Archive for the ‘Science & Technology’ Category

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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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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The Thaikkal-Kadakkarappally Boat, Kerala

Last year we had some posts about an ancient boat discovered in in Kadakkarappally, Kerala. This boat was considered to be somewhere between 600 to a 1000 years old and the 72 foot boat, according to initial reports was built using anjili, a wood found in Kerala. The boat according to report was built by foreign seafarers

According to a new research paper we have more details on this boat, which was apparently used to transport people or commodities between coastal ports and interior backwaters. Traditionally boats built in Kerala never used iron and it was assumed that such practice started with the arrival of Europeans in Kerala, starting with Vasco da Gama in 1498.

This boat which has been dated between 13 and 15th centuries, provides proof that shipmakers in Kerala were using iron fastners before the arrival of Europeans. The authors suggest that since Kerala was a main port in the Indian Ocean trade network, it is possible that local shipmakers would have encountered ships using iron fastners and got “inspired”.

What about the theory that it was built by foreigners?

The Thaikkal-Kadakkarappally boat, therefore, has features in common with several different traditions of boatbuilding. The form of the boat appears to mirror one strand of Chinese boatbuilding and the lashed lugs are a feature commonly found in South-East Asian shipbuilding. The use of lap joints between adjacent planks is typically Indian while nails clenched over a rove are normally only identified with north European building traditions. The boat itself, however, was clearly built locally. All three species of wood identified in the remains are indigenous to Kerala. Anjily, in particular, is used for almost all of the plank-built craft in Kerala today as it is strong, resilient, fairly cheap and widely available. It is possible that the boat was constructed by foreign shipbuilders settled in Kerala, but there is no reason to conclude that the Thaikkal-Kadakkarappally boat is not an Indian vessel, built in India by Indian shipbuilders.[The Thaikkal-Kadakkarappally Boat]

It was expected that the climate of Kerala would not allow for the preservation of of archaeological material, especially in waterlogged areas. But this boat somehow survived.

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In most history books, if you look for the word vaastu, you won’t find it in the context of the Harappan Civilization or any kingdom another two thousand years later. Even Georg Feuerstein[2] who has written very positively about that era does not mention this. But Y.S.Rawat, the director of Archeological Survey of India thinks that Vaastu Shastra evolved in Dholivara, an Indus Valley site in Gujarat. Dholavira is a port city located on the path of the mythical Sarawati river and last year an old sign board was found.

The location of Dholavira between two rivers, the shape of the site, directional alignment, geometrical shape and construction of the houses, the planning of the gates, the direction of the walls-all indicate perfect use and understanding of Vaastu Shastra.

“Looking at the Dholavira site, I have a strong feeling that Vaastu Shastra evolved in a big way in this Harappan site,” Rawat said.

The science dates back to the Vedic ages. It is composed of specific rules, regulations and directions set down by the sages of those times for the construction of the houses. Rawat said, the excellent water harvesting system, rock cut reserviors, the location of the grave yard, use of open spaces and other things point to the understanding of Vaastu Shastra by the Harappan civilisation inhabitants.

The water harvesting system also shows the hydraulic engineering skills of the Harappans, who converted the city walls into veritable reservoirs to preserve every drop of water, he said.

“An interesting point to note here, is the existence of a citadel, middle town and lower town. The citadel is the most secure place among them, which is furnished with beautiful entrance on all four directions”, Rawat said, adding that all these are in accordance with the Vaastu Shastra.

The city is divided into 49 squares having perfect geometry and alignment. The houses were constructed using circular structures to withstand storm and sandblasts, he added.[Did Vaastu Shastra further evolve in Harrapan Kutch?]

According to some scholars the Vaastu Shastra texts were written between the 7th century A.D and 13th century A.D. One city cited as an example following vaastu principles is Old Jaipur, built in 1727 A.D.

So what happened during the time between Dholavira and Old Jaipur? Was Vaastu used extensively by kings for building their palaces or cities?

Pictures: Dholavira site, CG Reconstructions

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There are many powerpoint presentations floating on the web touting the greatness of ancient India. The bullet points include items like the invention of zero, surgery, ayurveda, grammar etc. One item missing in the list is Wootz, a steel alloy making technique discovered in India (between 200 B.C. and 300 A.D.) But amateur historians cannot be blamed for leaving it out, since even professional historians do not seem to have given it much value.

The fascinating story about Wootz steel is that, it was exported from India to a global market and was popularly known as Damascus steel. There is a new book on this topic titled India’s Legendary Wootz Steel and Nanditha Krishna has a review.

Wootz is a form of crucible steel, formed by adding large quantities of carbon to iron. This results in alternating layered light and dark etched patterns, created by welding layers of lower and higher carbon steel. The design came to be known as damask, referring to the watered pattern, and thereby Damascus. Today the word ‘‘Damascus’’ is applied to patterns in integrated circuits with copper interconnects. Wootz was the western name for high carbon steel from India, derived from the Kannada ukku and Sangam Tamil ekku, meaning crucible steel.

The Iron Pillar of Delhi (AD 400) and the lesser-known iron pillar at Kochadri in Karnataka and the iron beams of the Konark temple – the latter two situated in humid coastal areas – stand testimony to ancient Indian knowledge of corrosion resistance.

By 1100 BC, iron was in use in South Indian megalithic cultures, from Adichanallur in the South to Vidarbha in the North. Kodumanal in Tamil Nadu was a hub of ferrous crucible processing by 300 BC. The southern peninsula became the centre of this vibrant and growing steel industry, which attracted traders from Rome and the Middle East. By AD 300, the Alexandrian alchemist Zosimos of Panapolis had published an unequivocal reference to Indian crucible steel. The pattern-welded crucible steel manufactured in India was used by the European Merovingians, Carolingians and even the Vikings between AD 500 and 800. [Made in India via IndiaArchaeology]

A sword which is popular in Kerala is called the urumi and it is used in Kalaripayattu. This sword is made of a special composition of steel that it could be limp as well as straight based on the need.

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Manish at Sepia Mutiny has an interesting entry on Fibonacci numbers which in fact should be called Hemecandra numbers.

The Fibonacci series is the set of numbers beginning with 1, 1 where every number is the sum of the previous two numbers. The series begins with 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on. They were known in India before Fibonacci as the Hemachandra numbers. And the ratio of any two successive Fibonacci numbers approximates a ratio, ~1.618, called the golden section or golden mean.

It’s long been known that the Fibonacci series turns up freqently in nature. The numbers of petals on a daisy and the dimensions of a section of a spiral nautilus shell are usually Fibonacci numbers. For plants, this is because the fractional part of the golden mean, a constant called phi (0.618), is the rotation fraction (222.5 degrees) which yields the most efficient and scalable packing of circular objects such as seeds, petals and leaves.

But Bhargava points out that the series also shows up in the arts. Sanksrit poetry, tabla compositions and tango, to name a few examples, use the series to find the number of possible combinations of single and double-length beats within a stanza.[Sepia Mutiny: Hemachandra numbers everywhere]

Fibonacci himself wrote that he had studied Indian numbers and did not come up with the number series. Donald Knuth also wrote about this

Before Fibonacci wrote his work, the sequence Fn had already been discussed by Indian scholars, who had long been interested in rhythmic patterns that are formed from one-beat and two-beat notes. The number of such rhythms having n beats altogether is Fn+1; therefore both Gospala (before 1135) and Hemachandra (c. 1150) mentioned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, … explicitly.[Who was Fibonacci?]

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Hole in the head

Trepanning is a surgical procedure by which the disc bone of the skull is removed. Now archeologists in Greece have found evidence of this procedure done between 150 – 100 BC.

bq. Excavators were intrigued to find a round hole 1.62 centimeters in diameter to the rear of the skull, in the left parietal bone. Anthropologist Asterios Aidonis, who works with antiquities officials, identified the small opening as the result of a trepanning. As the edges of the bone showed signs of growth and healing, it is believed that the patient survived for five or six years after the operation.

And according to the article this was a procedure practiced for atleast 10,000 years.

[Source: “KathiMerini”:http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_politics_100014_04/09/2003_33683%5D

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