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IIT Kharagpur researchers find archaeological remains from Dark Age

The artefacts—pitcher, jars, bull figurines, and animal remains like bones and teeth—were found in the uninhabited hyper-arid regions of Karim Shahi and Vigakot near the southern fringe of the Thar desert.

WT24 Desk

Indian researchers have found archaeological evidence from the Dark Age, at least 3000 years ago, from the Thar desert in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent, The Hindustan Times reports.

The artefacts—pitcher, jars, bull figurines, and animal remains like bones and teeth—were found in the uninhabited hyper-arid regions of Karim Shahi and Vigakot near the southern fringe of the Thar desert.

These artefacts have helped join the missing link between the Harappan civilisation and early Iron Age, in a breakthrough, as so far the period was considered to be “Dark Age” due to the lack of archaeological remains and evidence.

The findings by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur and Deccan College, Pune, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, University of Calcutta, and University of Kutchh have been published online in Elsevier journal Archaeological Research in Asia.

“The Harappan civilisation ends about 3300 years ago and the evidence of Iron Age culture from north India from around 3000 years. But the transition period between the Bronze Age and Iron Age in India is not very well known and is called Dark Age,” said Anindya Sarkar, a professor with the department of geology and geophysics at IIT Kharagpur.

“We also know that the Indus Valley civilisation settlements were moving eastward and one of the reason is that the monsoon pattern was changing,” Sarkar said.

In the Kutch region, the Harappan remains were found only on rocky islands. The Rann and the Thar till now were devoid of any sign of continued human settlement.

Sarkar’s team found the artefacts during a geological field investigation in the area.

“Explorations in the coastal settlement of Karim Shahi region of the Rann, south of the desert, unearthed pottery and charcoal which when dated revealed active human habitation from Early Iron Age to Early Historic,” collaborator Dr Navin Juyal from Ahmedabad’s Physical Research Laboratory said in a release.

This implies that after the decline of the Harappan civilisation, the Rann was still a hospitable terrain for the sustenance of human settlements’ during the Early Iron Age.

The location of the find also goes on to support the theory that the human habitats shifted with the rains as the Indus Valley Civilisation declined.

Sarkar’s team had earlier proven that the mass migrations coincided with changing rainfall patterns due to a shifting Holocene Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which is a belt of a low-pressure area near the equator affecting rains and other climatic conditions.

“Our findings suggest that such human migration was far more expansive than thought before. We believe that the gradual southward shift of Intertropical Convergence Zone over the last seven thousand years forced people to migrate for greener pastures. In a way, this created large scale climate refugees,” said Sarkar.

“We have shown the devastating impact of the natural climate change on a civilisation. Now, we have accelerated the pace of this change, which is manifesting in the form of change in rainfall patterns, flooding, fires etc. This will lead to unprecedented migrations,” he said.

The study also involved analysis of sediments, pollen and oxygen isotopes in fossil molluscan shells indicating the presence of an active river system and some rainfall that probably sustained human habitation from the Early Iron Age to medieval times.

“We do not know what river systems these are and why they dried up. At nearby Motichher, we also found iron objects suggesting the first evidence of smelting,” said Sarkar.

The Chinese Qingbai porcelain and Persian Sgraffito potteries found during their research suggest that Karim Shahi and Vigakot were trade centres on the long-distance trade route between West Asia and China.

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