73 Harappan era burials unearthed near Delhi

March 4th, 2009 - 3:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) At least 73 burials have been unearthed just 60 km from the Indian capital, pointing to the largest Harappan cemetery found till date. The excavations could clear many gaps in history, archaeologists said Wednesday.
The remains of the civilisation have been found in a 20-hectare-site at Farmana, in Haryana’s Rohtak district, in the Meham region. Archaeologists from three universities have been at work for three seasons - three-odd months each season - excavating the site that could turn out to be a breakthrough in the study of the Harappan civilisation.

“We have found some 73 burials at the site at Farmana. This could possibly the largest such site. Harappan cemeteries are very rare and that too in such huge numbers,” Osaga Uesugi, professor at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan told IANS.

The Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, as one of the partners of the project, has financed it and provided technical expertise while the Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak and Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are the local collaborators for the project.

“We have uncovered an entire town plan. The skeletal remains seem to be in the 2500 BC to 2000 BC period - this is when the civilisation prospered the most,” said Vasant Shinde, professor of the department of archaeology in the Pune institute.

Shinde, who is also the director of the excavation project here, told IANS that the findings could resolve gaps and myths in history.

“The Harappans were thought to be homogenous but the findings here point to a different possibility. While the core principles of customs and town planning are similar to what we find in the main Harappan cities in Kutch region and Pakistan, there is still variety in pottery shapes, seals and other elements in the artefacts found buried with the skeletal remains,” Shinde said.

The evidence of seven burials was discovered last year and should the work continue into another season, experts feel Farmana may throw up the evidence of a larger number of burials than even Harappa, the Pakistani Punjab town from which the civilisation of the Indus valley (3300 BC-1300 BC) takes its name.

“With a larger sample size it will be easier for scholars to determine the composition of the population, the prevalent customs, whether they were indigenous or migrated from outside,” Shinde said.

A century-and-a-half after the great civilisation was discovered, historians still have no definite answers to a number of questions, including where the Harappans came from, and why their highly sophisticated culture suddenly died out.

“It was after 2000 BC that the civilisation began to fade out. We want to check if there was any climatic factor behind this. We will conduct scientific tests on skeletal remains, pottery and botanical evidence found at the site, to try to understand multiple aspects of Harappan life and the context of the site,” Shinde added.

DNA tests on bones might conclusively end the debate on whether the Harappans were an indigenous population or migrants and even on their food habits.

“Trace element analyses will help understand their diet - a higher percentage of certain elements will prove they were non-vegetarians while larger traces of magnesium will suggest a vegetarian diet,” Osaga explained.

Most chemical, botanical tests will be done at Deccan College while the more sophisticated and expensive DNA, dating tests and physical anthropology tests will be conducted in Japan.

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