Chalcolithic Age

Ancient History: An Overview of the Historic Chalcolithic Age

Several cultures began to use metal after the Neolithic period ended, primarily copper and low-grade bronze. Chalcolithic, which means stone-copper phase, is a civilization of using copper and stone. It lasted from 2000 BC until 700 BC in India. This culture was most visible during the Pre-Harappan period, although it was also in a few places throughout the Post-Harappan period. The population majority resided in rural areas among hills and rivers. The farming communities of Kayatha, Ahar or Banas, Malwa, and Jorwe belong to the Chalcolithic civilization.

The Chalcolithic Age

Pottery of the Chalcolithic Age

The term Chalcolithic is derived from the Greek terms “khalkos” + “lthos,” which means “copper” and “stone,” respectively, and refers to the Copper Age. The Eneolithic, commonly known as the Neolithic, is an archaeological phase that is usually regarded as part of the Neolithic period (although it was originally defined as a transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age).

Knives, axes, fishing hooks, rods, and bronze tools were frequently used. These tools were created by combining tin and copper to form the bronze alloy. This alloy was commonly utilized for manufacturing tools and weapons during the Chalcolithic Age because it was tougher than copper.

The Chalcolithic Age was India’s first metal age, and it saw the use of copper alongside stone. It was also known as the Stone-Copper Period. These people employed low-grade bronze to produce tools and weapons in addition to copper and stone. There are multiple settlements in chronological order. Between 2000 BC and 700 BC, the Chalcolithic culture mostly consisted of agricultural groups.

Characteristics of Chalcolithic Age

Chalcolithic Age
Credit: ALchemy IAS

Agriculture and Animals

The Chalcolithic Age people subsisted on hunting, fishing, and farming. Hunting was an important task. Sheep, buffalo, goats, cattle, and pigs were reared and killed for food (d) Camels’ remains have also been discovered. People ate beef, but no evidence of pork consumption was discovered.

Cotton was grown on soil that was black cotton. There are also traces of rice planting. It indicates that they ate fish and rice. Rice was grown in Eastern India, while barley was grown in Western India. The primary crops grown includes barley and wheat, lentil, bajra, jowar, ragi millets, green pea, and green and black gram. Knives, axes, fishing hooks, chisels, pins, and rods were all made from metals like copper and their alloys.


The Chalcolithic people of Harappa used a lot of bricks, but there are no indications of burnt bricks. The dwellings were simple in design, being either rectangular or round. People built housses mostly of mud with coatings of cow dung and lime. Although most of the dwellings had only one room, there was occasional existence of multi-roomed houses. In the settlement’s center, enormous mud buildings with five rooms, four rectangular and one round are found for powerful individuals. Ovens and circular pit homes can be found in Inamgaon.


What can be a mortuary ceremonialism’ is one of the defining traits of the Late Neolithic and Copper Ages. From the megalithic tombs of the Atlantic edge to the cemeteries of southeastern Europe, ceremonies differ. Nevertheless, the dead, who had a constant presence in society and exists regularly in excarnation locations, collective tombs, settlement burials, family plots and cenotaphs in cemeteries, were a characteristic element of these cultures. These meetings occured in the context of ancestor veneration and a sense of location and connection continuity. It validated the existence and continued existence of the household or hamlet to which the deceased belonged.

In a North-South direction, people buried the dead in their homes’ flooring, together with pots and copper artefacts. In Navas, there were burials of children with copper pottery or necklaces around their necks. These kids mostly came from well-to-do homes. There was also discovery of bodies with 29 bangles and two unique axes in the Kayatha region.

Art and Craft

The presence of painted pottery is a hallmark of the Chalcolithic Age. In addition, the emergence of art and craft by people like coppersmiths and stone workers is an important characteristic of the Chalcolithic period.

In several places in India, there was discovery of painted pottery. During the Chalcolithic Period, people used a variety of potteries. The Ahar people’s black-and-red pottery was one of the most frequent types, and was widely in use among them. During the Chalcolithic period, there was significant use of ochre-coloured pottery. A notable feature of the Chalcolithic period is the existence of painted pottery.

People throughout the Chalcolithic period used many forms of pottery. Of them all, the black-and-red pottery was popular. People also used the Ochre-Coloured Pottery (OCP).

The Chalcolithic culture was popular for the wheel-thrown pottery- predominantly red and orange. There was ornamentation of pottery with varied shapes and painted in linear designs, mostly in black colour. In addition, there was application of flower, flora, animal, and bird designs.

For the first time, also, there was production of black-and-red pottery. Channel-spouted pots, dish-on-stands, and bowls-on-stand also existed in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Bihar.

Coppersmiths, ivory carvers, lime manufacturers, and terracotta artists dominated the Chalcolithic Age. There was use of semiprecious stones and beads like agate, jasper, chalcedony, and carnelian to make ornaments. Spinning and weaving were skills that people possessed. There was discovery of threads of flax, cotton, and silk in Maharashtra.

Importance of Chalcolithic Phase

Chalcolithic Age
Credit: Fine Art America

The Chalcolithic period spanned the entire country, except the alluvial region and dense woods, and most people lived near hills and rivers. There was use of stone and copper microlithic tools. Also the people were perfect smelters, and it was the first time they use painted ceramics. The majority of the pots were wheel-turn black and crimson. Cooking, storing, drinking, and eating existed in these pots. There is also an evidence of use of lota and thali.

It is Neolithic-Chalcolithic in some regions when the Neolithic phase made its transition to the Chalcolithic. The people of the Chalcolithic era were colonizers, and the most significant foods were fish and rice.

Limitations of Chalcolithioc Phase

Chalcolithic people could not fully utilize domestic animals since they only used them for food and not milk (they believed milk was only for young animals). In addition, they didn’t do a lot of gardening. They resided in an area with black cotton soil, which necessitated using iron instruments for cultivation, and there were no signs of ploughing or hoeing.

The Chalcolithic phase was an extremely short living phase. There are signs of a huge number of buried youngsters, indicating malnutrition and epidemic outbreaks. As people didn’t know how to combine two metals, they couldn’t effectively use the stronger metal bronze. Copper had its own set of limits and a limited supply. Because people were unaware of the technique of writing, they could not profit from the Indus people’s technical expertise.

Chalcolithic Age Across the World


Chalcolithic Age in the East

The Fertile Crescent may have been the first place where metallurgy emerged. A 6th millennium BC bangle emerged from Yarim Tepe in northern Iraq and a somewhat later conical lead piece from Halaf era Arpachiyah, near Mosul, are the earliest lead (Pb) findings in the ancient Near East. Due to the scarcity of native lead, such artefacts raise the hypothesis that leads smelting began before copper smelting.

Copper smelting also finds its mention at this site at the same time (shortly after 6000 BC), albeit the use of lead appears to come first. Early metalworking also attests at the neighbouring Tell Maghzaliyah site, which appears to be considerably older and doesn’t have any signs of pottery.

Middle East

Copper mining was evident in the Timna Valley between 7000 and 5000 BC. In archaeological stone tool assemblages from the Middle East, the transition from Neolithic to Chalcolithic is marked by a decrease in high-quality raw material procurement and use. This significant transformation exist all over the region, especially in Iran’s Tehran Plain. An examination of six archaeological sites revealed a clear declining trend in lithic artefact material quality and aesthetic variance. These findings are in use by by Fazeli et al. as proof of the loss of craft specialization induced by an increase usage of copper tools.

The results from the Tehran Plain show how copper working methods affected the in-place systems of lithic craft professionals and raw resources. By the Middle Chalcolithic (c. 4500–3500 BC), networks of interchange and  processing and manufacturing that developed throughout the Neolithic seem to collapse. There was replacement by utilizing local materials by a predominantly household fabrication of stone tools.

Chalcolithic Age in Europe

The oldest properly dated evidence of copper making comes from a Serbian archaeological site dating back around 7,500 years ago. The discovery in June 2010 adds around 800 years to the known history of copper smelting. It implyies that the invention of copper smelting in several locations in Asia and Europe at the time rather than spreading from a single source.

There was discovery of a copper axe in Prokuplje, Serbia, indicating there was use of that metal in Europe around 7,500 years ago (5500 BC). It was much earlier than what people earlier thought. The application of copper metal was more popular than the metal itself. Stone axes with model after copper axes were in use by the European Battle Axe culture, even with moulding etched into the stone. There was discovery of a Mondsee copper axe with tzi the Iceman. The disovery was in the tztal Alps in 1991 and the remains date back to around 3300 BC.

Notable Culture

Vila Nova de So Pedro and Los Millares are examples of Chalcolithic cultures on the Iberian Peninsula. There was discovery of beaker pottery at both sites, dating several centuries after copper-working started. Copper and bronze technology, as well as Indo-European languages, appear to have spread over Europe due to the Beaker culture. Copper has utilized in Britain during the 25th and 22nd centuries BC. However, some archaeologists do not recognize a British Chalcolithic due to the tiny scale of manufacture and use.

Chalcolithic Age in South Asia

Ceramic parallels between the Indus Valley Civilisation, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Iran during the Chalcolithic period (4300–3300 BC) show extensive mobility and trade, according to Parpola (2005). The word “Chalcolithic” also applies to the Stone Age in South Asia. For example, there was a discovery of copper bangles and arrowheads in Bhirrana, the earliest Indus civilization site.

Between 7000 and 3300 BC, the people of Mehrgarh in modern-day Pakistan fashioned implements out of local copper ore. A pottery factory in the province of Balochistan, Pakistan, uncovered 12 blades or blade fragments at the Nausharo site, dating back 4500 years. These blades have a length of 12–18 cm (5–7 in), a width of 1.2–2.0 cm (0.5–0.8 in), and are relatively thin. According to archaeological evidence, these blades formed using a copper indenter and served as a potter’s tool to trim and shape unfired pottery. In addition, a petrographic study confirms the presence of a few exotic black-slipped ceramic objects from the Indus Valley and local pottery manufacturing.

Chalcolithic Age in Pre-Columbian Americas

Copper smelting was initially invented independently by Andean civilizations in South America. The word “Chalcolithic” implements to describe American civilizations that had been using copper and copper alloys for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. The Old Copper Complex, headquartered in the Upper Great Lakes region, present-day Michigan and Wisconsin in the United States, mined and produced copper as tools, weaponry, and personal adornment, in addition to cultures in the Andes and Mesoamerica.

The evidence of smelting or alloying discovery in North America is controversial, and archaeologists commonly assume that items were cold-work into shape. However, some of the artefacts from these sites date to 4000–1000 BC, making them some of the world’s oldest Chalcolithic sites. Furthermore, some archaeologists believe the archaeological record contains artefacts and structural evidence of casting by Hopewellian and Mississippian peoples.

Chalcolithic Age in East Asia

Copper artefacts first emerged in East Asia in the 5th millennium BC, such as in the Jiangzhai and Hongshan cultures. However, they weren’t in use much. While copper artefacts may emerge early on, they do not indicate a regular practice of copper metallurgy in East Asia, which begins with the entry of Afanasievo tribes into western Mongolia towards the end of the fourth millennium, the beginning of the third millennium BC.

Chalcolithic Age in Sub-Saharan Africa

Between 3000 and 2500 BC, independent copper smelting originated in the Ar Mountains of Niger. There was not full development of the technique, showing that smelting was not a new concept. It reached maturity around 1500 BC.


During the Chalcolithic period, there was a significant change in lifestyle and toolmaking. The presence of painted pottery and burying the deceased in a certain direction are two notable elements of the Chalcolithic Period. During the same historical period, there was discovery of several bronze implements. The Chalcolithic Period was pivotal in the development of toolmaking and transportation.

Leave a Reply