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5 pre-historic sites that shaped India
  23rd Aug 2014

They may be quiet ruins now, but these pre-historic sites spread over India stand proof of the bustling microcosms of civilisation that preceded today's South Asia and shaped us in surprising ways.

1. Burzahom, Kashmir

The Neolithic site of Burzahom on a karewa (elevated land) between the Dal lake and Zabarvan hills was the first Neolithic site to be discovered — subsequently Gufkral, Brah, Begagund, Waztal, Thajiwor and other sites were discovered in Kashmir. Burzahom translates to "home of the birch tree"; mud brick structures as well as mud pits found here points to the existence of a Neolithic civilisation. Apart from several metal and terracotta remains, recovered artifacts include a female skull with 11 attempts at trepanation (surgical operation) that point to medicinal or conversely magical practices of the people. Also, a stone slab with an engraving depicting hunting scenes and two suns has led to a theory of this slab being the oldest sky chart to record an existing supernova, according to some astronomers.


2. Bhimbetka caves, MP

A site from the Paleolithic age, Bhimbetka caves mark the beginning of the South Asian Stone Age, and are the earliest proof of existence of life on the Indian subcontinent. These shelters were inhabited by the Homo Erectus species around 3,00,000 years ago, and are filled with paintings and murals that chronicle, among other things, the existence of dance amongst humans, instruments used by the tribe, and etchings of wild animals such as bisons, tigers and rhinoceroses.

3. Ayad Valley civilisation, Rajasthan

Ahar or Ayad valley civilisation is the most recently discovered prehistoric sites and existed around 2000 BC (in 2006). Like the Harappan civilisation, the Ahar civilisation produced ceramics items like toys, utensils, as well as copper and bronze items. An ancient copper mine has been excavated which proves the technique of extracting zinc is very similar to contemporary techniques.

4. Brahmagiri, Karnataka

A Microlithic, Neolithic and Iron Age site of a civilisation that flourished from 1000 BC-200 BC — Brahmagiri is situated in the current Chitradurga district of Karnataka, in itself a city attached to the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Brahmagiri was the southernmost tip of the Mauryan Empire, and a rock edict with Ashok's message for peace still provides validation of its place in Mauryan history. Legend has it that this was the abode of Saptarishi Gautama Maharishi (one of the seven saints who form the Great Bear constellation according to Hindu mythology) and his wife Ahalya. Artifacts from all three ages of civilisations have been found here, which include 300 rectangular granite cists (tombs) with etcings in ochre, stone beads, rare crescents and gravers made from jasper, agate carnelian and opal from the Megalithic era; and jewellery in glass, shell, clay and gold from 100 BC.

5. Chirand, Bihar

The fertile area of Chirand in Saran district of modern day Bihar (it is at the confluence of the rivers Sarayu and Ganga) reveals the prevalence of food cultivation (crops such as wheat, barley, lentils) as well as a large number of bone-made tools and ornaments. Artifacts excavated here include blades, arrow-heads and hammers, made with basalt, quartzite and granite.

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