from Stephen Knapp Website



5000 Year Old Harappan Township Found in Haryana

Clinching evidence of a township of the 5,000-year-old Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan Era) has been found during excavations near Bhirdana village in Fatehabad district of Haryana .


The excavations are being carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The excavations began on December 14 and are likely to continue till May. These may resume after the monsoon, if required. The ASI had earlier discovered the presence of same townships of the Indus Valley Civilization at two other places, Kunal and Banawali, in the district. The evidences found at Bhirdana include many structures made of mud bricks, peculiar of the Harappan era; a well, a fortification wall, pottery and other antiquities.

Mr L.S. Rao, Superintending Archaeologist of the ASI, who is leading the team of excavators here, informed that the team, comprising a Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, three Assistant Archaeologists and other officials like photographers, draftsmen, artists, and surveyors, was working on the excavation site spread across 62,500 square meters and situated on a mound.

Fifteen students of Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi, have also been assisting the team.


The excavations, being carried out under the ’Saraswati Heritage Project’ of the Union Government, were part of a series of such excavations being made to unearth the old civilizations on the bank of the ancient Saraswati river. The Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Haryana, had protected the area of the present excavations, Mr Rao said.

He said the area where the excavations were being carried out was the bank of the Saraswati. The whole riverbed had been converted in to agricultural lands with the passage of time, he added. He said the ASI based its findings on the antiquities collected during the excavations on the surface of the mound. Pottery, among the antiquities, is the main criteria for ascertaining the civilization.

The team has collected truckloads of pottery during the excavations. Besides, these some semi-precious stones have also been found. Structures made of Sun-dried bricks, a peculiar feature of the Indus Valley Civilization, have been found.

The excavators have also discovered a 2.4-metre-wide wall considered to be the fortification wall of the township on the excavation site. Ms Ankum, from Nagaland, a student of the Institute of Archaeology, who was manning the fortification area, said a clinching evidence of the township was that the earth outside the wall comprised of virgin soil while the one inside the fortification wall had all the evidence of structures.

Mr Prabhash Sahu, Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, told that it was a horizontal excavation and the whole mound had been divided into four parts for convenience.


Mr Rao said the residents of the area were cooperative and were showing keen interest in the excavations.




Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Maritime Spice Route Between India, Egypt

Published in Popular Science, April 1, 2004

Archaeologists from UCLA and the University of Delaware have unearthed the most extensive remains to date from sea trade between India and Egypt during the Roman Empire, adding to mounting evidence that spices and other exotic cargo traveled into Europe over sea as well as land.

"These findings go a long way toward improving our understanding of the way in which a whole range of exotic cargo moved into Europe during antiquity," said Willeke Wendrich, an assistant professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and co-director of the project.


"When cost and political conflict prevented overland transport, ancient mariners took to the Red Sea, and the route between India and Egypt appears to have been even more productive than we ever thought."

"The Silk Road gets a lot of attention as a trade route, but we’ve found a wealth of evidence indicating that sea trade between Egypt and India was also important for transporting exotic cargo, and it may have even served as a link with the Far East," added fellow co-director Steven E. Sidebotham, a history professor at the University of Delaware.

Wendrich and Sidebotham report their findings in the July issue of the scholarly journal Sahara.


For the past eight years, the researchers have led an international team of archaeologists who have excavated Berenike, a long-abandoned Egyptian port on the Red Sea near the border with Sudan.

Among the buried ruins of buildings that date back to Roman rule, the team discovered vast quantities of teak, a wood indigenous to India and today’s Myanmar, but not capable of growing in Egypt, Africa or Europe.


Researchers believe the teak, which dates to the first century, came to the desert port as hulls of shipping vessels. When the ships became worn out or damaged beyond repair, Berenike residents recycled the wood for building materials, the researchers said.


The team also found materials consistent with ship-patching activities, including copper nails and metal sheeting.

"You’d expect to find woods native to Egypt like mangrove and acacia," Sidebotham said. "But the largest amount of wood we found at Berenike was teak."

In addition to this evidence of seafaring activities between India and Egypt, the archaeologists uncovered the largest array of ancient Indian goods ever found along the Red Sea, including the largest single cache of black pepper from antiquity - 16 pounds - ever excavated in the former Roman Empire.


The team dates these peppercorns, which were grown only in South India during antiquity, to the first century. Peppercorns of the same vintage have been excavated as far away as Germany.

"Spices used in Europe during antiquity may have passed through this port," Wendrich said.

In some cases, Egypt’s dry climate even preserved organic material from India that has never been found in the more humid subcontinent, including sailcloth dated to between A.D. 30 and 70, as well as basketry and matting from the first and second centuries.

In a dump that dates back to Roman times, the team also found Indian coconuts and batik cloth from the first century, as well as an array of exotic gems, including sapphires and glass beads that appear to come from Sri Lanka, and carnelian beads that appear to come from India.

Three beads found on the surface of excavation sites in Berenike suggested even more exotic origins. One may have come from eastern Java, while the other two appear to have come either from Vietnam or Thailand, but the team has been unable to date any of them.

While the researchers say it is unlikely that Berenike traded directly with eastern Java, Vietnam or Thailand, they say their discoveries raise the possibility that cargo was finding its way to the Egyptian port from the Far East, probably via India.

The team also found the remains of cereal and animals indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, pointing to the possibility of a three-point trade route that took goods from southern Africa to India and then back across the Indian Ocean to Egypt.

"We talk today about globalism as if it were the latest thing, but trade was going on in antiquity at a scale and scope that is truly impressive," said Wendrich, who made most of her contributions as a post-doctoral fellow at Leiden University in the Netherlands.


"These people were taking incredible risks with their lives and fortune to make money."

Along with the rest of Egypt, Berenike was controlled by the Roman Empire during the first and second centuries.


During the same period, the overland route to Europe from India through Pakistan, Iran and Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) was controlled by adversaries of the Roman Empire, making overland roads difficult for Roman merchants.


Meanwhile, Roman texts that address the relative costs of different shipping methods describe overland transport as at least 20 times more expensive than sea trade.

"Overland transport was incredibly expensive, so whenever possible people in antiquity preferred shipping, which was vastly cheaper," Sidebotham said.

With such obstacles to overland transport, the town at the southernmost tip of the Roman Empire flourished as a "transfer port," accepting cargo from India that was later moved overland and up the Nile to Alexandria, the researchers contend.


Poised on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria has a well-documented history of trade with Europe going back to antiquity.

Over the course of the grueling project, the researchers retraced a route that they believe would have moved cargo from Berenike into Europe. Wendrich and Sidebotham contend cargo was shipped across the Indian Ocean and north through the Red Sea to Berenike, which is located about 160 miles east of today’s Aswan Dam.


They believe the goods were then carried by camels or donkeys some 240 miles northeast to the Nile River, where smaller boats waited to transport the cargo north to Alexandria. Cargo is known to have moved during antiquity from Alexandria across the Mediterranean to a dozen major Roman ports and hundreds of minor ones.

The team believes that Berenike was the biggest and most active of six ports in the Red Sea until some point after A.D. 500, when shipping activities mysteriously stopped.

Shipping activities at Berenike were mentioned in ancient texts that were rediscovered in the Middle Ages, but the port’s precise location eluded explorers until the early 19th century. The former port’s proximity to an Egyptian military base kept archaeologists at bay until 1994, when Wendrich and Sidebotham made the first successful appeal for a large-scale excavation.


At the time, Egyptian officials, eager to develop the Red Sea as a tourist destination, had started to relax prohibitions against foreign access to the region.


But the area’s isolation remains a challenge for the team, which has to truck in food and water, and to power computers and microscopes with solar panels.

"The logistics are really tough there," said Wendrich, who is affiliated with the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA.

The Berenike project received major funding from the Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research.


The National Geographic Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Utopa Foundation, Gratama Foundation and the Kress Foundation also provided support, as did private donors.




Geology Discovers India Has the Earliest Art
by R.K. Ganjoo

Material evidences confirming the existence of early man in India were first reported by Robert Bruce Foote in 1863, when he discovered Paleolithic tools from Pallavaram (near Madras).

Thousands of Paleolithic sites yielding millions of stone artifacts have been recovered since then. The large number of artifacts and Paleolithic sites has helped in critically evaluating the behavior and interaction of Early Man with the prevailing environment. Various disciplines of science, particularly geology, have played a vital role, for the past three decades, in deciphering the climate, chronology and environment of the Paleolithic sites. The scientific logics thus, provide a sound bedrock to the archaeological arguments.

Among several environmental situations, the Early Man lived in natural caves and rock shelters for several thousands of years. Natural processes formed the caves and rock shelters in the Vindhyan mountains of Madhya Pradesh. During this period, the artifacts made and techniques employed have undergone a considerable though gradual and continuous change.

The discarded or utilized artifacts lay buried under the sediments in the caves/rock shelters and were preserved for a very long time, as the deposits in cave or rock shelters were left undisturbed by flowing water or wind.


Thus, the material remains of Early Man from rock shelters and caves hold more significance as one can build up a continuous history of Early Man’s culture in an undisturbed context.

It was these rock shelters and caves which helped to preserve paintings (rock art) made by the Early Man.

These paintings reflect the earliest artistic expressions of man and provide sufficient knowledge on his way of life. Rock paintings exposed at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) are a museum of rock art in India and are recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

One of the earliest forms of rock art is the petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are figures that are made by removing the upper layers of the rock. A preliminary study of petroglyphs in India was carried out in parts of Rajasthan (Kanyadeh) and Madhya Pradesh (Raisen). However, petroglyphs study from these sites lacked dating and scientific study.

In the Rock Art Seminar held in 1990 at Agra, the Rock Art Society of India identified the study of petroglyphs as one of the fields on priority basis. Keeping in view the lack of information on Indian petroglyphs, the Early Indian Petroglyphs (EIP) Project commenced in 2001 with the objective to rewrite the Pleistocene history of Early Man in the subcontinent.


The EIP project is a joint venture of the Rock Society of India, Agra (RASI) and the Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA) with support from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR).


In addition, geo-archaeologists and chronologists from various institutes in India and Australia are also involved in the project.

To begin with, the EIP commission took up Daraki-Chattan region as a case for the study of early petroglyphs in India. Daraki-Chattanâ “a rock shelter within the Vindhyan mountains overviewing River Rewaâ” is situated near Bhanpura in district Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. Daraki-Chattan reveals the hoary past of the extensive rock art in this cave beyond doubt.


Excavation at Daraki-Chattan was carried out by Dr Giriraj Kumar (Dayalbagh Educational Institute, Agra) with technical support from the Archaeological Survey of India (Bhopal Circle).


The objective of excavation at Daraki-Chattan was to establish cultural stratigraphy at the site, collect evidences related to the production of cupules, obtain scientific dates (such as OSL, AMS C14) for different levels concerning art objects and human artifacts, and establish geo-archaeological history of the region.

The excavation at Daraki-Chattan revealed immense information on the cultural occupation of the site. The collection of stone artifact assemblage from the excavation undoubtedly reveals that the shelter was occupied by the Acheulian man.


Interestingly enough, Bhanpura town, close to the Daraki-Chattan site, and its adjoining area have been continuously under occupation by man of different cultural periods since the Acheulian times. Daraki-Chattan is a local name of a hill near village Bhanpura in the Vindhyans that has a series of rock shelters. In geological past, the Vindhyans were formed as a single rock block but were subsequently subjected to erosion by wind and water which ultimately weathered them.


The joints between the rocks widened over a period of time and then blocks or rocks became unstable and collapsed to give rise to rock shelters. These shelters not only provided suitable landform for the Early Man to protect himself from the vagaries of weather but also the shelters on hills which served as an overview to the dense forest below.

The study of the surroundings of Daraki-Chattan was carried out to investigate the climatic history of the area during the times when the Acheulian man occupied the site. Shri S.B. Ota (Superintending Archaeologist, Archeological Survey of India, Bhopal Circle), and I, myself, undertook the study of geological sediments that were deposited when the Acheulian man was exploring the valley adjoining the shelter.


It was clear from the size (width and depth) and the large collection of artifacts from the excavation that the shelter was used by the Early Man as a temporary settlement for making tools and fulfilling other necessary activities. Dense forest existing around the shelter and along the valley of River Rewa must have supported a rich wealth of fauna and flora.


Excavations in the sediments deposited by River Rewa revealed a succession of prehistoric cultural material remains beginning from the Early Paleolithic to Upper Paleolithic era, supporting the view that the valley and the surroundings were under regular occupation by the Early Man.


Pressure of stone artifacts in the shelters in the river valley also corroborate the fact that the activity of Early Man was not confined to the particular shelter only. Rich faunal and floral wealth must have encouraged the Early Man to venture into the river valleys and forests. Thus the sediments brought down by the rivers must have covered and sealed the discarded or used stone artifacts of Early Man.


A lot of information has been gathered on climate that existed during the period when the sediments were formed and deposited.

The in-depth study of the sediments deposited by River Rewa unraveled the palaeoclimatic history of the region. The associated assemblage of stone artifacts suggests the relative age range of 1.8 million years before present to 400,000 years before present for the sediments. The generation of large slope deposits or fans substantiates the fact that the area must have faced sub-humid to semi-arid climatic conditions.


(The author is Reader in Geology, Department of Geology, University of Jammu, Jammu & Kashmir. The author has been actively engaged in research on quaternary palaeo-climate and geo-archaeology for past one-and-a-half decade.)




Aryan burial found in Russian city of Omsk

Burial of an Aryan was found in the Russian city of Omsk, reported archaeologist Albert Pelevedov to "Interfax". Analyses indicated that the Aryan had lived 3500 years ago.

One of the residents of the Beregovoy village (located on the outskirts of Omsk) discovered the burial. While fixing a water-pipe, the man stumbled upon a skull and immediately called the police. However, policemen denied criminal nature of the case and invited archaeologists to conduct some tests.

According to Polevodov, the burial belongs to the Andron culture (middle of the second millennium BC).
The archaeologist tells that the Aryan has been buried on his left side, facing south; his upper and lower limbs all drawn in. Archaeologists were able to determine the time of the burial after examining ceramic pieces found next to the skeleton. Some of the ceramic pieces depicted swastika turned the opposite direction.

Polevedov states,

"Andron people, European-like tribes, who spoke languages of Indo-Iranian language group, were in fact the exact same Aryans that used to be praised by fascists."

The find is of tremendous significance due to the fact that settlements of Andron tribes are quite rare for that particular region. Back in the days, they were forced out of there, stated the archaeologist. According to specialists, the burial was not solitary in the area. It is also possible that a larger settlement of Andron people can be found by the river Irtysh.

Read the original in Russian: (Translated by: Anna Ossipova)




Ancient Krsna Balaram Coins 200 BC

Krsna, Agathocles coin, Ai Khanoum, Afghanistan, 2nd century B.C. (image right).

A lot of numismatic evidence also corroborates the antiquity of Krishna. For instance, excavations at Ai-Khanum, along the border of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, conducted by P. Bernard and a French archeological expedition, unearthed six rectangular bronze coins issued by the Indo-Greek ruler Agathocles (180?-?165 BC).


The coins had script written in both Greek and Brahmi and, most interestingly, show an image of Vishnu, or Vasudeva, carrying a Chakra and a pear-shaped vase, or conchshell, which are two of the four main sacred symbols of God in Vaisnavism. Many other finds of ancient coins also prove the antiquity of Krishna worship in India.

Balarama, Agathocles coin, Ai Khanoum, Afghanistan, 2nd century B.C. (image left)

To summarize, today the weight of empirical evidence proves that Krishna and Vaisnavisam predate Christianity. Numerous literary, archeological, and numismatic sources build an unassailable case. Nevertheless, Vaisnavism and Christianity still show amazing similarities.


In the chauvinistic and sectarian atmosphere of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these similarities led most Western scholars to adopt the now discredited "borrowing theory."


But these attitudes did more that distort the truth. In the twentieth century they directly led to two world wars of unprecedented ferocity and destruction.


Therefore, sensitive and caring people perceive these attitudes as being obsolete, and, instead of clinging to them, more intelligent people now seek the path of unity.


Even in religion, one of the key contemporary attitudes is the ecumenical spirit, the desire to emphasize more our similarities with other peoples, nations, and religions rather than our differences.




Pre-Harappan Evidence Found in Gulf of Cambay
VADODARA, INDIA, July 19, 2004


In an underwater exploration in the Gulf of Cambay, National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) scientists discovered almost 9,500-year-old bricks made of clay and straw.


Archaeological experts of the MS University who, too, are involved in a part of the exploration near Surat and the coast of Gulf of Cambay, however, feel that a further insight into the size of the bricks can confirm its age and its period.


The bricks, believed to be pre-Harappan, have been identified to be of the Holocene age. In the NIOT surveys in the 17 sq km area, stone artifacts like blade scraper, perforated stones and beads were found.


The bricks, according to NIOT scientists, were used for construction. It indicates that the people of that age led an advanced form of life. The artifacts found on the seabed, 20 to 40 ft below the present sea level, consisted of housing material.

"It is important to confirm the brick size as people of the pre-Harappan age made bricks in the ratio of 1:2:3. A confirmation on the brick size can add more credence to the discovery," says head of the archeology and ancient history department V. H. Sonawane.