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Archive for the ‘Archaeology’ Category

Jiroft

Even though Subhash Kak et al wrote a book asserting that India is the Cradle of Civilization, still Mesopotamia is though to be the one. Now some new discoveries in Iran may change all that.

Archaeological excavations in the lower layers of a cemetery in Jiroft have revealed that its history goes back to the fouth millennium B.C, much before Mesopotamia. Some inscriptions were also found which proves that the writing language of Jiroft was older than that of Mesopotamia.

As the author of a three-volume history of Mesopotamia and a leading Iranian authority on the third millennium BC, Madjidzadeh has long hypothesized that Jiroft is the legendary land of Aratta, a “lost” Bronze Age kingdom of renown. It’s a quest that he began as a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, when in 1976 he published an article proposing that Aratta, which reputedly exported its magnificent crafts to Mesopotamia, was located somewhere in southeastern Iran.

According to texts dating from around 2100 BC, Aratta was a gaily decorated capital with a citadel whose battlements were fashioned of green lapis lazuli and its lofty towers of bright red brick. Aratta’s artistic production was so highly regarded that about 2500 BC the Sumerian king Enmerkar sent a message to the ruler of Aratta requesting that artisans and architects be dispatched to his capital, Uruk, to build a temple to honor Inanna, the goddess of fertility and war.

Yet even if Jiroft turns out not to be Aratta, it is nevertheless a pivotal clue to a better understanding of the era when writing first flourished and traders carried spices and grain, gold, lapis lazuli and ideas from the Nile to the Indus. Although not on a par with the more influential civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley, “Jiroft is obviously a very important archeological complex,” says Holly Pittman, an art historian at the University of Pennsylvania who is one of a growing number of non-Iranian scholars who are being allowed into the country.[What was Jiroft]

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In Kalki’s epic novel, Ponniyin Selvan, which is about the the early life of 10th century Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I, there are many references to Buddhism. In the second book, we get to see him in Sri Lanka restoring the Buddhist Viharas and getting impressed by the size of the statues of Buddha. Later when he gets caught in a cyclone and falls sick, he lives in hiding in the Buddhist Monastery of Nagappatinam in Tamil Nadu.

Recently the Archaeological Survey of India had found a 10th century Tamil inscription that mentioned the donation of land to build a Shiva temple in Kolapakkam, 20 km from Chennai. Deciphering the inscriptions, they found two Buddha statues in dhyana pose and some ornamental pillars.

S. Rajavelu, epigraphist, ASI, had recently found that the third inscription belonged to “Sri Vijaya Maharaja,” a king from Sumatra, and that it was issued in his eighth regnal year. The inscription mentions his donating 250 kuzhi (a measurement) of land to Agatheeswarar at Kolapakkam, which was in Perur nadu (country), a sub-division of Puliyur. Sri Vijaya was a contemporary of Raja Raja Chola and the palaeography of the inscription showed the script was similar to that of the period of Raja Raja Chola. Sri Vijaya had a cordial relationship with the Chola kingdom. Although the inscription mentioned Sri Vijaya’s donation to the temple, it indirectly indicated Buddhist activity nearby, because Sri Vijaya was a Buddhist.

Dr. Satyamurthy and Dr. Rajavelu explored the area and found the ruins of a Buddhist temple close to the Agatheeswarar temple. The two Buddha sculptures and ornamental pillars, in granite, were unearthed. The Buddha sculptures are three feet tall. One sculpture has a dharma chakra on either side of the Buddha. This was sculpted in the ancient region that is now Tamil Nadu. The other sculpture has a three-tiered umbrella above the Buddha’s head and women bearing fly-whisks.

According to Dr. Satyamurthy, the face of this Buddha has Mongoloid features and this sculpture shows South-East Asian influence. One of the ornamental pillars unearthed has a bas-relief of a human face, with a head-gear that shows South-East Asian influence. An image of Ganesa is carved on this pillar.

Kolapakkam perhaps was a centre of Buddhist activity. According to Dr. Rajavelu, this area coming under Tondaimandalam was noted for Buddhist activity about 1,000 years ago, prior to the Chola period. [Buddha statues unearthed near Chennai]

Update: It seems the statues are not that of Buddha, but of Jain thirthankaras

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Few years back, Marine Archaeologist S R Rao found evidence of a city under the sea in Dwaraka and since some of the specifications matched the description of Dwaraka mentioned in Harivamsha, a prologue of Mahabharata, people thought that they had found Krishna’s Dwaraka.

There is a new article which tells the details of how scientists at the NIOT (National Institute of Ocean Technology, of the Department of Ocean Development) found the submerged city while working for British Gas in the Gulf of Cambay region.

Samples collected include artefacts, wood pieces, pottery materials, hearth pieces, animal bones. They ere sent to Manipur University, Oxford University, London, Institute of Earth Sciences, Hanover, Germany for analysis and dating. The results were astonishing. It was found beyond doubt that the samples belonged to a period varying from 7800 to 3000 years (BP) Before Present !

The even more flooring discovery happened soon. NIOT, which carried outside scan and sub-bottom surveys in the year 2002-03, established beyond doubt the presence of two large palaeochannels (river channels which existed once and later submerged under the sea) in the Gulf of Cambay. Alluvium samples were collected from different locations in the areas of the palaeochannels by the gravity core and grab method.

Prof.Gartia (The Journal of Indian Ocean Archaeology, No.2 of 2005, Pg.144) after conducting extensive investigations concluded that Gujarat region had experienced at least three large killer earthquakes about 1500, 3000 and 5000 years BP respectively. Geomorphological evidences also show beyond doubt that the North-Western part of the Indian landmass was seismically active during the last 10,000 years. These killer quakes are likely to have caused the shifting of the rivers and sea level fluctuation including the sinking of the legendary city of Dwaraka, capital of the Lord-King Krishna. [How marine archaeologists found Dwaraka]

Other people have suggested that Krishna’s Dwaraka was not in Jamnagar, but in Junagad and apparently there are nine sites in Gujarat which claim to be Krishna’s Dwaraka.

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Archaeologists excavating in Lahuradeva in Uttar Pradesh have found remains of carbonised material containing grains of cultivated rice along with wild grass dating back about 10,000 years. If this is true, then Middle Ganga Valley could be the home of the first farmers in the world.

Previously it was believed that agriculture began in West Asia in a region known as the Fertile Crescent with the domestication of barley and wheat. Later a new Fertile Crescent was discovered in China where rice cultivation began much before agriculture in West Asia. In the Indian subcontinent wheat and barley cultivation began in Kachi Plain in Baluchistan(Pakistan) in the seventh millennium B.C.

The findings at Lahuradeva were discussed at an International archaeology conference in Lucknow last month.

But none of these theories is fully confirmed or accepted by everyone in the field, and P.C. Panth, former professor of archaeology with Benares Hindu University, pointed to just this as he made a bold claim. “It is possible that middle Ganga valley was the home of the first farmer,” he told The Telegraph.

State archaeology director Rakesh Tiwari echoed him: “The studies at Lahuradewa and Sanai tal (a nearby lake) indicate this settlement could be (the site of) the earliest genesis of agriculture developments than ever found before elsewhere in the world.”

The international experts — who included Professor Peter Bellwood of the Australian National University and Dorian Q. Fuller of the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London — were non-committal. But they agreed that agriculture may have begun at more than one site about roughly the same time. [Enter UP kisan in farm origin debate]

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In the period between the Mauryas and Guptas lot of wealth and energy were spent on Buddhist architecture and one of their major symbol was the stupa. The main sites of Buddhist stupas are Bharhut and Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh.

The stupa in Amaravati, which is larger than the more famous one in Sanchi, was originally built during the time of Emperor Asoka. It was completed in 200 A.D and is decorated with carved panels which tell the story of Buddha’s life. This region between Krishna and Godavari was an important place for Buddhism from the 2nd century B.C and some ancient sculpture in low relief has been found here. During the Satavahana period (2nd – 3rd century A.D), Dharanikota near Amaravati was chosen as the capital. The stupa was then adorned with limestone reliefs and free standing Buddha figures. [13]

During the period of the decline of Buddhism, this stupa was also neglected and it was burried under rubble. There is a 14th century inscription in Sri Lanka which mentions repairs made to the stupa and after that it was forgotten.

If the early history of Amaravati and its stupa is dramatic and intriguing, its chance re-discovery by the archaeologists is more so. Around the year 1796, an enterprising zamindar shifted his residence from crowded Chintapalli to deserted Amaravati. He soon invited other people to settle in Amaravati. This led to the construction of roads and houses in the area. In the course of construction, the workers often found large bricks and carved limestone slabs below the ground. The news soon reached the ears of Colonel Colin Mackenzie, who visited the site twice (in 1787 and 1818) and prepared drawings and sketches of the relics in the area. Eventually, several European scholars like Sir Walter Smith, Robert Sewell, James Burgess and Alexander Rea excavated the site and unearthed many sculptures that once adorned the stupa. In recent decades, the Archaeological Survey of India has conducted further excavations in the area.

Art historians regard the Amaravati art as one of the three major styles or schools of ancient Indian art, the other two being the Gandhara style and the Mathura style. Some of the Buddhist sculptures of Amaravati betray a Greco-Roman influence that was the direct result of the close trade and diplomatic contacts between South India and the ancient Romans. Indeed, Amaravati has itself yielded a few Roman coins[History in stone]

The Amravati school of art had great influence on art in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia as products from here were carried to those countries. It also had influence over South Indian sculpture. The Government Museum at Egmore (Madras Museum), one of the oldest and largest museums in Asia hosts the “Amaravati Gallery”.

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Historians who do not believe the Aryan Invasion Theory say that folks who believe in it are biased towards Europeans. Folks who believe in Aryan Invasion Theory think that others are biased towards Indians. But in this biased word of history, have you heard of people who are biased against millets? Who can be so stone-hearted to be biased against those small-seeded species of cereal grown around the world for food and fodder?

Such evil people do exist and the people who do this are rice and wheat lovers. In fact, if you look at the history of millet farming you may be able to identify the period and place of the first farmer according to Steve Weber of Washington State University.

‘These are the facts. In Southern India, millets were being cultivated as old as 3000 BC to 2500 BC, while rice came into existence only by 500 BC. and in North India, millet cultivation was even there before it made an entry in South India” said Fuller. Weber added, “There have been sites in Gujarat, India, and even a few Harappan sites, which have been primarily millet-dominant.”

Weber says that since millets were more nutritious and were even drought- resistant, perhaps more and more people started cultivating them before anything else. “In India, China and South Africa, millets were the staple diet. And surprisingly, the so very Indian millets like ragi, jowar and bajra actually come from South Africa.”

“The British started researching with rice and wheat and even today, organisations like the UN and FAO concentrate on that. This may have been because rice and wheat are bigger grains and easier to identify, whereas millets were smaller and more time-consuming to find,” they opined. [Millets older than wheat, rice: Archaeologists]

A recent discovery of a grain of rice in India may prove Weber to be wrong. Excavations in Lahuradeva in Uttar Pradesh have shown that people of this region took to farming and domestication of animals about 10,000 years back.

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Usually archaeologists find artifcats like terracota idols, amphorae or the first labelled portaiture of Emperor Asoka. They also find old temples, forts, boats, and sometimes even skeletons. But it is only once in a blue moon that they find an entire state and this is what happened in China.

The existence of this 3000 year old state, Peng, was never recorded in any historical documents, but only in some inscriptions in bronzeware excavated from two Western Zhou Dynasty tombs

Li Boqian, director of the archaeological research center of the prestigious Beijing University, said at an archaeological forum recently in Beijing that the discovery of the Western Zhou graves in Hengshui is the most important archaeological discovery since the excavation of the graves of the Marquis of Jin, another state of the Western Zhou Dynasty, in Quwo County of Shanxi Province.

The newly found ancient state will help archaeologists and historians better understand the history of the Western Zhou Dynasty and its jurisdiction, Li said.

More than 80 tombs have been excavated at the site in Hengshui, with the tombs of Pengbo and his wife the largest ones. The couple were buried side by side with lots of funeral objects such as bronze ware, carriages and jade, said Song Jianzhong, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology of Shanxi Province.

One of the most important findings in the graves is the remains of a pall covering the coffins. The remains of the pall, already blended with earth after several thousand years, are still a vivid red color. Phoenix patterns can be seen on the pall, said Song.[3,000-year-old ancient state found in Shanxi]

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