Iron Age India

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Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent (South Asia), succeeds the Late Harappan (Cemetery H) culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition. The main Iron Age archaeological cultures of India are the Painted Grey Ware culture (1200 to 600 BC) and the Northern Black Polished Ware (700 to 200 BC).

North India

The North Indian Iron Age is usually taken to last roughly from 1200 to 300 BC.[citation needed]

Nevertheless, recent (2003) excavations in Uttar Pradesh have turned up iron artefacts, furnaces, tuyeres and slag in layers radiocarbon dated between c. BC 1800 and 1000. Iron using and iron working was prevalent in the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas from the early second millennium BC.[citation needed] The dates obtained so far group into three: three dates between c. 1200-900 cal BC, three between c. 1400-1200 cal BC, and five between c. 1800-1500 cal BC. The types and shapes of the associated pottery are comparable to those to be generally considered as the characteristics of the Chalcolithic Period and placed in early to late second millennium BC.[citation needed] Taking all this evidence together it may be concluded that knowledge of iron smelting and manufacturing of iron artefacts was well known in the Eastern Vindhyas and iron had been in use in the Central Ganga Plain, at least from the early second millennium BC. The quantity and types of iron artefacts, and the level of technical advancement indicate that the introduction of iron working took place even earlier.[citation needed] The beginning of the use of iron has been traditionally associated with the eastward migration of the later Vedic people, who are also considered as an agency which revolutionised material culture particularly in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The new finds and their dates suggest that a fresh review is needed. Further, the evidence corroborates the early use of iron in other areas of the country, and attests that India was indeed an independent centre for the development of the working of iron.[1][2]

Archaeologically, this includes the Black and Red ware culture (c. 1300–1000 BC), Painted Grey Ware culture (1200–600 BC), and the Northern Black Polished Ware (700–200 BC).[citation needed]

The development of early Buddhism takes place in the Magadha period (5th to 4th centuries BC).[citation needed]

The North Indian Iron Age can be taken to end with the rise of the Maurya Empire and the appearance of written text (the edicts of Ashoka, r. 272-232 BC) indicating the gradual onset of historicity. South India simultaneously enters historicity with the Sangam period, beginning in the 3rd century BC.[citation needed]

From the 2nd century BC, the cultural landscape of Northern India is transformed with lasting effect with the intrusion of the Indo-Scythians and Indo-Greeks, and the states succeeding this period, up to the medieval Muslim conquests are conventionally grouped as Middle kingdoms of India or Classical India.

South India

The earliest Iron Age sites in South India are Hallur, Karnataka and Adichanallur, Tamil Nadu[3] at around 1000 BC. Archaeologist Rakesh Tewari, the Director, U.P. State Archaeological Department, India, stated that studies of the site at Karnataka implied "that they had already been experimenting for centuries" as by that time they were able to work with large artifacts.[4][5][6] Shyam Sunder Pandey suggested that “the date of the beginning of iron smelting in India may well be placed as early as the sixteenth century BC” and “by about the early decade of thirteenth century BC iron smelting was definitely known in India on a bigger scale”.[7]

South India enters its proto-historical period from about 300 BC; Chola Empire, Chera Kingdom, Pandya Kingdom, Pallava Empire.

See also


  1. Rakesh Tewari (2003), The origins of Iron-working in India: New evidence from the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas. Archaeology Online
  2. Tewari, Rakesh (Sep 2003). "The origins of iron working in India: new evidence from the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas". Antiquity. 77 (297): 536--544. Retrieved 2 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Front Page : Some pottery parallels. The Hindu (2007-05-25). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  4. Rakesh Tewari (2003), The origins of Iron-working in India: New evidence from the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas. Archaeology Online
  5. Agrawal et al. 1985: 228-29
  6. Sahi (1979: 366)
  7. Rakesh Tewari (2003), The origins of Iron-working in India: New evidence from the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas. Archaeology Online

Further reading

  • Kenoyer, J.M. 1998 Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford University Press and American Institute of Pakistan Studies, Karachi.
  • Kenoyer, J. M. 1991a The Indus Valley Tradition of Pakistan and Western India. In Journal of World Prehistory 5(4): 331-385.
  • Kenoyer, J. M. 1995a Interaction Systems, Specialized Crafts and Culture Change: The Indus Valley Tradition and the Indo-Gangetic Tradition in South Asia. In The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity, edited by G. Erdosy, pp. 213–257. Berlin, W. DeGruyter.
  • Shaffer, J. G. 1992 The Indus Valley, Baluchistan and Helmand Traditions: Neolithic Through Bronze Age. In Chronologies in Old World Archaeology (3rd Edition), edited by R. Ehrich, pp. 441–464. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
  • Chakrabarti, D.K.
    • 1974. Beginning of Iron in India: Problem Reconsidered, in A.K. Ghosh (ed.), Perspectives in Palaeoanthropology: 345-356. Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay.
    • 1976. The Beginning of Iron in India. Antiquity 4: 114-124.
    • 1992. The Early Use of Iron in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
    • 1999. India An Archaeological History. Delhi: Oxford University Press