ('red' people from America).19

Like other countries in the world Manipur also has got the archaeological evidences of the existence of the people of Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. But in the case of Manipur the development of the idea of archaeology is a recent phenomenon. Therefore compare with other countries the archaeological work of this state is not fully developed. Infact the idea of the seed of archaeology was thrown only in the year 1935 and materialized in the year 1978. So the evidence of the material culture of the Paleolithic and Neolithic is very scanty.21

Because of the lack of enough materials it is extremely difficult to give a complete picture of the material culture of Paleolithic and Neolithic periods in Manipur. However it is also suggested that since Manipur located in the transit point between north and south direction definitely she must have certain value and importance of global archaeological interest. Gangmumei also said,"The North East India holds the key to the understanding the scope, depth and dimension and cultural diffusion between South and South-East Asia which played the crucial role in transforming the North East Indian Ethnographic canvas from pre-historic times".22

Compared with other parts of the country the developmental process of the archaeological work in Manipur was a recent phenomenon. The pioneering work in this field was initiated by O. Kumar Singh, a leading personality in the area of the archaeology of this state. Before his presence in this area of study Manipur had little information about the existence of the stone culture. It is mainly because of his strong involvement and effort a gigantic step have taken place in the study of pre-history of Manipur.

Undoubtedly his efforts produced a qualitative change in the study of this area and Manipur is also now included in the map of the world archaeology. From these archaeological findings it has come to the notice of the general people and researchers that the stone culture was in this state right from the earliest period of time. However though there are evidences of tools but still the remains of human being are not discovered so far.

O. Kumar is of the view that the "pre historic people used to settle in the hills during the Paleolithic and Haobinhian culture, while Neolithic people lived in both hills and valley. They came down to the valley at least by about 2000 B.C.".23 Like any other countries Manipur also had the opportunity to classify the stone culture broadly into three on the basis of the nature and character of the tools industry..

Paleolithic Period

Paleolithic period is the most primitive stone culture era. This period extends from the earliest known use of stone tools, probably by Hominius such as Austrelopitheciues, 2.6 million years ago to the end of the Pleistocene period around 10,000 B.C. The term 'Paleolithic' was coined by John Lubbock, a noted archaeologist in 1865. It derives from Greek word 'Palaios' means 'old' and 'Lithos' means 'stone'.

The literal meaning is "Old Stone Age". During this period humans grouped together in small societies such as bands. It was a food gathering stage. In this period of time they gathered plant and hunting or scavenging wild animal. This period is also characterized by the use of knapped stone tools and in later stages they also used wood and bone tools.

Apart from this they also began to produce earliest work of art and engaged in religious and spiritual behavior. The climate of the Paleolithic Period spanned two geologic epochs known as the Pliocene and Pleistocene. It is also suggested that both of these epochs are very important that the climate changes which took place during these period had affected human societies.

The span of the Paleolithic period is varied from one place to another. In the neighbouring country of Manipur like Burma the Lower Paleolithic culture started from 750,000 to 2,75,000 BP. It is mentioned that the Homo erectus (early Anyathian culture) began to settle in Burma on the bank of the Ayeyawaddy river in 750,000 B.C.E.

The Lower Paleolithic men of late Anyanthian culture continued from 275,000 to 25,000 B.P. and Upper Paleolithic men (Homo Sapiens) had settled in Badah-Lin cave in Ywagan Township in southern Shan State from 11,000 B.C.E. Whereas in the case of Manipur it is claimed that the year between 20,000 10,000 B.C.E. was the beginning of the Paleolithic period.24

The stone culture of the palaeolothic period was discovered from five archeological sites i.e. Songbu, Khankhui, Machi, Nongpok Keithel Manbi Singtom. (1) Songbu Cave The Songbu cave is located in the midst of thickly forested hill ranges in the Chandel District of Manipur. This archaeological site is situated between 94060/ E and 250 N.25 and it is very close to the border areas of Myanmar.

This cave was explored in the year 198326 The type of the rock where the cave is located is of fine quartzite sandstone. According to the physical feature the cave looks like an arc with the opening towards the south east. The height is 0.8 m and the interior measures is 1.8 m. The broadest width of the cave floor is 6.6. m.27

The stone tools discovered from this cave are of two kinds i,e, core tools and flake tools. The quantity of flake is much more higher than the core tools. It is mentioned that out of the total stone tools the flake tools constitute 77.7% and core tools only 22.2 %.28 In regard to the nature of the technique of use of stone tools O. Kumar wrote,"The main flake surface is always flat with diffused bulb of percussion. The natures of the flake scare suggest the use of controlled stone hammer technique".29

The period of the existence of the stone culture at Songbu cave is fixed at 20,000 B.P.30 However nothing is mentioned about the scientific evidences of the date of this period. But from above evidences it can be safely concluded that the stone cultures of Songbu cave perhaps may be belonged to the middle Paleolithic period.

At the time of the exploration 9(nine) artifact types were discovered. They are
(1) Flake 1,
(2) knife 1,
(3) Blade Hake 3,
(4) Point 1,
(5) Borer scraper 1,
(6) Hand-axe 1 and
(7) Spilt-pebbles 1. Etc.

It is also recorded that the flakes are generally small and thin, but an exceptionally large flake measuring 18.8 x 15.7 x 2.7 c.m. is also present.31

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 March 02, 2015.

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