Pushing Bengal's history back
Last updated: 06 June, 2009
The discovery is interesting because it has the potential to review history
In a fascinating discovery that may lead to a re-writing of the history of civilisation in West Bengal, a team of archaeologists stumbled upon traces of an ancient civilisation in the state dating back to the pre-historic period of nearly 10,000 years or so following discovery of stone tools, knives and needle-like “microliths” from a village in Murshidabad district.
“Only a small part has so far been excavated, leading to the unearthing of about 200 small stone tools, knives and needle-like microliths. Preliminary investigations reveal that pre- historic tools are believed to be scattered over 4-5 sq km area, at least two to three metres under the top soil,” Amal Roy, Superintendent of West Bengal Archaelogy Department, said.
Roy, who personally led the excavation team at Haatpara village in Sagardighi block of the district, stressed that the department would like to dig up stretches in close vicinity to look for additional pre-historic finds.
Claiming that the discovery has thrown a new light on the existence of an ancient civilisation in this part of eastern India, Roy said carbon-dating tests carried out on the recovered stone tools, agate, quartz, chert and chalcedony suggest that they were probably used by a community which was engaged in producing hunting tools for their livelihood in the pre-historic period.
He believed the, “recovery of so many stone sharpeners by the excavators indicate presence of stone tool manufacturing community in the region.” Interestingly, some fossilised fish fins and seeds found during excavation, are believed to be spread over a 1,000 sq metre area on cultivable land along Santhalpara under the same block.
“We carried out a carbon-dating tests of some fossilised fish fins and concluded that roasted fish formed a part of the primitive people’s diet, Roy said. “A thorough examination of the finds reveal they date beyond Holocene period (more than 10,000 years).” According to Roy, the state archaeology department has been pursuing some “leads” for nearly a couple of years. “In fact, when we first encountered the mounds of earth in the region, we knew the area is rich and could yield startling finds. The discovery only confirmed our guesswork,” he said with a smile. The first two to three metres of digging through the “yellowish top soil” started yielding the results.
The initial excavation( for about a fortnight or so ) yielded fine quality ceramics and decorated bricks of the Sultanate period, besides terracotta and bangles of the medieval period. Further digging (to a depth of 2-3 metres) led to the deposit of older alluvium soil of the Pleistocene period (about 1.8 million years-old).
“We’re sure we’ve hit a treasure trove as the stone tools were found underneath that soil,” Roy said. In the top 70 cm lay the tools that have been identified as belonging to nearly 10,000 years before the present era. The deposit pattern in the area, Roy said, is also indicative of the hitherto unknown information of primitive life in this part of the country.
The state archeology directorate had earlier excavated a few such stone implements at Birhanpur in Murshidabad district in 1954 and 1957 which were found to be not more than 8,000 years old. Eminent archaeologist B B Lal of the Archaeological Survey of India helped the state archaeologists in the excavation at Birhanpur.
Prasanta Paul in Kolkata