In Situ Microliths in a Dated Late Pleistocene Context And Associated Rock Art At Chikli, Madhya Pradesh, India

Nupur Tiwari1, P. Morthekai2, Rajesh A. Poojari1, K. Krishnan3, Parth R. Chauhan1

1IISER Mohali, India

2Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, India

3Department of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, University of Baroda, India

The microlithic record of South Asia has been a matter of global interest among scholars working on the Mesolithic period and with microlithic technologies. Currently, microliths date back to ~50 ka in South Asia, dated from Indian and Sri Lankan sites. Recent explorations (2015-2019) by the first author for her doctoral research yielded numerous microlithic sites (some with >800 artefacts) in the Hoshangabad and Sehore districts, Madhya Pradesh. The primary aim of the project was to understand microlithic technologies and associated landscape adaptations by prehistoric human populations. One of the richest microlithic assemblages was from Chikli, a site situated within a natural amphitheatre in the Vindhyan foothills. The area yielded ~600 microliths associated with pale brown sediments with calcrete nodules. The lithic assemblage includes non-geometric blades, bladelets, flakes, and scrapers fashioned on quartz, agate, chalcedony and chert. There are at least 12 rock shelters nearby with paintings belonging to at least two different periods, based on style and superimposition. A sediment sample from the exposed artefact horizon in a ~1 meter section was collected for luminescence dating. Both fine-grained and coarse-grained methods were applied. Finegrain fraction (4-11 m) was extracted (using Stoke’s settling), and the palaeodose was estimated using infra-red stimulated luminescence (IRSL) from the polymineral grains in the Risoe TL/OSL reader. Preliminary results suggest an age of ~50 ka for the microliths – among the oldest in South Asia - thus suggesting a need for reconsidering existing hypotheses for their initial appearance of microlithic technologies in the region. We present here the comprehensive results from Chikli, which provides interesting new data on the otherwise elusive presence of microlithic stone tool using hunter-gatherers in this region during the Late Pleistocene.