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Explained: What new finds at Harappan site could mean

The latest round of excavations at the 5,000-year-old Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Haryana's Hisar has revealed the structure of some houses, lanes and a drainage system. A look at these finds and what they mean for our knowledge of the site.

This is the first time excavations have been done on Mound No. 3, which has revealed what appears to be “an aristocratic settlement”

The latest round of excavations at the 5,000-year-old Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Haryana’s Hisar has revealed the structure of some houses, lanes and a drainage system, and what could possibly be a jewellery-making unit, say Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials leading the project.

A look at these finds and what they mean for our knowledge of the site:

SKELETAL REMAINS: The skeletons of two women were found at Mound No. 7, believed to be nearly 5,000 years old. Pots and other artefacts were found buried next to the remains, part of funerary rituals back, ASI officials said. DNA samples have been sent for tests, whose outcome might provide clues about the ancestry and food habits of people who lived in the region thousands of years ago. The mound had yielded around 60 burials in previous excavations.

S K Manjul, who is leading the excavation team, said the DNA analysis will help answer a lot of questions, anthropological or otherwise. Preliminary scientific tests will be done by the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences, Lucknow, before the samples being sent elsewhere for further forensic analysis from an anthropological perspective.

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SIGNS OF SETTLEMENT: This is the first time excavations have been done on Mound No. 3, which has revealed what appears to be “an aristocratic settlement”; ASI officials said more rounds of excavation will be needed to ascertain its structure and nature. In all Harappan sites excavated so far, there have been similar signs of three tiers of habitation — ‘common settlements’ with mud brick walls, ‘elite settlement’ with burnt brick walls alongside mud brick walls, and possible ‘middle-rung settlements’.

Researchers are yet to determine whether these three levels were based on community or occupation. Clues may surface when excavations resume at Mound No. 3 in September.

ARTEFACTS:Other noteworthy finds include steatite seals, terracotta bangles, terracotta unbaked sealing with relief of elephants, and the Harappan script. Arvin Manjul, Regional Director (North), ASI, said the team also recovered some Harappan sealings (impression of a seal on a surface), indicating that seals were used to mark objects belonging to a set of people or community, as they are today.

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She said the 1,000-odd objects recovered this season come from the mature-Harappan period. Archaeologically, the span of the Harappan Civilisation is subdivided into three periods — early (3300 BC to 2600 BC), mature (2600 BC to 1900 BC), and late (1900 BC to 1700 BC). Five urban sites — Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Ganweriwala (now in Pakistan), and Rakhigarhi and Dholavira (India) — have been identified as centres of the Civilisation.

JEWELLERY UNIT: A large number of steatite beads, beads of semi-precious stones, shells, and objects made of agate and carnelian have been recovered, said Disha Ahluwalia, a PhD scholar at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, who is part of the excavation team. The excavation, which has been going on at three of the seven mounds, has also unearthed pieces of copper and gold jewellery.

Possible remains of a 5,000-year-old jewellery making unit have been traced, which signifies that trading was also done from the city, ASI officials said. Manjul said that since there was no quarry of stones like lapis lazuli or shells in the region, the discovery shows extensive trade from areas as far away as Afghanistan, where lapis was found.

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First published on: 10-05-2022 at 00:47 IST
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