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In the prehistory of the Indian subcontinent, the Iron Age succeeded Bronze Age India and partly corresponds with the megalithic cultures of India. Other Iron Age archaeological cultures of India were the Painted Grey Ware culture (1300–300 BCE) and the Northern Black Polished Ware (700–200 BCE). This corresponds to the transition of the Janapadas or principalities of the Vedic period to the sixteen Mahajanapadas or region-states of the early historic period, culminating in the emergence of the Maurya Empire towards the end of the period.
The earliest evidence of iron smelting predates the emergence of the Iron Age proper by several centuries.
R. Tewari (2003) radiocarbon dated iron artefacts in Uttar Pradesh, including furnaces, tuyeres, and slag between c. 1800 and 1000 BCE. The use of iron and iron working was prevalent in the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas from the early second millennium BCE. 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. Scholar Rakesh Tewari states that new finds and their dates suggest the need for a fresh review. According to him, 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.
The earliest Iron Age sites in South India are Hallur, Karnataka and Adichanallur, Tamil Nadu at around 1000 BCE. Mahurjhari near Nagpur was a large bead manufacturing site.