Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tiller past gets a new date - Excavations across state shed new light on farming

The Telegraph (Kolkata), May 31, 2016
Bhubaneswar, May 30: Archaeologists have unearthed artefacts from excavation sites across the state throwing light on the earliest possible farming culture in Odisha pushing the date back by 3,500 years.
The findings from the excavations at Radhangar in Jajpur, Suabarei near Pipili, Banga in Puri, Deltihuda in Cuttack and Budhigarh in Kalahandi over the past two years have led to the discovery of objects highlighting agricultural practices during the Chalcolithic age.
The Odisha Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies, Archaeological Survey of India, Pune's Deccan College, and a few state universities are taking part in the excavation.
Prior to the latest findings, prevalence of agricultural practices in the state was thought to have existed in the 3rd century BC when the ancient city of Sisupalgarh flourished.
The recent excavations at five places in Jajpur, Pipili, Puri, Cuttack and Kalahandi have led to the discovery of ceramic assemblage of black and red ware, ochre coloured painted wares, tools such as celts and beads, pottery samples, stone axe, polishers, bone points, bone needle, copper objects, and bone arrow heads.
"These findings throw light on the early start of agriculture in settlements in Odisha, the exploitation of natural resources, the housing pattern of the people and their livelihood options," said Sunil Patnaik, secretary of the Odisha Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies.
"A number of perforated pottery such as storage jars and crucibles are indicative of the Chalcolithic age. Pottery designs with back, red and ochre finish were found at the sites," said Patnaik.
Cord impressions and wavy and horizontal lines found on the earthenware are also evidence of the age.
"A large number of animal bones found show that they kept them both for domestication and hunting purposes. Dog seems to have been the favourite pet animal as is evident from a burial with animal bones and arranged miniature pots," Patnaik said.
The availability of copper fishing hook, fish bones and tortoise shells also indicate their fishing network, experts said.
"Their fishing network was not confined to rivers and ponds but also the sea. This is evident from the recovery of shark fish teeth of which one has a perforation for reuse as pendant," said expert from the ASI Jeevan Patnaik, who carried out excavation at the Suabarei site.
The early historical site of Budhigarh highlights urban growth, the beginning of city life and the trans-oceanic contact during ancient times.
"The antiquities found at these sites include beads of terracotta and semi-precious stones such banded agate, carnelian and crystal quartz. From the antiquities it is clear that they flourished as inland urban centres. The findings establish the link of the transition between rural economy and urbanisation or fortified settlement," Patnaik added.
Also, the excavated site of Radhanagar has brought to the fore square-shaped fortification. "This kind of arrangement is known as the ideal type as mentioned in the Arthashastra. This is the first time that this kind of fortification has been discovered. We are now working on discovering whether they originated from Odisha or from the Magadha kingdom," Patnaik said.
Experts also revealed that the findings at Suabarei provided a tentative picture of stratigraphy (study of rock layers) of Odisha from the prehistoric period to the early historic period in continuity.
"Earlier excavations painted a hazy picture where the Neolithic and Charcolithic culture were intrusive in nature thereby creating confusion. But, excavations here show a gap of around 500 years between the two phases thus eliminating the uncertainties," said Professor R.K. Mohanty, who teaches at Deccan College in Pune.
Other important findings include three human skeletons from the Banga site and skeletal remains of an adult and the pot burials of a child from Deltihuda.
"Excavation of human skeleton from near the houses proves that there could be a practice of burying the dead near the habitation," said K.K. Basa, professor of anthropology, Utkal University.
Researchers shared the findings during a two-day seminar conducted by the state culture department that began here today.
"The findings of the excavations will be published in a book for the public. The excavated sites will be turned into tourist spots as well," said culture minister Ashok Panda.

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