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g1oz ‘zz aNnr. 1 "ON SE3NNI0A i PUBLIC HEALTH DALITS tcf The Nipah outbreak Expendable lives INDIA’S NATIONAL MAGAZINE WWW.FRONTLINE.IN a reign of terror to crusha standing people’s struggle against a plant of Sterlite Copper, a subsidiary of the multinational Vedanta group ARCHAEOLOGY Unearthing Asurdanga Recent excavations at Birbhum district in West Bengal have led to the discovery of an artisans’ village, dating back 3,500 years, notable for its high level of craftsmanship. ey sunRip SANKAR CHATTOPADHYAY RECENT excavations at Asur- alay village in Mayureshwar 1 Block of West Bengal’s Birbhum district have revealed an artisans’ village, dating back to the proto-historic period. Even though the site is yet to be dated, archaeologists believe that the settlement existed sometime between 2000 BCE and 1000 BCE. ‘The various tools and artefacts un- earthed in the excavation carried out byarchaeologists of the University of Caleutta threw light not only on the high level of craftsmanship of the people of the region but also on the activities in the oldest settlements of Bengal ‘THE EXCAVATION MOUND. The materials discovered included semi-precious stone beads of different shapes and sizes and microlithic stone tools. Rajat Sanyal, head of the Depart- ment of Archaeology, U: Calcutta, who led the ex said: “In March 2015, we \\ re ex- ploring the Mayurakshi-Dwaraka interfluvial zone in Birbhum when, based on local information, we got to know of a huge mound known as Asurdanga in a village called Asur- alay. We found on the surface black and red ware (BRW) pottery, that is, unanimously accepted as the general ceramic type of the proto-historie period in different parts of the coun- 95 try. In Bengal, this period is'dated between the early second millen- nium BCE and the early first millen- nium BCE.” Other kinds of pottery were also present in the site, inchud- ing red ware, black ware and buff ware (pottery of a yellowish colour). ‘The excavation began in March this year and concluded in April. DISCOVERY OF ARTEFACTS The most striking discovery in the excavation was the large number of beads of different shapes and sizes BLACK AND RED WARE. [serge | made of semi-precious stones, mi- crolithiestone tools, and raw materi- als to make the artefacts. There was also evidence of extensive burning activities throughout the excavated trenches, indicating large-scale pro- duction of artefacts. “We found four ovens in a row, and huge quantities of charcoal and burnt patches on top of extensive mud floors on which production activities would take place. Large sections of these floors ‘were still intact. What we found was probably the working area of the set- tlement,” said Sanyal. ‘The materials discovered showed avery high level of skill in the crafts- men of the settlement. Among the RAJAT SANYAL, head of the Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, who led the excavation, in one of the trenches, FRONTLINE ~ JUNE33,2018 96 CARNELIAN BEAD. materials recovered was a tiny, per- fectly made bead of just 1.5 mm size, with a hole in its centre for a thread to pass through. This microscopic piece of art is made of chalcedony and produced from the most primit- ive stone tools, “I really cannot an- swer how something as delicate as this could have survived thousands of years, Itis amarvel how they could have created something like this,” said Sanyal. The biggest piece of bead that has been found in the siteis 8.2 em long, and made of carnelian. ‘The stone tools that the people of the settlement used to make the arte- facts were mostly made of chert and quartz. Some of the tools were also made from bones of animals. Sanyal pointed out that the craftsmen had a specific technique, known as fluting, for making these stone tools. This technique involves slicing out uni- form blades from a prepared cyl: indrieal core by applying constant vertical pressure. “This technique is very common to many protohistorie sites in central India and the Deccan. But in Bengal we do not have enough evidence of this technique being used in the protohistorie period,” said Sanyal. According to Sujit Dasgupta, former Deputy Director General of the Geological Survey of India, who has also been associated with this project right from the beginning, such chalcolithie sites can mostly be found in the upland region of the western fringe of the Bhagirathi.