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 BCE) and the Northern Black Polished Ware (700 to 200 BCE).

North India[edit]

The North Indian Iron Age is usually taken to last roughly from 1200 to 300 BCE.

Nevertheless, recent (2003) excavations in Uttar Pradesh have turned up iron artefacts, furnaces, tuyeres and slag in layers radiocarbon dated between c. BCE 1800 and 1000.[1]

Most of the Vedic period (excepting the earliest phase of the core of the Rigveda) falls within the early part of the Indian Iron Age (12th to 6th centuries BCE). The development of early Buddhism takes place in the Magadha period (5th to 4th centuries BCE).

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

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.

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[edit]

The earliest Iron Age sites in South India are Hallur, Karnataka and Adichanallur, Tamil Nadu[2] at around 1000 BCE. 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.[3][4][5] 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”.[6]

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

See also[edit]


  • 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