Massive turnout at excavation site

“Were the bones on display of humans?” class 3 student Ashrey Jain asked his friend. “Of course not. The tags even described which period the animal bones belong to,” said Aman Kalra, a class 9 student.

The duo was among hundreds others who turned up at the Purana Quila excavation site on Friday. The Archaeological Survey Of India opened the site for public view for a day.Entry was also free for visitors on World Heritage Day, which coincided with Good Friday, a public holiday.

“When I read in the newspaper that the excavation site would be open for visitors, I thought there is no better place to take my daughter on a holiday. These events should be promoted to discourage mall culture among children. The best part is she saw the process of excavation and the tools used for the purpose,” said Shantanu, who came with his daughter and wife.

D B Parekh, an agricultural scientist, aired the same view. “I brought my daughter, who is in class 8 so that she nurtures her interest in history.” 

An old man was  telling his three grandsons when the site was last excavated.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Go around and observe how archaeologists are working on each layer. Technology has changed so much since it was last carried out almost 40 years ago,” said R N Saxena, a former lecturer at Delhi University.

While the ongoing excavation gave visitors a first-hand experience of the process, the tent that displayed the antiquities discovered so far was the other attraction. People queued up to see statues, pottery, coins and sealings, among other artefacts, in glass showcases. 

An elderly woman in a wheelchair was seen keenly observing a sculpture of Vishnu. “It was worth coming,” she said almost to herself.

Most visitors said this was a distinguished experience as on other occasions they only get to see dug-up trenches.

“The last time I had seen an excavation site was in Cochin. However, this was a real-time experience. The display of antiquities has made the visit enriching for children and adults alike,” said Rohini Kanugo, a teacher. She was accompanied by her daughter.

Vasant Kumar Swarankar, chief superintending archaeologist, ASI, estimated the turnout of people to be over 10,000. 

“Over 10,000 people visited the site. The response was so good that we have decided to extend the exhibition of antiquities till Saturday,” Swarankar said.   

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