Poonch project to explore Indus Valley links
The limits of the Indus Valley civilisation could stretch to Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir, if a new excavation project of the Centre yields such findings. The union ministry of culture has approved an excavation project of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to explore archaeological possibilities in the region.
The Poonch excavation, and another in Masol in Chandigarh’s Mohali district, are two projects which were given additional permission for excavation and exploration for the 2019-20 field season by the ASI’s apex advisory body, the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology (CABA). A list of nine projects were permitted in the first list released in October last year.
In Poonch, an ASI officer with knowledge of the matter said that the excavation body will carry on work to look for monuments or antiquities that could be evidence of historical importance. “The area under survey is close to the Akhnoor-Poonch highway. And, in Manda in Akhnoor, we found the northernmost tip of the Indus Valley in the 1970s. So there is a strong probability that we find roots of the Indus Valley civilisation in Poonch,” said the official.
In Akhnoor, which is located on the right banks of Chenab River, artefacts unearthed after excavations included pre-Harappan and Harappan red ware such as jars, dishes, goblets as well as copper artefacts, bone arrowheads, terracotta bangles, cakes, chert blade, etc. ASI officials from J&K division said that the region has traces of Kushana and Mauryan Periods as well.
Poonch lies more than 100 kilometres north of Manda, and is at the tip of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Historically, the Indus valley civilisation, which existed along the banks of the Indus river between 3300 BC to 1300 BC, spanned Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Its western boundary was in Pakistan’s Balochistan, and in the east was India’s Uttar Pradesh. Afghanistan was to its north, and India’s Gujarat to the south. Excavations in the last few years have led to findings in Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in India. In Pakistan, several excavations are in Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan.
Historian Dwijendra Narayan Jha said that it is difficult to say whether Poonch could have a link to the Indus Valley civilisation. “Unless a link emerges, one cannot be too sure. But the current dispensation has had a push on the Indus Valley civilisation, and whether Patna or Poonch, a link can be established anywhere,” said Jha.
For the other project, in Masol, the ASI’s pre-history department will try and prove the finding of an Indo-French team that has indicated that migrations from Africa could be 5,00,000 years before what was earlier believed.
An Indo-French team of the Chandigarh-based Society for Archaeological and Anthropological Research and the Paris-based French National Centre for Scientific Research, in their excavation efforts, found 1,500 fossils and cut marks that date back to 2.6 million years. The fossils are now displayed at Chandigarh’s National History Museum.
Manoj Kumar Kurmi of the Nagpur-based Pre-History department of the ASI said that they will now attempt to prove the findings. “We are looking for specific site with potential, and will start excavations in February,” said Kurmi.
Artefacts from the excavation, he said, will be sent for carbon dating. Some of the findings of the Indo-French team placed the fossils within the Pleistocene and Pliocene epochs, which dates back 2.58 million years.
However, Kurmi added that the ASI will not take up the fossils for carbon dating. “We are thankful for the team for indicating such a finding, but our efforts are separate from theirs,” said Kurmi.