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luni, 11 martie 2013

Fresh excavations to start at largest Harappan site

PUNE: After a gap of 13 years, excavation work will start once again at Rakhigarhi, estimated to be the largest Harappan civilization site located in Hisar district of Haryana. This early Harappan settlement, considered bigger than Mohenjo-daro, was listed among the 10 most endangered heritage sites in Asia just last year by the Global Heritage Fund, which is, incidentally, partnering with city-based Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute that will start fresh excavations at Rakhigarhi this year.

The college has been working on the site since 2006 and conducted a survey using ground penetration radar (GPR), which uses electromagnetic radiation to image up to 20 metres of the subsurface. The survey revealed that the site was spread over 400 hectares, dispelling doubts about it being the largest Harappan site. "So far, archaeologists thought that Rakhigarhi was the third largest Harappan site in the subcontinent, after Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. However, a preliminary survey of the site revealed that it is spread over 400 hectares, and is bigger than Mohenjo-daro, which is located in Sindh, Pakistan, and is spread over an area of 300 hectares," said Vasant Shinde, senior archaeologist and joint director at the Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute.

The survey also found visible mounds in the area. "Some places were dug and we found that the habitation debris is spread over an area of 400 hectare. We also identified areas where crafts were manufactured, apart from identifying different activity areas," said Shinde.

The site is located at the confluence of ancient rivers Saraswati and Drishadvati, which have been mentioned in the Rigveda. "These rivers went dry at some stage and thus, we will also study when they went dry and the factors that contributed to it. The Saraswati region was important as nearly two-thirds of the known Harappan sites were located in this basin," he said.

The variations in the Harappan culture across various regions, such as differences in locations, town orientation, burial customs and painted ceramics will also be studied. Deccan College will be carrying out this work along with the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD), New Delhi, the Archaeological Survey of India, which incidentally carried out excavations here from 1997-2000 and also the Global Heritage Fund.

Deccan College's initiative would not be limited to excavation alone. Setting up of a museum to preserve the finds and developing the site as a tourist attraction are also on the anvil. "The site is very close to the heart of the village and there have been instances of encroachment on it. Excavation work will help in preserving the site. In addition, since the site is only 130 km from Delhi and is well-connected, it can be developed as a tourist attraction. The remains excavated can be preserved. In addition, they could be preserved in a way that tourists can walk through a veritable Harappan city," said Shinde, adding that preservation of the site is now paramount.

Encroachments and reported thefts of artifacts from the site have been a serious concern among archaeologists. And for this reason, Shinde said they have proposed archaeological as well as community development work for Rakhigarhi village. "The villagers have been supporting us in this endeavor, especially since the excavation work will stop the encroachments here," he added.

Archaeological sites have been identified in this village to study the process of development of Harappan cities and towns, as the development has been gradual and did not happen overnight. "This site is an ideal candidate to study the development of the Harappan culture, as it dates between 4000 BC and 1500 BC. The development of Harappan culture goes back to an early era--from 4000 BC to 2500 BC. It is after this phase that the Harappan civilisation experienced transformation into its urban phase," said Shinde.

Training camps here for students from across the globe will also be conducted, where in they would be provided with practical training on how to excavate sites and preserve the finds.

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