ASI digs out 4,000-yr-old sacred chambers

| | New Delhi
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ASI digs out 4,000-yr-old sacred chambers

Thursday, 02 May 2019 | PNS | New Delhi

nOngoing excavations at 4,000-year-old burial sites at Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat continue to enthrall archeologists as for the first time the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has unearthed underground "sacred chambers", decorated "legged coffins" and fascinating artifacts in what is being claimed to be a first in the Indian subcontinent.

The excavation, which is continuation of the work started last year, is being carried out to understand the extension of burial site and also habitation area in relation with earlier findings.

The present excavation is being carried out under the direction of Dr  SK Manjul, Director, Institute of Archaeology, ASI, to understand the extension of burial site and also habitation area in relation with earlier findings, a senior ASI official said.

Sanauli is located on the left bank of River Yamuna, 68 km north-east of Delhi which brought to light the largest necropolis of late Harappan period datable to around early part of second millennium BCE.

Three chariots, some coffins, shields, swords and helmets had been unearthed, pointing towards the existence of a "warrior class in the area around 2,000 BCE," said an official from the ASI.

These findings are being considered important to understand the culture pattern of the Upper Ganga-Yamuna doab. During excavation, the excavators have found copper swords, helmets, shields and chariots.

The excavators have also found rice and urad dal in pots, cattle bones, wild pig and mongoose buried along with bodies. "These may have been offered to the departed souls. We also found sacred chambers below the ground. After the procession, they put the body in the chamber for some treatment or rituals," he said.

The excavation is being carried out at two different areas, the first in the area in continuation of 2018 excavation and the second in the area 200 m east of the former.

In the first area, two burial pits and a sacred chamber of burnt brick were discovered along with burial goods. In burial pit no. 9 one wooden 'legged coffin' decorated with steatite inlays having extended skeleton of a female oriented North-South, tilted 10 ?west is excavated. This burial pit contains evidence of decomposed bow, bone points, armlet of semiprecious stones, gold bead and pottery including vases, jars, bowls and dish on stand systematically arranged towards north and eastern sides of the coffin, said the official.

An interesting find from this burial pit is the antenna sword placed near the head. Also, the pelvis of the skeleton is sinking in the middle indicating the process of decomposition of wooden base of the coffin. Other burial pit (no 10) includes extended female skeleton in disturbed condition. The burial goods include copper mirror, hairpin, channel, beads and pottery. Interestingly steatite inlays forming a figure of eight which is probably the lid of a vanity box found between two legs of the coffin in north. The coffin is also decorated with steatite inlays similar to coffin in burial no.9. Two big pots are placed under the coffin which could have contained food and other organic remains associated with the rituals.

Furnaces have narrow top and broad base with air ducts and mouth to regulate temperature. The nature of these furnaces suggests their long term usage.

The discovery of furnaces from the site indicates towards habitation activity of the period associated with the necropolis. The nature of burial pottery, coffins, antiquities such as antenna sword, pottery, etc. suggest a complex of late Harappan period.

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