Archaeologists find 2,500 year old Iron Age bead-making unit in Vidarbha
The Archaeological Survey of India has unearthed traces of a 2,500-year-old settlement in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha district, dating back to early Iron Age. As part of the findings, a bead manufacturing unit, iron equipment, pottery, hearths, storage bins and carbonised fruits and animal remains have been unearthed. What makes the findings significant is that this is the first indication of any habitation in Western Vidarbha.
The site has been dated between 400 and 800BC, and samples for AMS charcoal dating have been sent to laboratories in Delhi. The excavation was carried out by the ASI’s Nagpur branch, by a team led by superintending archaeologist D Nihildas N. Initial explorations at the site started in 2018.
Nihildas says that earlier excavations at various sites at Eastern Vidarbha have conclusively proved habitation during the Iron Age. “This excavation at Vidarbha’s Phupgaon in the Western region along the Poorna river, a tributary of the Tapti river, has provided possible answers to whether there were settlement in the Eastern side of the Poorna Valley,” he said.
This also provides answers to the question whether early settlers along the Poorna river crossed it to live on the other side, a search that has piqued the interest of several archaeologists, geologists, and even Palaeontologists, he said. Excavations in Vidarbha had been carried out since the 1960s.
The site is situated about 20 metre above the river bed and is a spot where frequent erosions took place earlier. The total area of 770 square meters was excavated during 2018-19 and nine trenches were excavated.
“The ancient mound at Phupgaon is of 150 m in North-South and 130 m in East and West direction. This site is represented with microliths and middle Palaeolithic tools on the virgin deposit, above which Iron Age habitation was exposed,” a report prepared by the ASI states.
Among the findings are beads of shell, steatite and semi-precious stones like agate, jasper, quartz, sodalite and carnelian found in a variety of materials and shapes. Apart from this few microliths, bone objects like combs, stone objects like pestle and quern, as well as bead polishers and skin rubbers have been found.
“In all, 400 finished and unfinished beads have been unearthed, with evidence of procurement, processing and shaping of these beads. This indicates that the area had a bead-manufacturing unit,” said Nihaldas. Beads of semi-precious stones like carnelians, quartz, chalcedony, chert, agate and lapis-lazuli were found at the site.
LATER STAGE IRON AGE
A deposit of later stage Iron Age objects, such as glass bangles, moulds and querns belonging to the Early Historic period. Iron equipments like pestles, chisels, sickles, nails, axes, daggers, knives; copper objects such as bangles, rings, blade and terracotta spindles whorls and hopscotches have been found. Different floors with storage bin platforms with a thick plastering of burnt clay with grass and straw impressions, seven cooking hearths, and circular structures with postholes have also been found.
Nihaldas says that unlike other Iron Age sites such as Hastinapur and Harappa, Phupgaon points at a homogenous cultural sequence of Early Iron Age period.
Pottery consisting of bowls, dishes and small, globular pots made of red slipped ware, red burnished ware, black-and-red ware, black burnished ware and micaceous redware have been unearthed.
In addition to that, charred macro-remains, including wood charcoal, fruits and seeds and animals remains have been found. The animal remains point at the existence of animals like cow, buffalo, sheep, goat, pig, dog, Nilgai, spotted deer, Sambar, blackbuck, wild pig, hare, porcupine, mongoose, field rat, peafowl, common crane, common teal, duck, three species of turtles and freshwater molluscan shells.