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Harappan cemetery unearthed in UP

Over 116 graves have been found after excavation of agricultural land in village Sanauli, reports Satyen Mohapatra.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2007 00:18 IST

The largest Harappan Necropolis (city of the dead or burial ground) the Indian subcontinent has known so far has been found near village Sanauli on the banks of Yamuna in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh.

These findings have been reported in the latest issue (No 36) of Puratattva, the journal of the Indian Archaeological Society.

Chairman of the Society Dr SP Gupta said, "Never before a site like Sanauli was found and excavated in India. An absolutely plain ground with thick deposit of sand and silt harbouring lush green cultivated field of the best variety of sugarcane could never attract any archaeologist to explore it, but then it has yielded the remains of as many as 116 graves in a huge cemetery, which if further excavated will certainly yield many more of it."

"One of the most significant findings has been the discovery of a burial with an antenna sword and a sheath which represents the Ganga valley civilisation of the third and second millennia BC, which shows the meeting place of the Harappans and the Ganga civilisation, an evidence for which was never found earlier".

The cemetery seems to have been in use for several centuries as burials have been found laid in as many as three superimposed levels of the ancient course of river Yamuna basin.

The tentative time bracket has been given from 2200 BC – 1800 BC, which puts it in the Harappan period.

It was the chance discovery of some pottery vessels and a human skeletal remain from an agricultural field at Sanauli, district Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, which prompted the group, led by Dr DV Sharma (chief excavater) Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Branch, Purana Qila Archaeological Survey of India, assisted by KC Nauriyal and VN Prabhakar, to start excavations in August 2005, which continued till August 2006.

All the graves were found laid in northwest–southeast orientation as a rule with head placed in the north and legs towards the south direction.

A majority of these burials are with skeletal remains of the dead largely intact. About 29 graves were perhaps used symbolically as they did not have human bones but had grave goods. Evidence of animal sacrifice in some middle and upper levels burials have been noticed.

Placing of a dish on a stand below the hip or head of the dead seems to have been a general but prominent feature of some ritual which was in practice as a rule in most of the graves in Sanauli.

The dish seems to have served as "offering stand" and is found supporting a dead body or food grains or meat. In one case, the head of a goat was found placed on the dish.

Sanauli graves not only show a 'double burial' of two males aged between 30-35, but the rare event of a triple burial indicative of three closely related persons dying in some unusual circumstances.

The grave has also two urn burials which are jars with bull figures on the lids.

Interestingly, the burials have been found with objects like a violin-shaped copper container, copper in the shape of a human torso, a number of tiny copper objects with arrowheads, a star-shaped gold object kept on a forehead, glass beads, steatite beads etc, used for ornaments.

Evidences of six child burials were also found, one of them wearing an agate bead amulet on its left arm and an agate necklace.

A female skeleton, aged 18 years, has been found with an ornament of gold and semi-precious stones and a pair of heart shaped gold bangles in both hands.

A trough like object of clay completely burnt and turned red with good amount of ash, charred human bones and animal jaws with mud lumps and brickbats has been found, which could have been used for cremating the dead.