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Evidence of beef eating in the Gangetic plain during the Vedic period

This excavation in Gorakhpur relates to a period before 200 BC. The precise dates are not reported here but almost certainly during the later Vedic period. Source: Indian Archaeology 1984-85 A Review.


98. Excavation at Narhan, District Gorakhpur.— In continuation of previous year's work the Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology of the Banaras Hindu University, under the direction of Purushottam Singh assisted by Makkhan Lai, Ashok Kumar Singh and Indrajeet Singh resumed the excavation at Narhan with the objectives of ascertaining the cultural-sequence on Mound-1 and obtaining further details of the early historical settlement on Mound-2.

Mound-1, partly eroded by the river Ghaghara and partly covered by the present day Narhan village measures 425 m east-west along the river and 230 m north-south. Eight 2m x 2m test pits dug in different parts of this mound yielded one metre of thick deposit of painted black-and-red ware culture. The excavation of Mound-2 further yielded interesting details of early historical culture noted last year. The revised cultural sequence of the site Is as follows: Period I represented by an average deposit of 1 m on Mound-1 was marked by the occurrence of white painted black-and-red ware, black-slipped ware with occasional paintings in white, red slipped ware and plain red ware. The principal pottery types in black-and-red ware were bowls, basins and vases. Dishes were conspicuous by their absence in this ware. More than 20% sherds in the fine and medium fabrics of this ware were painted.

The first settlers lived in wattle-and-daub houses. Remains of post-holes and reed marks in burnt clay lumps have been found. Mention may be made of a curious looking hearth, partly exposed in Trench 7. Although the first settlers practised agriculture, meat was an important component of their diet as is evidenced from the presence of charred animal bones, some of them having cut marks. Bones of humped Indian cattle (Bos indicus L.), sheep, goat (Ovis/Capra), remains of a wild ruminant like deer or antelope (? Axis sp.) and horse (Equus sp.) have been identified in the limited collection of bones studied so far. The small finds included pottery discs in large numbers. Of these, four pieces were perforated and might have been used as toy-cart wheels. Bone points accounted for 15 pieces and nine terracotta beads were recorded. Other finds comprised two terracotta dabbers and two balls, one each of terracotta and stone. No evidence of any metal was reported so far from the limited dig.

Period II represented by an average deposit of 90 cm on Mound-1 was marked by the absence of black-and-red-ware, either plain or painted, but the frequency of black slipped ware increased in this period. Although red slipped ware continued in limited quantity, plain red-ware was the dominant ceramic industry. The principal shapes in black slipped ware were bowls and dishes and in red-ware bowls, dishes, basins and vases. Amongst the small finds, terracotta discs appeared for the first time while pottery discs continued to occur in limited quantity. Among the bone points some interesting shapes with punched circlet designs engraved on them were noticed. Beads of glass, agate and terracotta, .daggers and balls and a terracotta figurine of a horse constituted the small finds. Iron objects included a chisel and a nail. It seems that towards the end of Period II, due to the menace of the river Ghaghara the inhabitants moved to safer places like Mound-2 and Amauli village to the north-east and west of Mound-1 respectively.

Period III was represented on Mound-2 by red-ware, thick grey ware, black slipped ware, a few sherds of N.B.P. ware and a kind of cord impressed pottery, the last one hitherto unrecorded from the sites of the middle Ganges plain, except in the neolithic context at sites like Mahagara and Koldihwa in the Vindhyan ranges which however, belongs to an altogether different tradition. Red ware was the principal ceramic industry divisible into three fabrics viz., fine, medium and coarse. The fine fabric comprised of the characteristic bowls with in-curved or vertical featureless rim and a flat base, carinated handi with almost rounded base, reported from the middle level of this period. Basins with a nail headed externally collared rim, lipped basins, jars with splayed out rim and a pear-shaped vase with collared rim were reported in the medium fabric. Cooking vessels were the principal type in coarse fabric. The grey-ware was generally of coarse fabric with such types as medium sized dishes with pronounced in-curved sides. Some fine sherds of this ware were comparable to those of the EG.VV. of western U.P. and Haryana. The NB.P sherds were limited in number and included dishes and bowls.

The structural remains of Period III comprised of mud brick houses associated with wattleand-daub constructions in the lowest levels. Burnt lumps of clay with reed marks were met with. A noteworthy feature was the discovery of a storage jar buried under a house floor and a copper vessel placed in inverted position against this storage jar. Other antiquities of this period included copper and iron objects, beads, bangles, human figurines, discs, toy-cart wheels – all of terracotta from the upper levels of this period. A squarish cast copper coin having an elephant, taurine, swastika and jeyadhvaja on the obverse and tree-in-railing, taurine symbol, a three arched hill and a hollow cross on the reverse was also encountered.

Charred grains recovered from this period included rice (oriza sativa), barley (hordeum vulgare), wheat (triticum aestivum and T.sphaerococcum), kodon millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum), black gram (vigna mungo), green gram (vigna radiata), pea (pisum sativum), khesari (lathyrun sativus) and sesame (sesamum indicum). Fruit-stone of jujube (ziziphus mauritiana) and endocarp pieces of anwala (phyllanthus emblica) have also been recovered.

A study of the mud plasters indicated that the earliest inhabitants of Period III made use of bamboo for pole or beam and used reed plants of saccharum spontaneum for their huts.

Impressions of some textile on the mud attached to a potsherd showed that the inhabitants of Period III knew the spinning and weaving of cotton fabrics.

One charcoal sample from the upper levels of Period IIIA (Sample no.B.S.564) has been dated to2200 ± 100 BP while two others, both coming from the middle level of Period III B (Sample nos. B.S. 563 and 581) gave the dates of 2240 ± 100 BP and 2100 ± 100 BP respectively.

Remains of Period IV which were recorded from Mound-2 were dominated by red-ware industry. The important shapes were bowls, dishes, vases, basins, sprinklers (P1.29) and lids. A complete specimen of sprinkler was an important discovery. Some of the sherds were decorated with stamped and incised designs. Another noteworthy find was a jar stand with three perforations. The structural remains were marked by the use of burnt bricks (size 44 x 23 x 6 cm and 50 x 26 x 6 cm). A large room having two phases of construction, made of burnt bricks and having several post-holes cut into the burnt bricks ascribed perhaps to a third phase was exposed on Mound-2. A ring-well with an inner diameter of 0.70 m and exposed up to five courses of rings to a depth of 0.80 m was found to the south-west of this room. A charcoal sample from the lowest level of this period (Sample no. B.S. 582) has been dated to 2200 ± 100 BP.

Period V was represented by red-ware with usual shapes reported from comparable levels of other sites. The structures of this period were found to be robbed by villagers.

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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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