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Porunthal excavations prove existence of Indian scripts in 5th century BCE: expert

 

 

Published: October 15, 2011 03:46 IST | Updated: October 15, 2011 03:50 IST

 

Kavita Kishore
Director of the excavation at Porunthal, K. Rajan elaborating on his findings on Thursday. Photo: T. Singaravelou
The Hindu Director of the excavation at Porunthal, K. Rajan elaborating on his findings on Thursday. Photo: T. Singaravelou

New results from the analysis of paddy grains found in the Porunthal graveyard archaeological site prove that writing systems in India were in existence in the 5th Century BC, predating the arrival of Asoka, according to history professor at the Pondicherry University and director of the excavation project at Porunthal K. Rajan.

Rice paddy samples that were contained in an engraved pot found inside one of the graves were found to be from 450 BC when analysed using Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) by the Beta Analytic Lab, USA, he said, addressing a private gathering organised by the Manarkeni journal.

Earlier, paddy sample from another grave was dated at 490 BC, but many scholars were unwilling to accept evidence obtained from only one sample. The analysis of the second sample proved that Tamil-Brahmi writing existed in the 5th century BC and was not invented in the 3rd century BC as was previously believed by scholars, he said. This was also the first time anyone had discovered Tamil-Brahmi script along with rice in any archaeological site. Scholars were still debating on the exact letters that were written and its meaning, he said.

Another significant discovery from the gravesite is that the paddy samples obtained in the graves in Porunthal were cultivated paddy of the Orissa Satvaika variety, he said.

The Porunthal site is located 12 km South West of Palani and was discovered to have archaeological value in 2006. In 2009-2010, Mr. Rajan and his team of 80 students started excavation at the site, which was divided into two sections – one area for habitation and one area with a graveyard. There were over 100 graves in the region, but with modernisation of the area, several graves have been destroyed and now only 30 graves are still intact, he said.

In the graves that were studied, it was found that while most of the containers found in the graves were made after the person's death, there was one container that showed signs of use. The team also found a pot with around 2 kilos of rice paddy, which had been sealed in airtight containers. These graves also contained a large number of beads, which were predominantly glass. The pottery in the grave was also engraved with Tamil-Brahmi script, he said. In two of the graves, the team found over 11,000 beads, which were made from glass or paste. The beads were originally made in the Vidarbha region, indicating a trade relationship between the two regions, he said.

The team had also unearthed a skeleton adorned with a necklace of beads in one of the graves, but they had not yet analysed the bones, he said. The excavation team also found pottery with a pea**** design on it.

In his speech at the event, editor of the Manarkeni journal D. Ravikumar expressed distress at the destruction of various archaeological sites in the Porunthal region by quarries. History scholars T. Subramaniam, K. Vijayavenugopal and Raj Gouthaman spoke.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/article2538550.ece?homepage=true

A Note on Porunthal Excavations

 

See more images at: http://heritageindiatrust.org/Porunthal.aspx

 

Porunthal  (77° 28’ 38” E; 10° 22’ 58” N), a tiny village, situated on the foothill of Western Ghat about 12 km southwest Palani lies close to major trade route connecting Madurai, the Pandya capital on the south and Vanji, the celebrated Chera capital on the bank of River Periyar in Thirssur District of Kerala. Famous Roman coin hoard site Kalayamuttur discovered in 1856 lies on the bank of river Porunthilaru, 6 km north of Porunthal village.  It yielded 63 gold coins issued between 8 BC and 193 AD. Similar Roman coin hoards were discovered at Budinattam near Udumalaipettai, Attu Pollachi and at Pollachi on the same west bound trade route. The celebrated Ayiraimalai with goddess Korravai worshipped by the Sangam Age Chera kings lies on this trade route. This Peruvazhi (highway) connecting Kerala and Tamil Nadu served as an important trade route since Early Historic times.

 

 

 

 

Historically, the village Porunthal was part of the territorial division known as Vaikavur nadu, named after the main village Vaikavur or Aviyur. Other names mentioned about these territorial divisions were Avi-nadu, Vaikavi-nadu, Vaiyavi-naduand Vaiyapuri-nadu, all denoting the same region. The fragmentary inscription dated to 11th century AD found on the footstep of Marutha-Kali-Amman-Koil mention this village as part of Vaikavi-nadu. Vaikavur was the ancient name of present pilgrimage town Palani. Another name of Palani was Pothini. One of the important clan groups settled in this area wasAviyar kudi. Vel-Avi-k-ko-p-perum-pekan, the famous Vel chieftains, ruled this region. Sangam poets like Kabilan, Van-Paranar, Aricil-Kilar and Perunkunrur-Kilar (Purananuru 143-147) composed in praise of this chieftain. The Sangam literature Akananuru (Akam. 1 and 61) and Purananuru (142) mention this place as Pothini belongs to the Vel chieftain Nedu-Vel-Avi. Further, the place Pothini was noted as a pon-udai-nedu-nagar-pothini meaning the big houses having gold. As per Sangam poem Padirruppattu, another important chieftain Vel-Avi-k-ko-Paduman had matrimonial relations with Cheras who ruled this region with capital at Karur (ancient Vanji) located on the confluence of river Amaravathi with Kaveri. Due to his close relation with Cheras, this chieftain Vel-Avi-k-ko-Paduman had a palace near Vanji.

 

 

 

 

The famous Jain centre Ayiraimalai lies about 15 km northwest of this site. Jain beds were found in the natural cavern on the eastern side of the hillock. Several Jain sculptures in bas-relief were found at the entrance of the cavern and the inscriptions invatteluttu character clearly point to the fact that this centre was survived as great Jain centre. The Sangam poemPatirruppattu (21, 70, 79) mentioned this place as Ayirai which had the Cheras family deity Goddess Korravai.

 

 

 

 

Some important trade guild inscriptions issued by the celebrated trade guild Ainurruvar/Tisai-ayirattu-ainurruvar were located about 5 km from Porunthal down the stream at Tamaraikulam and Rajapuram. Tamaraikulam lies on the right bank and Rajapuram lies on the left bank opposite to Tamaraikulam. It is quite interesting to note that both the sites met with trade guild inscriptions suggesting the east-west trade route that would have crossed the river at this point. The inscription issued during the reign of Vijayanagara king Mallikarjunaraya engraved on the north wall of the Subramanya Temple at Palani referred to this trade route as Peruvalzhi that goes to Kolumam (South Indian Inscriptions Vol. 5, No.286).

 

 

 

 

The village Tamaraikulam, located north of Porunthal village on the right bank of the river Poruthalaru, was known for several archaeological findings. The habitation mound, locally called Tukkottai, yielded several graffiti marks engraved on the shoulder portions of black and red ware, russet coated ware and red ware. Besides, iron furnace, TC pipes, tuyeres, hop scotches, etc., were collected from the disturbed habitation mound covering an area of about 10 acres. Urn burials with skeletal remains were found exposed earlier.

 

 

 

 

A Tripurantaka bronze image was discovered a decade ago while digging a basement for the construction of a school building. Again, two years later, another Nataraja bronze image was unearthed. Besides, Bairava and Saptamatrika sculptures were found at Sengalu-nir-medu. A trade guild inscription belongs to 1192 AD issued during the 9th regnal of Parakesari Viracholan, a Kongu Chola, was unearthed in the cultivated field. It refers to the trade guild Ainurruvar. Another inscription found at Rajapuram speaks on an endowment made by the Pathinen-bhumi [tisai-ayirattu-ainurruvar] to the Siva temple.

 

 

 

 

Keeping potentiality of the region, the entire Amaravathi valley was surveyed as part of Ph.D programme by V.P.Yatheeskumar, Research Scholar of Pondicherry University and nearly 175 archaeological sites were discovered. The site Porunthal was one among them. The habitation mound covering an area of about 5.5 ha. of elevated field locally calledpaci-medu meaning bead mound (paci > bead; medu > mound) lies south of Marutha-kali-amman-koil. In support of this name, innumerable beads made of glass and paste were collected on the surface. The occurrence of fragments of tuyeres, slag and furnace materials on the surface clearly suggested that the site might have survived as bead manufacturing centre for a longer period of time. Iron Age grave yard, consist of stone circles entombing cist/urn burial numbering around 50, was noticed at the foothill near the present hamlets Chinnagandhipuram, Kavalapatti and Puliyampatti. Dolmen sites were located at Periyaduraikombai and Salpulparai. Black and Red ware, Red ware and Black ware were collected from 2 m deposit.

 

 

 

 

The availability of early historical vestiges in and around Porunthal like coin hoards, trade guild inscriptions, graffiti marks and brick structures, was instrumental for selecting the site for excavations. Prof. K.Rajan, Head, Department of History, Pondicherry University initiated the excavation programme with generous financial support of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil and Archaeological Survey of India. Such excavation programme is undertaken for the first time in Pondicherry University under the direction of Vice Chancellor Prof.J.A.K.Tareen.

 

 

 

 

Three trenches were laid in the bead mound to identify various technological aspects of glass making. Three floor levels were identified in 1.5 m cultural deposit dating between 1st century AD and 3rd century AD. There are nearly 2000 glass beads of various sizes and colours collected from 50 sq.m digging area. The 50 sq.m amounts to 0.25 % of the total bead mound.  If one exposes the entire mound of 5.5 ha. area, one may encounter with minimum of a million beads. These too are the refuses left by our ancestors as the best ones were being used or sold.

 

 

 

 

Luckily, the team encountered with a glass polishing furnace in one of the trenches. The ashy material collected from the furnace alone yielded 60 beads. Quite interestingly, more than twenty identical red ware bowls with short base and wide mouth noticed near the furnace along with triangular terracotta pieces. The edges of the terracotta pieces were smoothened due to constant rubbing. Prof. P.Shanmugam, former Professor of Archaeology, University of Madras felt that these symmetrical bowls and the triangular terracotta pieces made out of pottery might have been used for polishing the glass beads. The non-availability of long tubular specimens near to the furnace and the availability of cut-pieces (beads) suggest that there would have been some more furnaces where one could expect the first stage of glass bead making. There are several hundreds of paste beads lying on the northern part of the mound with glass slag.

 

 

 

 

The excavations revealed two phases of glass bead making. In the later phase of the industrial activity, most of the beads, nearly 90%, are paste beads. In the early phase, green glass beads were predominate. Such green beads meant for export to Roman world during early historic times collected in recent excavations at Pattanam, the ancient Muciri port of Cheras, said Dr.P.J.Cherian, Director, Kerala Council of Historical Research on his visit to the site. This industrial site needs to be fixed in wider trade net-work keeping in view of its closeness to  ancient trade route. Prof. Y.Subbarayalu, Head, Department of Indology, French Institute of Pondicherry who studied extensively on trade guild inscriptions of this area expressed the view that this region should be seen in the back drop of continuous commercial activity witnessed along this route during medieval times. Dr.S.Rajavelu, Assistant Superintending Epigraphist of Archaeological Survey of India, further explores this area and copied such trade guild inscriptions at Kothaimangalam and Karaiyur.

 

 

 

 

The second trench dug on the western side of the trench yielding furnace had ashy material suggesting greater industrial activity. This trench yielded more than 1000 glass beads. More than ten red ware bowls placed in a row near the furnace also noticed in this trench. The other important antiquities recovered from this single cultural deposit were ivory dice, terracotta ear lopes, ear rings, games men and hop scotches. Other important antiquities to be noted were a male figurine and a humped bull, all made of Terracotta. The well-modelled male figure with prominent human facial feature made out of pinching method has elongated body, broad shoulder and short legs, all suggestive of archaic figure generally dated to 1st century AD. Such unique terracotta figurines were not reported elsewhere in Tamil Nadu. Near to these figurines, a square Sangam Age copper coin was also recovered. Since it is in bad state of preservation, symbols on the coin yet to be identified. Besides, a celt was recovered near the floor of the second trench.

 

 

 

 

A brick wall with width of 90 cm, probably corner of a building, unearthed in the third trench laid in the southern fringe of the mound had four courses of brick built by using English bond method. Two sizes of brick were exposed measuring 7x21x42 cm and 8x24x48 cm, all in the ratio of 1:3:6 showing the technological skill of the early historic people. The binding material used in the structure was clay. Dr.D.Dayalan, Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India expressed such brick structures were generally found in the urban centres, port towns and capital cities of early historic times like Kaveripattinam, Uraiyur, Pattanam and Arikamedu. The present Porunthal evidence reflects its commercial nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prof.K.Nachimuthu, Tamil Chair, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi opined in the back-drop of Sangam literature, this region has a unique place in early historic times. Sangam Age chieftains like Pekan and Kumanan hold sway over this region under the celebrated Cheras. Their territorial holding pattern also goes along the trade route, which suggests that these chieftains would have also played a considerable role in the flourishing trade net-work. The Sangam Age poet Porunthil Ilang-Kiranar who hails from this village Porunthil composed poem in honour of Mantharal-Cheral-Irumporai is suggestive of the literary activity of those times (Akananuru 19, 351and Purananuru 53).

 

 

 

 

A Note on a Grave

 

 

 

 

Several burials belonging to Iron Age as well as Early Historic phase were noticed 2 km west of the site near the foothill. They were of cist burials, both of simple and transepted variety. One of the graves having a diameter of 12.50 m was opened. The cist with passage was meticulously placed at the centre of the stone circle made of huge boulders. The cist was divided into two parts resulting with southern and northern chambers. The dividing transept slab also had a porthole. The southern chamber yielded four-legged jars and pots of red polished ware, bowl of black and red ware and plates of black slipped ware. These were placed on a bench like floor slab at the front porthole level. More than 3000 beads made of steatite, etched and plain carnelian, agate and quartz were recovered at this level. These grave goods were placed close to skeletal remains. These cultural items were placed on a slab suggesting a kind of ritual taken place at this point. The northern chamber yielded grave goods consist of four legged jars and pots of red slipped ware, conical black and red ware vase, black slipped ring stand and black and red ware pots. These pots placed one upon the other. On the floor slab, several ring stands made of black slipped as well as red slipped ware were found.

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, one ring stand of a red slipped ware was placed almost at the centre of the northern chamber. Around this ring stand, 22 etched carnelian beads were placed like a garland. Inside the ring stand, five more beads were also noticed. On the exterior surface of the ring stand, four symbols were engraved. The first three symbols look like a Tamil-Brahmi script and the fourth one is definitely a graffiti mark. The first three symbols are relatively smaller in size when compared with the fourth symbol (graffiti mark). Like fourth symbol, several identical graffiti marks were found in almost all the pots placed as grave goods. This graffiti mark also engraved on the ring stand on its opposite side. But the first three Tamil-Brahmi like symbols were found only on the ring stand. If we consider these group of symbols as graffiti then the grave may be placed in Iron Age and if we consider the symbols as Tamil-Brahmi script then the grave could be dated to early historic times. Keeping the historical importance of these symbols, opinion is sought from leading epigraphists of this country. Sri.Iravatahm Mahadevan clearly identifies the first three symbols as Tamil-Brahmi script and read it as va-yi-ra. Iravatahm Mahadevan is dated to 1stcentury AD. Dr.S.Rajavelu of Archaeological Survey of India and Dr.V.Vedachalam also agrees with Sri.Iravatham Mahadevan. Prof.Y.Subbarayalu, Head, Dept. of Indology, had some reservation and he feels that it is likely to be graffiti marks and it needs close examination. Prof.P.Shanmugam of Madras University and Dr.S.Rajagopal goes along with the opinion of Prof.Y.Subbarayalu. Such examples having a pot engraved Tamil-Brahmi script reading visaki unearthed earlier in a grave at Kodumanal.

 

 

 

 

Besides, a pair of stirrup was placed close to this ring stand. Around the stirrup, thousands of steatite beads were placed. In total, this grave alone was yielded about 7500 beads of steatite, carnelian, quartz and agate along with iron swords, arrow heads and several pots like ring stands, bowls, plates, dishes, bowls, legged jars and vases. These were the highest number of beads so far collected from any grave of Tamil Nadu.  Another important finding was of paddy placed as grave good in one of the biggest 90 cm high four legged jars. Such huge quantity of well preserved paddy nearly 2 kg was collected first time in the grave. The occurrence of paddy in a grave of 2000 years old reflects their agricultural potentiality. The richness of the grave goods, size of the chamber, the high level of rituals performed and occurrence of the unique script, paddy and stirrup points to the greatness of the man who buried in the grave. Skeletal remains also collected from the grave. In all probability, as rightly pointed out by Prof.Y.Subbarayalu, this grave would have been meant for a chieftain or a clan leader.

 

 

 

 

Several scholars who visited during excavations appreciated the collective will and dedication of the students from various universities like Mangalore University, Sri Venkateswara University, Tamil University and Pondicherry University. Such participation helps to enhance the human resource in this field. During excavations, students have been exposed to different scientific aspects of archaeological research such as excavations methods, surveying, geology, plant science, GIS and epigraphy by scholars like Dr.Anupama, Mr.S.Prasad and Sri.Muthu Shankar of French Institute of Pondicherry, Dr.V.Subramaniam, Reader in Geology, National College, Trichy, Senior Epigraphists Dr.R.Poongundran, Dr.V.Vedachalam and Senior Archaeologists Dr.C.Santhalingam and Dr.T.Subramanian.

http://heritageindiatrust.org/Porunthal.aspx

 

Additional notes at 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil-Brahmi

 

Subramaniam, T.S (29 August 2011). "Palani excavation triggers fresh debate"The Hindu (The Hindu). Retrieved 7 October 2011.

A team from Department of History, Pondicherry University excavated a Megalthic cist-burial in 2009 CE at Porunthal a village, on the foothills of the Western Ghats, 12 km from Palani in Tamil Nadu. They found two underground chambers that contained a grave. The grave had a skull and skeletal bones, a four-legged jar with two kg of paddy inside, two ring-stands inscribed with the Tamil-Brahmi script reading “va-y-ra” (meaning diamond) and a symbol of a gem with a thread passing through it, 7,500 beads made ofcarneliansteatitequartz and agate, three pairs of iron stirrups, iron swords, knives, four-legged jars of heights ranging from few centimeters to one meter, urns, vases, plates and bowls. Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dating of the paddy done by Beta Analysis Inc., MiamiU.S.A, assigned the paddy to 490 BCE. According to Prof. Rajan of Pondicherry University, as all goods were placed at the same time, he dated the Tamil-Brahmi writing to the same 490 BCE date.



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NOT A FIGMENT OF IMAGINATION: Paintings of horses found in caves in southern France.New study says leopard spotting existed in Stone Age horses 

Spotted horses in cave art are not fictitious,DNA study shows 

Artists Painted Images Of Animals That Existed 25,000 Years Ago 

Hillary Rosner 


Roughly 25,000 years ago in what is now southwestern France,human beings walked deep into a cave and left their enduring marks.Using materials like sticks,charcoal and iron oxides,they painted images of animals on the cave walls and ceilings lions and mammoths and spotted horses,walking and grazing and congregating in herds.Today,the art at the Pech-Merle cave,and in hundreds of others across Europe,is a striking testimony to human creativity well before modern times.
But what were these cave paintings,exactly Were prehistoric artists simply sketching what they saw each day on the landscape Or were the images more symbolic,diverging from reality or representing rare or even mystical creatures Such questions have divided archaeologists for years.
Now,a group of researchers has used distinctly modern techniques to help decipher the mystery,at least in the case of Pech-Merles famous spotted horses.
By comparing the DNA of modern horses and those that lived during the Stone Age,scientists have determined that these drawings are a realistic depiction of an animal that coexisted with the artists.
The research grew out of an effort to discern the coat colors of ancient horses to help figure out when the animals were domesticated,a pivotal moment in the development of human societies.
In general,domesticated species exist in a far greater variety of colors than wild ones,so understanding color variation in fossil animals can help pinpoint the timing.
Previous research on DNA from the bones and teeth of horses that lived 7,000 to 20,000 years ago showed that those animals were either black or bay (a brown coat with a black mane and tail).That work was published in the journal Science in 2009.
Since then,geneticists have deciphered the underlying code for the spotted pattern,known as leopard,in modern horses.So the scientists went back to their samples,looking for the leopard sequence in horses that lived in Europe 11,000 to 15,000 years ago.
There is a striking correspondence between the coat-color patterns of horses painted in Paleolithic caves of France with what geneticists found in the genotypes the specific genetic sequences of color genes, said Hopi E Hoekstra,an evolutionary biologist at Harvard who studies pigmentation.Dr Hoekstra was not involved in the study but called it very convincing. 
An author of the study,Michael Hofreiter,an evolutionary biologist at the University of York in England,said,Why they took the effort making these beautiful paintings will always remain a miracle to us.NYT NEWS SERVICE



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Unravelling mystery of the mighty Saraswati - Gautam Dheer

 
Unravelling mystery of the mighty Saraswati

Gautam Dheer in Chandigarh

ScreenShot289.bmp
Kalayat. Kapila Muni ashram. A sudden gush of water near four separate temple sites baffled geologists

It was once eulogised as the mother of seven rivers flowing in the northern region, fierce and roaring in all its full grandeur. But the majesty of the erstwhile Saraswati river is long lost. The mighty river does not flow anymore, but the quest for its lost remains in Haryana has intrigued geologists like never before. And this unflinching pursuit could well be the answer to mitigate water scarcity in starved regions, besides offering a bounty of rich placer mining.

Sometime ago, a sudden gush of water from below the surface near four separate temple sites in Haryana left geologists burning midnight oil in pursuit of the lost remains of the erstwhile mighty Saraswati river. The exploration that eventually followed only reinforced their theory of the existence of numerous paleo-channels (dried river tracks beneath the earth) of the erstwhile river, deep aquifers further below and buried remains of the river. The water still continues to spill out. Geologists say the river may not flow today, but its buried channels still exist in Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Talking to Deccan Herald, Dr A R Chaudhary, professor of the Geology Department, Kurukshetra University in Haryana, who has pioneered this research and is in charge of a full-fledged Saraswati River Research Laboratory at the university, said that a mighty river of the magnitude of Saraswati must have had a perennial source. 

He said: “Satellite imageries suggest the presence of several paleo-channels indicating a major river flow that once existed. Laboratory analysis of sediments collected from the water that came out of these two sites suggest a dense mineral content of higher Himalayan hills, which only reinforced our theory.”

Dr Chaudhary, who has been working on Himalayas and the Saraswati for about two decades, said the research is significant as it attempts to address the critical issue of water scarcity, something which could be a major problem area in the future. “The existence of deeper aquifers, and more significantly the phenomena of these getting re-charged could eventually lead to huge untapped fresh water reserves. The paleo-channels are also getting re-charged,” he said.

Here’s what the way forward is. Oil exploration major, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) is gearing up to dig deep within the surface in search of fresh water trapped in these deep aquifers. The process is likely to be outsourced to the Hyderabad-based National Geo-Physical Research Institute and Dr Chaudhary, for which talks are underway, sources said. ONGC has undertaken this project as part of its corporate social responsibility to address issues of water scarcity in the region. 

A memorandum of understanding with stakeholders, including the governments of Haryana and Gujarat, have been signed by ONGC to initiate digging and scientific exploration.

Haryana has attained a special status in the endeavour to unravel the mystery
associated with this river of the Indian subcontinent. In Haryana, nearly 103 early Harappan (2500-2200 BC) archaeological sites related to the Saraswati river civilisation have been identified. These sites are spread across various districts of Haryana. The battle of Mahabharata was fought on the fields of Kurukshetra, which were dotted by hermitage sites of numerous renowned ascetics along the course of the Saraswati. So what went wrong in geological time, some 9,000 years ago. Dr Chaudhary maintained that the disappearance of the mighty Saraswati was because of the rise in the Himalayan mountain chain, among other reasons. 

He said the major diversions in the course of the gigantic Satluj river, which in fact was a major contributor of the erstwhile Saraswati along with the Yamuna, could possibly have let the Saraswati to lose its flow. “The deeper aquifers related to the paleo-channels of the Saraswati, through which flowed billions of million cubic metres of fresh water for a considerable period of geologic time, hold the key for mitigation of water scarcity in the 
region,” he said.

Historically, the venerated Hindu texts, are replete with references of a major 
river which drained the northern part of the country. The Saraswati, Dr Chaudhary said, is supposed to have originated in the glaciated region of the Himalayas and 
during its passage to the Arabian Sea, the river roared as it carried peaks of newly 
upheaved mountains as flowers in its flow. The river, as per the vedas, is supposed to have bestowed upon the people huge material and spiritual benefits. Along the path of the Saraswati flourished numerous agrarian civilisations.

Investigations carried out by a team of geologists reveals that the Saraswati glacier branch of the Saraswati flowed through Yamunanagar and Kurukshetra districts in Haryana before it joined the Ghaggar river at Rasula in the Patiala district of Punjab.

Research

A buried river bed in Haryana village has revealed an estimated width of this paleo-channel to be more than 2 km. Intensive surface and sub-surface geological investigations, including detailed study of satellite imageries of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh, have been carried out before inferences were finally drawn. 

Dr Chaudhary said he has identified a number of paleo-channels along the vedic tract of the erstwhile Saraswati river. These widely spaced signatures include water coming out of Kapil Muni temple Sarovar and Chyavan Giri kund at Kalayat in the Jind district. 
Subsurface geological studies in Kurukshetra and presence of buried river bed in the Pehowa district of Haryana have reinforced the research theory. 

The analysis of sediments, including textural and dense mineral analysis of the sediments coming out with water, have been carried out to ascertain their major depositional environment and provenance. 

The dense mineral assemblage from the above mentioned sites suggests that the sediments have been derived from very high pressure plate tectonic setting. The 
river channel that deposited these sedim­ents was trans-Himalayan in character, 
Dr Chaudhary said.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/206073/unravelling-mystery-mighty-saraswati.html


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யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் பூர்வீக மக்கள் பயன்படுத்திய சுடுமண் கிணறுகள்

 
ரேணுகா சின்னராசா,
முன்னாள் உதவி விரிவுரையாளர் (தொல்லியல்),
யாழ்ப்பாண பல்கலைக்கழகம்.

தற்போது யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் பண்பாட்டில் உள்ள பாவனைப்பொருட்கள் எல்லாம் பிற்காலத்தில் தற்செயலாகத் தோற்றியவையல்ல. பலவற்றுக்குத் தொன்மையான தொடர்ச்சியான வரலாறு உண்டு. 
ஆனால் அவை தொழிநுட்ப வளர்ச்சி, நாகரீக மாற்றம், பிற பண்பாட்டுச் செல்வாக்கு என்பவற்றுக்கு ஏற்ப பல மாற்றங்களைப் பெற்றுத் தற்காலத்தில் புதிய தோற்றத்துடன் காணப்படுகின்றன. அதற்கு உதாரணமாக யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் பண்டைய கால மக்கள் பயன்படுத்திய சுடுமண் கிணறுகளைக் குறிப்பிடலாம். 

1971 ஆம் ஆண்டு பென்சில்வேனிய பல்கலைக்கழக அரும் பொருள் ஆய்வாளரான விமலா பேக்லே, கந்தரோடையில் மேற்கொண்ட அகழ்வாய்வின் மூலம் ஏறக்குறைய இற்றைக்கு 3000 ஆண்டில் இருந்து இங்கு மனித வரலாறு தொடங்கியமை உறுதிப்படுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளது. இக்குடியேற்றத்தை முதலில் ஏற்படுத்தியவர்கள் பெருங்கற்காலப் பண்பாட்டைப் பின்பற்றிய திராவிடர் என்பது அவரது கருத்தாகும். இவர்கள் பயன்படுத்திய பலவகைப்பட்ட மட்பாண்டங்கள், கைவினைப்பொருட்கள், கல் மணிகள் , இரும்புக் கருவிகள் சமகாலத் தமிழக பெருங்காலப் மக்கள் பயன்படுத்திய பொருட்களை ஒத்துக் காணப்பட்டதால் அங்கிருந்தே இம்மக்கள் முதலில் இங்கு வந்து குடியேறி இருக்க வேண்டும் என்பது தொல்லியலாளர்களின் பொதுவான கருத்தாகும். இம்மக்களே சம காலத்திலும் சற்றுப் பிற்பட்ட காலத்திலும் யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் ஏனைய இடங்களிலும் குடியேறி இருந்தனர். 

அண்மையில் யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் புராதன குடியிருப்புகள் பற்றி ஆய்வு செய்த கலாநிதி இரகுபதி ஏறத்தாழ 40 இற்கு மேற்பட்ட இடங்களில் இரு பூர்வீகக் குடியிருப்புகள் இருந்ததற்கான தொல்லியல் ஆதாரங்களை வெளிப்படுத்தியுள்ளார். இக்குடியிருப்புகள் பெரும்பாலும் கடற்கரையை அண்டிய மணற்பாங்கான இடங்களிலேயே முதலிற் ஏற்பட்டிருந்ததனைக் காணமுடிகிறது. இதற்கு அதிக தொழில் நுட்பத்தைப் பயன்படுத்தாது அழிக்கக் கூடிய பற்றைக்காடுகள், இலகுவாக நீர்ப்பெறக்கூடிய மண் தன்மை, கடல் உணவைப் பெறக்கூடிய ஆழம் குறைந்த பரவைக்கடல், கடல் - தரை வழிப்போக்குவரத்துக்குச் சாதனமாக தரைத்தோற்றம் என்பவற்றுக்கு இவ்விடங்கள் சாதகமாக இருந்தமை முக்கிய காரணிகள் ஆகும். 

இதனால் மணற்பாங்கான கடற்கரைப் பகுதியில் குடியிருப்புகளை ஏற்படுத்தி மக்கள் முதலில் அவ்விடங்களில் கிடைத்த மூல வளங்களுக்கு ஏற்பத் தமது தேவைகளை பூர்த்தி செய்ய வேண்டியிருந்தது. அவற்றுள் அவர்களது நாளாந்த வாழ்க்கைக்கு அடிப்படைத் தேவையாக இருந்த நீரைப் பெறுவதற்கு அவர்கள் கையாண்ட தொழிநுட்பம் இங்கு சிறப்பாகக் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. 

பொதுவாக வைரமான மண்ணுள்ள இடங்களில் நீரைப்பெறுவதற்கு கூடிய தொழிநுட்பமும் அதிக மனித வலுவும் நீண்ட காலமும் தேவையானால் அவ்வாறான தொழிநுட்பம் அன்றைய காலகட்டத்தில் இலங்கையில் வளரவில்லை. தென்னிலங்கையில் இயற்கையாகத் தோன்றிய ஆறுகள், குளங்கள் நீர்போக்குவரத்துக்குச் சாதகமாக இருந்தமையால் மக்கள் அவ்விடங்களை அண்டிக் குடியிருப்புகளை ஏற்படுத்தினர். ஆனால் யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் அந்தவாய்ப்புகள் இல்லை. அதனால்தான் சிறிய தொழிநுட்பத்துடன் இலகுவாக நீரைப் பெறக்கூடிய மணற்பாங்கான இடங்களில் குடியிருப்புகளை ஏற்படுத்தினர். 


அவ்வாறு குடியிருப்புகளை ஏற்படுத்திய மக்கள் தமக்கு வேண்டிய நீரைப் மணற்பாங்கான இடங்களில் சிறிய குழியை அல்லது கிணற்றை ஏற்படுத்தி இலகுவாகப் பெற்றுக் கொண்டனர். ஆயினும் அக்கிணறுகள் அல்லது குழிகள் காற்றாலும் மழையாலும் இலகுவாக மறைந்து போகும் தன்மையைக் கொண்டிருந்தன. 

இதனால் அவற்றை அழியாது பாதுகாக்க புதிய தொழிநுட்பத்தைப் பயன்படுத்த வேண்டிய தேவை இருந்தது. அதன் விளைவே சுட்ட மண்ணைப் பயன்படுத்தி அமைக்கப்பட்ட சுடு மண் கிணறுகள் தோன்றக் காரணமாயின. இதை யாழ்ப்பாணத்தின் பூர்வீக மக்கள் பயன்படுத்திய முதலாவது தொழிநுட்பங்களில் ஒன்று எனவும் எடுத்துக்கொள்ளலாம். 

ஆயினும் இது யாழ்ப்பாண மக்கள் கண்டுபிடித்த தொழில்நுட்பம் அன்று. இந்தியாவில் சிந்துவெளி நாகரிக காலம்தொட்டு இதன் பயன்பாடு இருந்துள்ளது. இலங்கைப் பிரதேசத்தில் கி.மு. 4 ஆம் நூற்றாண்டில் இது 2ஆவது நகர மயமாக்கத்துடன், அதிக அளவில் பயன்படுத்தியதற்கு ஆதாரம் உண்டு. தமிழகத்தில் அரிக்க மேட்டு பெருங்கற்கால மக்கள் சாயவேரைப் பதனிடவும், குடிநீரைப் பெறவும், கழிவு நீரைத் தேக்கி வைக்கவும் இவ்வகையான சுடுமண் கிணறுகளைப் பயன்படுத்தினார். இதன் பயன்பாடு ஆதிகாலத்தில் மட்டுமன்றி மிக அண்மைக்காலம் வரை தமிழகத்திலும் இலங்கையிலும் பயன்பாட்டில் இருந்ததற்குச் சான்றுகள் உண்டு. குறிப்பாகப் பெருநிலப்பரப்பில் ஒல்லாந்தர் ஆட்சியில் சாயவேர் பதனிடலுக்கும் நல்ல நீரைப் பெறுவதற்கும் இச்சுடுமண் கிணறுகள் அமைக்கப்பட்டன. 

ஆயினும் 2004 ஆம் ஆண்டு வேலணையில் சாட்டி என்ற இடத்தில் பேராசிரியர் புஸ்பரட்ணம் தலைமையில் யாழ். பல்கலைக்கழகத் தொல்லியல் மாணவர்கள் மேற்கொண்ட ஆய்வின் போது கண்டுபிடிக்கப்பட்ட புராதன சுடுமண் கிணறு இங்கு சிறப்பாகக் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. கடற்கரையை அண்டிய இவ்விடம் முன்பு மணல்மேடுகளாக இருந்ததாக அவ்வூர் மக்கள் கூறுகின்றனர். ஆனால் நாம் ஆய்வு மேற்கொண்ட காலத்தில் அவ்விடம் கடலுடன் தொடர்புடைய சிறிய பள்ளமாகவே இருந்தது . இருப்பினும் முன்னொரு காலத்தில் இவ்விடங்களில் மக்கள் வாழ்ந்ததை உறுதிப்படுத்தும் மண்மேடுகள் சிறிய பற்றைக்காடுகளுடன் காணப்பட்டன. அவ்வாறான மேடு ஒன்று ஆய்வுக்கு உட்படுத்தப்பட்டபோது ஏறத்தாழ 12 அடி ஆழத்தில் பண்டைய மக்கள் பயன்படுத்திய சுடுமண் கிணற்றைக் கண்டுபிடிக்க முடிந்தது. 

இச்சுடுமண் கிணறு வட்ட வடிவில் சிறு சிறு துண்டுகளாகச் சுடப்பட்ட களிமண் தட்டுகளைக் கொண்டு வட்டவடிவில் கட்டப்பட்டிருந்தது. எமது ஆய்வின் போது 3 அடுக்குகளின் கட்டப்பட்ட சுடுமண் கிணற்றின் முழுப்பாகத்தையும் கண்டறிய முடியாத அளவுக்கு நீர் பெருக்கெடுத்து அதன் சுற்றுப்புறங்கள் நீரும் வீழ்ந்து மூழ்கியதால் அதன் எஞ்சிய பாகங்களைக் கண்டறிய முடியவில்லை. இதனால் கிடைத்த பாகங்களைக் கொண்டு சுடுமண் கிணறு எவ்வாறு இருந்ததென அடையாளம் காணமுடிந்தது. 

சுடுமண் காணப்பட்ட இடத்தில் மேற்படையிலிருந்து 2 ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகளுக்கு மேற்பட்ட முத்திரை, நாணயம், ரோமர் கால மட்பாண்ட ஓடுகள், பிராமி எழுத்துப் பொறித்த மட்பாண்ட ஓடுகள் கிடைத்திருப்பதால் இச்சுடுமண் கிணறு இற்றைக்கு 2 ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முற்பட்டது என கூறலாம். 

இவ்வகையான சுடுமண் கிணறுகள் சாட்டியில் மட்டுமன்றி வல்லிபுரம், பொன்னா வெளி போன்ற இடங்களிலும் கண்டுபிடிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. காலப்போக்கில் இச்சுடுமண் கிணறுகளுக்குப் பதிலாகப் பெரிய மரங்களை வட்டமாக அறுத்து அதன் உட்பாகங்களைக் கோதியதன் பின்னர் அவற்றை மணற்பாங்கான இடங்களில் புதைத்து , கழிவுப்பொருட்கள் , மண் என்பன உள்ளே செல்லாதவாறு தடுத்து மக்கள் நீரைப்பெற்றனர். அவை கொட்டுக் கிணறுகள் என்ற பெயரால் அழைக்கப்படுகின்றன. இவற்றின் பயன்பாடு இன்றும் சில இடங்களில் காணப்படுகின்றன. இதன் இன்னொரு கட்ட வளர்ச்சியே கல்லினாலும் பின்னர் சீமெந்தினாலும் கட்டப்பட்ட கிணறுகளாகும்.

நன்றி - கலைக்கேசரி
www.yarlmann.lk


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Indian diversity. Last genetic nail driven into the AMT-Aryan-Dravidian divide coffin: (Metspalu, Gyaneshwer Chaubey et al, AJHG, Dec. 2011)

 

 
Genetic study finds no evidence for Aryan Migration Theory--On the contrary, South Indians migrated to north and South Asians migrated into Eurasia

What geneticists consider a landmark paper has just been published in a highly reputed scientific journal, American Journal of Human Genetics, authored by an international group of geneticists including Metspalu, Gyaneshwer Chaubey, Chandana Basu Mallick (Evolutionary Biology Group in Tartu, Estonia), Ramasamy Pitchappan (Chettinad Academy of Research and Education, Chennai), Lalji Singh, and Kumarasamy Thangaraj (CCMB, Hyderabad). The study is titled: Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia, The American Journal of Human Genetics (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.11.010

The study is comprehensive, unlike previous studies of human genome and is unique, because it focuses on large number of populations in South Asia, and India, a region which harbours one of the highest levels of genetic diversity in Eurasia and currently accounts for one sixth of human population in the world.

The study analysed human genetic variation on a sample of 1310 individuals that belong to 112 populations, using new genome-wide data contains more than 600,000 single nucleotide polymorphic sites among 142 samples from 30 ethnic groups of India. The most important scientific findings of the study are: 

• South Asian genetic diversity is 2nd in the world, next only to Africa, mainly due to long periods of indigenous development of lineages and with complex population structure where one can see the different caste and tribal populations.

• Two genetic components among Indians are observed: one is restricted to India and explains 50% genetic ancestry of Indian populations , while, the second which spread to West Asia and Caucasus region. Technically called “haplotype diversity”, it is a measure of the origin of the genetic component. The component which spread beyond India has significantly higher haplotype diversity in India than in any other part of world. This is clear proof that this genetic component originated in India and then spread to West Asia and Caucasus. The distribution of two genetic components among Indians clearly indicates that the Aryan-Dravidian division is a myth, Indian population landscape is clearly governed by geography.

• A remarkable finding is that the origin of these components in India is much older than 3500 years which clearly refutes Aryan Invasion theory of the type enunciated by Max Mueller ! The study also found that haplotypic diversity of this ancestry component is much greater than in Europe and the Near East (Iraq, Iran, Middle East) thus pointing to an older age of the component and/or long-term higher effective population size (that is, indigenous evolution of people). 

• Haplotype diversity associated with dark green ancestry is greatest in the south of the Indian subcontinent, indicating that the alleles underlying it most likely arose there and spread northwards.

• The study refutes Aryan migrations into India suggested by the German orientalist Max Muller that ca. 3,500 years ago a dramatic migration of Indo-European speakers from Central Asia shaping contemporary South Asian populations, introduction of the Indo-European language family and the caste system in India. A few past studies on mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation have interpreted their results in favor of the hypothesis, whereas others have found no genetic evidence to support it. The present study notes that any migration from Central Asia to South Asia should have introduced readily apparent signals of East Asian ancestry into India. The study finds that this ancestry component is absent from the region. The study, therefore, concludes that if such at all such a dispersal ever took place, it should have occurred 12,500 years ago. On the contrary, there is evidence for East Asian ancestry component reaching Central Asia at a later period.

• India has one of the world’s fastest growing incidence of type 2 diabetes as well as a sizeable number of cases of the metabolic syndrome, both of which have been linked to recent rapid urbanization. The study points to a possible genetic reasons and recommends further researches on four genes – DOKS, MSTN, CLOCK, PPARA – implicated in lipid metabolism and etiology of type 2 diabetes.

Kalyanaraman
Dec. 9, 2011

Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia
Mait Metspalu1, 2, 13, , , Irene Gallego Romero3, 13, 14, Bayazit Yunusbayev1, 4, 13, Gyaneshwer Chaubey1, Chandana Basu Mallick1, 2, Georgi Hudjashov1, 2, Mari Nelis5, 6, Reedik Mägi7, 8, Ene Metspalu2, Maido Remm7, Ramasamy Pitchappan9, Lalji Singh10, 11, Kumarasamy Thangaraj10, Richard Villems1, 2, 12 and Toomas Kivisild1, 2, 3

1 Evolutionary Biology Group, Estonian Biocentre, 51010 Tartu, Estonia
2 Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, 51010 Tartu, Estonia
3 Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QH, UK
4 Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics, Ufa Research Center, Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Department of Genetics and Fundamental Medicine, Bashkir State University, 450054 Ufa, Russia
5 Department of Biotechnology, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu and Estonian Biocentre, 51010 Tartu, Estonia
6 Department of Genetic Medicine and Development, University of Geneva Medical School, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
7 Department of Bioinformatics, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, 51010 Tartu, Estonia
8 Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology Unit, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7BN, UK
9 Chettinad Academy of Research and Education, Chettinad Health City, Chennai 603 103, India
10 Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad 500 007, India
11 Banaras Hindu University,Varanasi 221 005, India
12 Estonian Academy of Sciences, Tallinn, Estonia

Corresponding author

13 These authors contributed equally to this work

14 Present address: Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, 920 E 58th Street, CLSC 317, Chicago, IL 60637, USA


Abstract
South Asia harbors one of the highest levels genetic diversity in Eurasia, which could be interpreted as a result of its long-term large effective population size and of admixture during its complex demographic history. In contrast to Pakistani populations, populations of Indian origin have been underrepresented in previous genomic scans of positive selection and population structure. Here we report data for more than 600,000 SNP markers genotyped in 142 samples from 30 ethnic groups in India. Combining our results with other available genome-wide data, we show that Indian populations are characterized by two major ancestry components, one of which is spread at comparable frequency and haplotype diversity in populations of South and West Asia and the Caucasus. The second component is more restricted to South Asia and accounts for more than 50% of the ancestry in Indian populations. Haplotype diversity associated with these South Asian ancestry components is significantly higher than that of the components dominating the West Eurasian ancestry palette. Modeling of the observed haplotype diversities suggests that both Indian ancestry components are older than the purported Indo-Aryan invasion 3,500 YBP. Consistent with the results of pairwise genetic distances among world regions, Indians share more ancestry signals with West than with East Eurasians. However, compared to Pakistani populations, a higher proportion of their genes show regionally specific signals of high haplotype homozygosity. Among such candidates of positive selection in India are MSTN and DOK5, both of which have potential implications in lipid metabolism and the etiology of type 2 diabetes.

http://www.cell.com/AJHG/abstract/S0002-9297(11)00488-5

Free pdf download full text: http://download.cell.com/AJHG/pdf/PIIS0002929711004885.pdf

Full text with large figures: http://www.cell.com/AJHG/fulltext/S0002-9297(11)00488-5?large_figure=true

Indian Diversity, genetic study (Metspalu, Gyaneshwer Chaubey et al, AJHG Dec. 9, 2011)
 


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Tiger-woman mammoth-tusk statue from Stadel cave in the Schwäbische Alb, southwestern Germany

 
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Tiger-woman mammoth-tusk statue from Stadel cave in the Schwäbische Alb, southwestern Germany

12/09/2011 03:35 PM

Is the Lion Man a Woman?
Solving the Mystery of a 35,000-Year-Old Statue

By Matthias Schulz

image-291597-galleryV9-jgmn.jpg
The Lion Man found in the Stadel cave. The Paleolithic figurine, carved out of mammoth ivory, was found on the eve of World War I. Archeologists have been puzzling over its meaning ever since. Indeed, they haven't even decided on its gender. But new pieces found recently may help researchers solve the mystery.

image-291570-galleryV9-lajq.jpg
Some believe that the Lion Man could in actuality be a woman. Paleontologist Elisabeth Schmid made this model of what the Lion Man might have looked like when it was carved. She believes that the breasts may have broken off. Others interpret the genetalia as representing a penis.

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Most believe that the statuette represents a shaman wearing the hide of a lion. But whether there were also female shamans remains to be decided

image-291597-panoV9-jgmn.jpg
thomas-stephan.com

Archeologists have discovered previously unknown fragments of a figurine known as the "Lion Man," and are piecing it back together. Could the 35,000-year-old statue actually represent a female shaman? Scientists hope to resolve a decades-long debate.

Using a hand hoe and working in dim light, geologist Otto Völzing burrowed into the earth deep inside the Stadel cave in the Schwäbische Alb mountains of southwestern Germany. His finds were interesting to be sure, but nothing world-shaking: flints and the remnants of food eaten by prehistoric human beings.

Suddenly he struck a hard object -- and splintered a small statuette.

It was 1939 and Völzing didn't have much time. He had just been called up to serve in the military and World War II was about to begin. He quickly packed the pieces into a box and the excavation, which was being financed by the SS, was terminated on the same day.

For the next 30 years, little heed was paid to the pieces. But then, they were reassembled to create one of the most impressive sculptures of the Paleolithic Age.

Called the Lion Man, it is fashioned from the tusk of a mammoth and stands about 30 centimeters (12 inches) tall. Its creator polished it with saliva and leather -- and an experiment showed that it likely took the sculptor about 320 hours to carve the figure.

Copies of the famous ice age treasure are now on display in New York and Tokyo. The original, however, is heavily damaged -- and no one knows exactly what it looks like. Many fragments were overlooked in the cave when the prewar dig was so abruptly terminated. The figure achieved its current form in 1988. It consists of 220 parts, but about 30 percent of the body is still missing. Large segments of the surface have broken off.

The poor condition of the figurine has only made it more mysterious. Is it meant to represent a mythical creature, or a shaman hiding under an animal hide? Are the six stripes on the left upper arm meant to depict scarification marks or something else? And what was on the right arm, which is missing?

The genitalia are also unrecognizable. German archeologist and Upper Paleolithic expert Joachim Hahn has interpreted the small plate on the abdomen as a "penis in a hanging position." Elisabeth Schmid, a paleontologist, classified it as a pubic triangle.

It was the beginning of a bitter dispute over the gender of the small idol that erupted in the 1980s and continues to this day. The statue has been made into an "icon of the women's movement," says Kurt Wehrberger of the Ulm Museum, the owner of the precious object.

Those who believe that the Lion Man is in fact a woman are convinced that primitive societies were matriarchal. They contend that women of the period, instead of standing obediently by the cooking fire and watching over the children, hunted mammoths and set the tone when it came to rituals and the priesthood. But is this true?

The debate remains undecided today. But that could soon change, now that new fragments of the Lion Man have turned up.

The new discoveries came after archeologists once again turned their attention to the Stadel cave. They sifted through all of the rubble from 1939, explains excavator Claus-Joachim Kind -- and the results were sensational. "We found about 1,000 pieces, which presumably belong to the statue," Kind says.

Some of the fragments are tiny, only a few square millimeters in size, but the cache also includes pieces as long as a finger.

The figurine will be taken to the State Conservation Office in Esslingen, near Stuttgart, where it will be completely taken apart. The old glue joints will be dissolved and the filler made of beeswax and chalk, which was used as a placeholder, will be removed.

Then the statue will be reassembled piece by piece, a task that those involved await with great anticipation. "We will soon be able to view the most mysterious work of art from (the southwestern German state of) Baden-Württemberg in its original form," Kind hopes.

Already it is clear that the figurine will become a few centimeters taller due to new neck pieces that have been found. Furthermore, the gaping hole in the back can now be plugged, and the right arm has been found in its entirety. Additional decorations, including raised dots and strange-looking lines, have come to light.

These new revelations offer a greater insight into the mind of the prehistoric sculptor, who created the figure about 35,000 years ago. His ancestors had migrated to Europe, which had been controlled by the Neanderthals, shortly before.

The statue was found near traces of a fire site in a niche 27 meters (89 feet) from the mouth of the cave. When Kind was working at the site, he also found a decorated deer's tooth, the incisors of an arctic fox and ivory beads. The items could have been pieces from a decorative robe. Perhaps the niche served as a shaman's changing room.

It is considered likely that prehistoric sorcerers wore furs as costumes when they celebrated rituals around the campfire. Hybrid creatures -- half-man, half-beast -- also appear in cave drawings in France.

It would seem that the shamans' preferred costumes were the hides of the more dangerous representatives of Ice Age fauna. The cave lion weighed more than 250 kilograms (550 lbs.); one swipe of its giant paw would have been enough. A human being holding what looks like a musical instrument is depicted in a cave in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The figure is wearing the hide of a bison, an 800-kilogram colossus that was not to be trifled with. Perhaps hunters hoped to acquire the animal's strength and even take possession of its soul through masquerade and dance.

Studies about primitive peoples in Siberia suggest how these rites might have proceeded. Even into the modern age, their shamans wore antlers on their heads. There are similar accounts involving the Blackfeet Indians in North America. Their healers hopped around under bearskins to the sound of drums.

The Lion Man is standing on tiptoes. He, too, seems to be dancing.

But who is hidden underneath the robe? From time immemorial, the lion has been viewed as a symbol of the masculine virtues of courage and strength. Shamans still exist today in the Amazon region and Australia. Most are men.

On the other hand, the statuette has some perplexing features. The navel, a symbol of childbirth, is especially pronounced. A horizontal crease runs across the lower abdomen, a feature that is typically female.

Paleontologist Schmid believes that the figure once had breasts, which eventually broke off. According to Schmid, the transition from the thighs to the buttocks is also indicative of a female body. She made a model out of modeling clay, which is now in a safe in Ulm. It depicts the Lion Man with an ample bosom.

Many scholars dismissed the jarring replica as nonsense at the time. Nevertheless, there is at least one piece of evidence to support Schmid's theory. An image of a 14,000-year-old human body with an animal head discovered in the Las Caldas cave in Spain is obviously female. The head looks like that of an ibex, while the lower part of the body features female genitalia.

Does this mean that female shamans did exist? Were women in charge of the religion of our ancestors? The new finds could solve the mystery once and for all. Hundreds of tiny ivory fragments will have to be pieced together to create a statue that experts estimate will contain 20 percent more of its original material.

According to one of the excavators, there is also sufficient fragmentary material to reconstruct the genitalia. "We'll figure out the gender," he says.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

URL:http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,802415,00.html


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All Indians have the same genes 

Roli Srivastava 

The study of Indian ancestry that you did along with the former CCMB director Lalji Singh and two US researchers was published in Nature in September 2009.It is said to have rewritten the history of Indian population 

It established through genomic analyses that people in north India were no different from those in the south and that all shared the same genetic lineage.It also established that people of north and south were part of the same culture.We analyzed over 500,000 genetic markers across diverse groups,including the traditional upper / lower castes and tribal groups and proved that there was no difference between tribal populations and castes,and it was impossible to make a distinction between them.

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Kumarasamy Thangaraj,48,is a scientist on a mission.The principal scientist and group leader at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology,Hyderabad,has been making path-breaking discoveries about genetic makeup of the Indian population 



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Aryan-Dravidian divide a myth: Study

TNN Sep 25, 2009, 01.16am IST
 

HYDERABAD: The great Indian divide along north-south lines now stands blurred. A pathbreaking study by Harvard and indigenous researchers on ancestral Indian populations says there is a genetic relationship between all Indians and more importantly, the hitherto believed ``fact'' that Aryans and Dravidians signify the ancestry of north and south Indians might after all, be a myth.

``This paper rewrites history... there is no north-south divide,'' Lalji Singh, former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and a co-author of the study, said at a press conference here on Thursday.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-09-25/india/28107253_1_incidence-of-genetic-diseases-indians-tribes



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UAE - Sharjah- Jan 04 - 2012: Archaeologists Akshyeta Suryanarayan searching for crafts and bones during a working day at the Tell Abraq archaeological site ( Jaime Puebla - The National Newspaper )

 

Sharjah's 3,000-year-old clue to the first domesticated camels

Jan 8, 2012 
SHARJAH // Archaeologists are unearthing answers to one of the Arab region’s biggest historical mysteries – the origin of the domesticated dromedary.
According to 3,000-year-old evidence discovered at two excavation sites in Sharjah, people in what is now the UAE were probably the first to domesticate the wild camel.
A team from Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia has been digging at the sites in Tell Abraq and Muweilah along the border with Umm Al Qaiwain since early December.
The excavations have revealed almost 10 times as many bones of domesticated dromedaries as at any other single site in the Middle East.
The sites have been known to archaeologists since the 1970s, when they were first excavated by teams from Australia and Denmark.
Among them was a young archaeology doctoral student, Peter Magee, who came to the region because he was fascinated by the Middle East’s history.
Now he has returned to explore the sites again, “because there were unanswered questions here that I wanted to resolve”.
According to Mr Magee, the history of the domesticated dromedary is key to understanding the expansion of human settlements at that time, around 1000BC, when the camel was vital to a flourishing local population as a prime source of meat and milk.
More important, it was used to transport goods across the harsh desert landscape, which helped to facilitate development.
Periods of drying and drought in the Middle East often caused societies to collapse, Mr Magee says, but not in the UAE.
“When there were periods of desiccation in this area, it actually seemed to cause expansion, which is a very interesting pattern quite different from the rest of the region,” he said.
The excavation sites show evidence that this expansion could be due to the domestication of camels, and the emergence of innovations such as irrigation systems.“The Tell Abraq site is important because it contains multiple layers that show many periods of occupation. This provides us with an opportunity to see the development of the economy and the environment at that time.”
According to Mr Magee, the earliest levels of the site go back to 2500BC, during the Bronze Age, the period that was focused upon in the earlier excavations.
“The period from about 2000BC to about 500BC is still poorly known in this region, so I was quite sure that we could find deposits dated to that period on this side of the mound.”
The past few weeks of digging have proved his hunch was right.
The 15-member team, which includes Steve Karacic, a PhD candidate from Bryn Mawr, unearthed a deep, 4.5-metre-wide stone wall from around 1000BC – the same period in which large human settlements in the region increased.
 
 
“It’s very exciting to find this,” said Mr Karacic, who is digging in the UAE for the second year in a row. “We’ve found a lot of floors in these trenches, so being out here has been a lot of fun.”
According to Mr Magee, it would be “easy to think” that the wall could have been a fortification, “but 3,000 years ago the most sophisticated weapons were metal and bronze bows and arrows. They wouldn’t have needed a wall to protect against that.”
It was more likely, he said, to be a “statement of ownership”.
“If you were walking towards the site from the south east, you would have seen this massive stone wall rising up, so it would have been a monumental statement in the landscape.”
There is still no evidence showing the name of the native tribe at the time, nor what language they spoke. However, the sites have changed the common understanding of trading patterns in the region.
“We’ve found evidence that we traded with the rest of Arabia during this time, and that was not really possible until the camel was domesticated.”
Last week the team unearthed painted figurines of camels with saddles on them, which Mr Magee said attests to the theory of the changes in trading patterns.
They have also found thousands of ceramic shards, stone vessels, sea shells, bronze items, animal bones and an inscription written in an extinct language from Yemen.
Three American undergraduate students from the Philadelphia college are in charge of sifting through the never-ending piles of dirt.
Akshyeta Suryanarayan, 20, picked up a flat-looking rock and asked Mr Magee if it was a piece of pottery.
“No, that looks like a turtle shell,” he said.
“We’ve found a lot of interesting things, and it’s cool to learn how it works out here on an excavation site,” said Sara, while prodding a few pieces of 3,000-year-old bird bone.
“Our discoveries will mean that some of the early ideas about the transition into this more intense period of occupation around 1000 BC clearly need to be rewritten – some of which I wrote 15 years ago,” Mr Magee said.
“We need to think about the fact that new evidence changes opinions, including our own, and that is exciting.”


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Discovery of tooth challenges 'out of Africa' theory

Posted on January 11, 2012 - 06:54 by Emma Woollacott
Great apes survived in Europe for two million years longer than previously thought, study of a tooth has revealed.
Scientists from Germany, Bulgaria and France say the hominid pre-molar, discovered near the Bulgarian town of Chirpan, is seven million years old.
The discovery may mean that scientists need to re-evaluate theories about some major steps in hominid evolution.

Up to now, it's been assumed that great apes became extinct in Europe at least nine million years ago because of changing climatic and environmental conditions.

Until now, the most recent hominid fossil found in Europe was that of a 9.2 million year old specimen of Ouranopithecus macedonensis from Greece. Back then, European terrestrial ecosystems had changed from lush, evergreen forests to savannah-like landscapes with a seasonal climate.

It had been thought that great apes, which typically eat fruit, hadn't survived because of a lack of food.

However, alongside the hominid tooth, the scientists found the remains of animals typical of a savannah - several species of elephant, giraffes, gazelles,antelopes, rhinos, and saber-toothed cats. The implication is that the hominids had adapted efficiently.

And the theory's backed up by electron microscope analysis of the tooth, which shows the hominid had been eating abrasive objects such as grass, seeds, and nuts.

The discovery may even cast doubt on the 'out of Africa' theory of human evolution, which suggests that humans evolved in Africa before migrating to the rest of the world.

"We now also need to rethink where the origin of humans took place," says Professor Madelaine Böhme of the University of Tübingen. "There is increasing evidence... that a significant part of human evolution happened outside Africa, in Europe and western Asia."

Press Release


17 million years old molar tooth oft the hominoid from Engelswies. Foto: Böhme
17 million years old molar tooth oft the hominoid from Engelswies. Foto: Böhme

The Oldest Eurasian Hominoids Lived in Swabia

MOLAR TOOTH DATED AT 17 MILLION YEARS BY RESEARCHERS FROM TÜBINGEN, HELSINKI, STUTTGART AND MUNICH

Tübingen, 2011/06/22
Africa is regarded as the centre for the evolution of humans and their precursors. Yet long before modern humans left Africa some 125 Thousand years ago, their antecedents migrated from Africa to Eurasia many times, as is documented by fossils. How often, when and why hominoids went “out of Africa” is still a hotly debated field of intense research. Possibly, the first wave of emigration occurred at 17 Million years before present, as documented by finds in the Swabian northern Alpine foreland basin, SW of Sigmaringen. Researchers from Tübingen successfully pinpointed the age of a molar tooth at 17 – 17.1 Ma, together with colleagues from Helsinki, Munich and Stuttgart. It is thus the oldest known Eurasian hominoid found to date. The results are now published in the Journal of Human Evolution. The owner of the tooth once inhabited a lakeside landscape with subtropical vegetation in a warm-humid climatic zone. Today, there is an abandoned quarry at the locality known among palaeontologists for its fossiliferous layers.

Prof. Dr. Madelaine Böhme of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology (HEP) at the Tübingen University combined different methods of dating of the rocks in which the molar tooth was found. Housed at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History, the find itself dates to June 24th, 1973. It was discovered by the founder and then-director of the Geological-Palaeontological Institute in Mainz, Prof. Dr. Heinz Tobien, in the “Talsberg” quarry in Engelswies, Inzigkofen. Only in 2001 was the molar taken under scrutiny and determined as a hominoid fossil, albeit with some insecurity regarding its age.

The dating of fossils usually requires a combination of methods. For relative dating, rapid evolutionary progress of fauna accompanying the find can be taken into account, as for example fossil teeth of the rodent Megacricetodon bavaricus. The researchers in Böhme's group also utilized the fact that in the past, Earth's magnetic poles displayed inversions at regular intervals. The magnetic polarity can be recorded in sediments, which can then be dated by the methods of magnetostratigraphy.
Madelaine Böhme and colleagues completed the first magnetostratigraphic calibration of the Engelswies locality. Absolute age determination was achieved by referencing the data to the acknowledged “Astronomical Tuned Neogene Time Scale” (ATNTS04). The researchers ascertained inverse polarity of the Earth's magnetic field for the time during the sedimentation of a 5m thick layer above and below the bed in which the hominoid molar tooth was found. Thus, the bed can be dated with relative precision at 17 to 17.1 Ma.
Madelaine Böhme, who also heads the lab of terrestrial palaeoclimatology at the University of Tübingen, used further fossils for a reconstruction of the vegetation and climate of the area during the time of deposition. Thus, the mean yearly temperature was approximately 20 °C in the area of what is now Southern Germany, some 11 °C above today's conditions. Winters were frost-free. There was a swamp to the south of the lake, full of reed beds and a coast line of trees, palm trees (amongst them the climbing rattan palms), lianas, ferns and grasses. To the north was a slope covered by an evergreen forest. This vegetation is unique in the circum-Alpine area. Possibly, this exceptional situation was the result of regional peculiarities at a time of rather fast climate change.
As the authors write, “The chronologic relationships support the idea that the Engelswies hominoid was a descendent of Early Miocene Afro-Arabian afropithecins”. This find is thus the earliest known trace of hominoids which immigrated to Eurasia from Africa. “The significant gap between the Engelswies hominoid and later European kenyapithecines as well as paleoclimatic considerations lead us to speculate that this early out of Africa migration end up in a dead end”  African hominoids (Kenyapithecines) came to Eurasia again perhaps merely 14 Million years ago, and then evolved into the first large hominids (e.g. Orang Utan).
Citation: Böhme, M., et al., Bio-magnetostratigraphy and environment of the oldest Eurasian hominoid from the Early Miocene of Engelswies (Germany), Journal of Human Evolution (2011), doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.04.012.

Research for this publication was funded by the German Research Foundation DFG.

Contacts

Prof. Dr. Madelaine Böhme
University Tübingen
Department of Geoscience
Senckenberg Center for
Human Evolution and Palaeoecology (HEP)
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Telefon: +49 7071 29-73191
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PRE-JURASSIC FIND 
Remains of a fearsome reptile that predates age of dinosaurs dug out 

London: Palaeontologists have unearthed the remains of a fearsome fanged reptile which they believe roamed the Earth about 265 million years ago much before the age of the dinosaurs.
The skull of the predator was dug up from a farm in the pampas plains of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil,after the scientists spotted a bare patch on Google Maps and flew over to investigate.
The dog-sized predator,the scientists think,lived about 40 million years before the dinosaurs and belonged to a family of reptiles that died out,leaving no descendants.
Named Pampaphoneus biccai,the beast was a dinocephalian which belonged to a family of anteosaurs that looked like dinosaurs but died out before the dinosaurs arrived,the Daily Mail reported.
It would have been cold-blooded,using its powerful jaws to rip chunks off prey while still alive,the scientists said.Although Pampaphoneus biccai was found in modern-day Brazil,it came from a time when all the continents were fused together into one land mass called Pangaea,they said.
The family of creatures previously known to exist only in Russia,Kazakhstan,China and South Africa,but the latest discovery,suggests that the creature was more widespread.Dr Juan Carlos Cisneros,a palaeontologist at the Federal University of Piaui in Teresina,Brazil,said: This fossil provides evidence for Pangea-wide distribution of carnivorous dinocephalians. Other dinocephalians included South African Anteosaurus magnificus and the Russian Titanophoneus potens which were the largest more than 18ft long terrestrial predators of the age known geologically as the Permian.PTI

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Chandrketugarh: Archaeologists to Excavate Great Ancient Center in Bengal

 

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Archaeologists to Excavate Great Ancient Center in Bengal

Mon, Jan 23, 2012
 
State government in India opens way to excavate and preserve Chandraketugarh, the lost ancient civilization in Bengal.
Archaeologists to Excavate Great Ancient Center in Bengal
It is thought by some historians to be legendary Gangaridai, a place belonging to a king considered a "mighty ruler" by Alexander the Great during his quest for conquest. Over many years, its artifacts have found their way on the international antiquities markets, enriching the dealers but robbing archaeologists and historians of valuable information needed to reconstruct and understand the great civilization that developed and flourished in West Bengal for 1500 years.  
Since the discovery of its ruins more than a century ago, the 2,500-year-old site of Chandraketugarhhas only been partly excavated. Looting, neglect and decay have been the banes of its existence now for decades. 
But all that is about to change. According to a report in The Times of India, Bengal’s richest archaeological treasure will be turned into a "heritage village".  This means that the West Bengal Heritage Commission (WBHC), in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), will begin a major excavation of the site within the next year, followed by construction of a museum, research facilities and tourism center at the site. It is considered to hold potential as the oldest early-history site in Bengal.  
“A thorough excavation will show off Chandraketugarh as the Mecca of Bengal’s heritage,” said Shuvaprasanna, Chairman of the WBHC.  “Tourists will be awed by the sheer historical evidence lurking in and around the place… We shall do everything to establish Chandraketugarh in its archaeological glory.”
The first serious excavations of Chandraketugarh took place in the 1950s, when the ruins of a massive temple and fort structure were uncovered. They were part of a city that flourished between the 4th Century BC through the 12th Century AD, representing six different eras of civilization.  But all that remains of the temple today are walls and a set of stairs. It has been left vulnerable to looting and decay. Much more of the urban settlement of Chandraketugarh lies below the surface, waiting to be discovered. Already available for study and exhibit, however, are objects like the gold coin belonging toChandragupta-Kumaradevi, terracotta plaques, figurines, pottery, stone beads, ivory and bone materials, and beautifully sculpted and well-preserved wooden objects that are centuries old. Much more will be sought for return from the British Museum. 
The WBHC is anticipating support from UNESCO and hopes to ultimately have the site added to the World Heritage List.
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Sample Artifacts of Chandraketugarh
Terracota Yaksha, Sunga period (1st century BC), found in Chandraketugarh (West Bengal) - Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York. Wikimedia Commons
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Sunga woman with child. Chandraketugarh. Sunga 2nd-1st century BCE. Musée Guimet. Wikimedia Commons
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Below: India, West Bengal, Chandraketugarh region, South Asia
Vase with Processional Scenes, circa 100 B.C. 
Gift of John and Fausta Eskenazi. Wikimedia Commons 


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U-Pb zircon dating evidence for a Pleistocene Sarasvati River and capture of the Yamuna River. Origins of rice - Dorian Fuller

 

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Geology, G32840.1first published onJanuary 23, 2012
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/111906613/2012_Clift_etal_Geology 
Mirror: http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/early/2012/01/23/G32840.1.full.pdf+html


U-Pb zircon dating evidence for a Pleistocene Sarasvati River and capture of the Yamuna River

  1. Peter D. Clift1
  2. Andrew Carter2
  3. Liviu Giosan3
  4. Julie Durcan4,
  5. Geoff A.T. Duller4
  6. Mark G. Macklin4
  7. Anwar Alizai5
  8. Ali R. Tabrez6,
  9. Mohammed Danish6
  10. Sam VanLaningham7 and 
  11. Dorian Q. Fuller8
First published onlineJanuary 23, 2012, doi:10.1130/G32840.1 GeologyFebruary 2012, v. 40, no. 2
  1. 1School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UE, UK, and Key Laboratory of the Marginal Sea Geology, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 164 Xingangxi Road, Guangzhou 510301, China
  2. 2Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck College London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK
  3. 3Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
  4. 4Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth SY23 3DB, UK
  5. 5Geological Survey of Pakistan, Block 2, Gulistan e Jauhar, Karachi, Pakistan
  6. 6National Institute for Oceanography, Clifton, Karachi 75600, Pakistan
  7. 7School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220, USA
  8. 8Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK

ABSTRACT

The Harappan Culture, one of the oldest known urban civilizations, thrived on the northwest edge of the Thar Desert (India and Pakistan) between 3200 and 1900 BCE. Its demise has been linked to rapid weakening of the summer monsoon at this time, yet reorganization of rivers may also have played a role. We sampled subsurface channel sand bodies predating ca. 4.0 ka and used U-Pb dating of zircon sand grains to constrain their provenance through comparison with the established character of modern river sands. Samples from close to archaeological sites to the north of the desert show little affinity with the Ghaggar-Hakra, the presumed source of the channels. Instead, we see at least two groups of sediments, showing similarities both to the Beas River in the west and to the Yamuna and Sutlej Rivers in the east. The channels were active until after 4.5 ka and were covered by dunes before 1.4 ka, although loss of the Yamuna from the Indus likely occurred as early as 49 ka and no later than 10 ka. Capture of the Yamuna to the east and the Sutlej to the north rerouted water away from the area of the Harappan centers, but this change significantly predated their final collapse.
 
RICE, Volume 4, Numbers 3-478-92DOI: 10.1007/s12284-011-9078-7 January 4, 2012
 

Pathways to Asian Civilizations: Tracing the Origins and Spread of Rice and Rice Cultures

From the issue entitled "Rice and Language Across Asia: Crops, Movement, and Social Change"
 

ABSTRACT

Modern genetics, ecology and archaeology are combined to reconstruct the domestication and diversification of rice. Early rice cultivation followed two pathways towards domestication in India and China, with selection for domestication traits in early Yangtze japonica and a non-domestication feedback system inferred for ‘proto-indica’. The protracted domestication process finished around 6,500–6,000 years ago in China and about two millennia later in India, when hybridization with Chinese rice took place. Subsequently farming populations grew and expanded by migration and incorporation of pre-existing populations. These expansions can be linked to hypothetical language family dispersal models, including dispersal from China southwards by the Sino-Tibetan and Austronesian groups. In South Asia much dispersal of rice took place after Indo-Aryan and Dravidian speakers adopted rice from speakers of lost languages of northern India


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Did Early Humans Ride the Waves to Australia?

By MATT RIDLEY

Columnist's name[RIDLEY]
John S. Dykes
The 'beachcomber express' may have carried our African ancestors to the Indian Ocean and beyond.



Everybody is African in origin. Barring a smattering of genes from Neanderthals and other archaic Asian forms, all our ancestors lived in the continent of Africa until 150,000 years ago. Some time after that, say the genes, one group of Africans somehow became so good at exploiting their environment that they (we!) expanded across all of Africa and began to spill out of the continent into Asia and Europe, invading new ecological niches and driving their competitors extinct.
There is plenty of dispute about what gave these people such an advantage—language, some other form of mental ingenuity, or the collective knowledge that comes from exchange and specialization—but there is also disagreement about when the exodus began. For a long time, scientists had assumed a gradual expansion of African people through Sinai into both Europe and Asia. Then, bizarrely, it became clear from both genetics and archaeology that Europe was peopled later (after 40,000 years ago) than Australia (before 50,000 years ago).
Meanwhile, the geneticists were beginning to insist that many Africans and all non-Africans shared closely related DNA sequences that originated only after about 70,000-60,000 years ago in Africa. So a new idea was born, sometimes called the "beachcomber express," in which the first ex-Africans were seashore dwellers who spread rapidly around the coast of the Indian Ocean, showing an unexpected skill at seafaring to reach Australia across a strait that was at least 40 miles wide. The fact that the long-isolated Andaman islanders have genes that diverged from other Asians about 60,000 years ago fits this notion of sudden seaside peopling.
Sea levels were 150 feet lower then, because the cold had locked up so much moisture in northern ice-caps, so not only were most Indonesian islands linked by land, but the Persian Gulf was dry and, crucially, the southern end of the Red Sea was a narrow strait. Recent work by Prof. Geoffrey Bailey and colleagues from York University in Britain has shown that the gap was often less than 2½ miles wide for up to 60 miles. People would not have needed to move through Sinai and the inhospitable Arabian desert to reach the Indian Ocean shoreline. They could raft or swim across a narrow marine canal.
The story grew more complicated last year when a team led by Hans Peter Uerpmann of the University of Tübingen in Germany described a set of stone tools found under a rock overhang in eastern Arabia, dating from 125,000 years ago. The tools were comparable to those made by east Africans around the same time. This was when Arabia was wetter than today, but the Red Sea crossing was wider.
So maybe Arabia was colonized early and there was a long pause before the Beachcomber Express set off for southeast Asia? If so, the genetics of Arabians should show convergence on an ancient ancestor of more than 125,000 years ago. They don't: Recent research suggests a common ancestor only 60,000 years ago.
Two ways out of the impasse come to mind. One is that the Arabian settlers of 125,000 years ago died out and were replaced by a new exodus from Africa. The second is that there may have been back-migration into Africa to muddy the genetic water. Complicating the issue is the volcanic eruption of Toba, in Sumatra, around 74,000 years ago, which injected so much sulfurous dust into the high atmosphere that it caused prolonged droughts that might have come close to wiping out many human populations.
Prof. Bailey reckons the answer to these riddles lies beneath the waters of the Red Sea, where ancient coastlines, teeming with undisturbed archaeology, remain to be explored.


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Nataraja, an art appraisal - A. Srivathsan. Pratimaa should stay in temples, NOT in museums.

 

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Should divinities worshipped in temples be subjected to such 'art' appraisals by 'art critics'?

Pratimaa should stay in temples and should NOT be taken to museums for display.

Kalyanaraman

The rise of a global icon

A. SRIVATHSAN


Chola Bronze -Tiruvalangadu Nataraja Madras Government Museum displayed during the celebration of thousand years of the big temple at Thanjavur. Photo: D. Krishnan
The HinduChola Bronze -Tiruvalangadu Nataraja Madras Government Museum displayed during the celebration of thousand years of the big temple at Thanjavur. Photo: D. Krishnan
How did Nataraja become an icon representing the Indian genius for sculpture? It all began in a small village near Madras just over a century ago.
With a leg up, arms across and framed within an aureole of flame, the iconography of Nataraja, cast in bronze, is possibly the ubiquitous example of Indian art. It has gone beyond the secluded portals of temples and museums to reach living rooms, corporate lobbies and up-market lounges the world over. To the many admirers, this form of the dancing Siva, with its “sleek grace and calm agility”, is the “summation of Indian genius”.
Though Nataraja has existed in this form for more than a thousand years, its ascent to ubiquity and fame is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Interestingly, Binfield Havell, an art historian (who was a columnist for The Hindu), who was the first to spotlight it. A 114.5-cm bronze icon of Nataraja, discovered 106 years ago, that was in the Madras (now Chennai) Government Museum, was at the centre of it all.
Quiet beginnings
The story had a quiet beginning. In July 1905, K.V. Subramania Ayyar, a Tamil Assistant in Madras with the Archaeological Survey, visited Tiruvalangadu, further west, to recover two ancient copper plates from a temple. His abilities of persuasion got him not two, but 31 copper plates. He also managed to get a number of metal images, which the temple officials had found in an underground chamber. Not realising their importance, the Archaeological Survey, in its annual report to the government, recommended a routine acquisition of the images. Thus, in 1907, the Tiruvalangadu Nataraja and the other metal images reached the Madras Museum.
While the copper plates captured immediate attention and caused a sensation among archaeologists, the metal images got a less significant level of recognition in the Museum. Little did the authorities then know that events developing in the Western art world would soon centrestage that bronze icon.
In the early part of the 20th century, influential orientalists hardly reckoned Indian sculpture to be art. In the words of Vincent Smith, “the figures both of men and animals [in Indian sculptures] become stiff and formal, and the idea of power is clumsily expressed by the multiplication of members.” Even the official handbook to the Indian section of the Victoria and Albert Museum derided them. Indian sculptures, to the prejudiced eye, were ‘puerile and detestable'.
But a group of people, including Havell, Ananda Coomaraswamy and William Rothenstein, took it upon themselves to challenge these opinions.
Havell, who worked in the Madras and Calcutta colleges of art for many years, was one the earliest to argue for the artistic merits of Indian art. He denounced critics who reluctantly accepted Buddhist sculptures as poor versions of Greek and Roman art, and presented exalted examples of Indian art. In 1908, he put together his arguments and illustrated them in one his important books, Indian Sculpture and Painting. The bronze sculpture of Nataraja, acquired by the Madras Museum in 1872 from Velankanni, found a prominent place in it.
However, Havell recalibrated his assessment when photos of the Tiruvalangadu bronze reached him. Though both the Nataraja icons were identical, he was clear about which one was preferred. “There is a great difference in the feeling which animates the two,” he wrote in favour of the Tiruvalangadu Nataraja. He declared that the ‘gaiety' of this ‘delightful bronze' was ‘the perfect art' and that it was superior to the ‘trivial' sculpture of Gandhara, which was held in high esteem then. Havell published the photographs of the Tiruvalangadu bronze for the first time in 1911 in his book, The Ideals of Indian Art.
Around that time, Coomaraswamy, the art theorist, also took on critics who dubbed Indian sculptures with many arms and heads as ‘hideous'. In an important essay published in 1913, he demonstrated that multiple limbs helped stage a ‘sculpture drama', and exhibited ‘the wonderful creative energy of the Indian genius'. He made this point first by using the ‘profoundly expressive' figure of Durga, and followed it up with the ‘perfectly balanced' Tiruvalangadu bronze. When Coomaraswamy reworked this essay in 1918, the Tiruvalangadu Nataraja moved up the list of examples.
Crucial role
Coomaraswamy's seminal work, titled The Dance of Siva, played an important role in popularising Nataraja. This much-cited essay ‘decoded' the art and made the meaning accessible to many. However, it did not receive much notice when first published in 1912, in a Saiva Siddantha journal without any illustration. But its reprint in 1918, as part of a book under the same name by a New York publisher, reached audiences across the world. Coomaraswamy used the photograph of the Tiruvalangadu bronze as the frontispiece.
Havell and others pointed to the merits of Indian art, but their reputation as ‘friends of Indian art' came in the way of some critics accepting their assessment. However, finally, doubts about the significance of Indian sculptures came to rest in 1921.
Auguste Rodin, considered the ‘father of modern sculpture', was widely respected for his works such as ‘Thinker' (1904). When the photographs of the Tiruvalangadu and Velankanni bronzes reached him, probably given by Rothenstein or Victor Goloubew, a French art enthusiast and photographer who had lived in Pondicherry for a short time, the plastic quality of the sculptures captivated Rodin. In the elegance of these bronzes, he found ‘grace' and ‘above the grace' he admired their ‘ modeling'. Nataraja sculptures were the ‘perfect expression of rhythmic movement in the world', he waxed eloquent. These comments, coming as they did from a revered sculptor, created a stir and led to the instant popularity of the Nataraja form.
Rodin wrote his essay on the dancing Siva (in French) a couple of years before he died in 1917, but it was posthumously published in 1921. The same year, the English translation of the article appeared in the Indian art journal Rupam. Though images of the Velankanni and Tiruvalangadu bronzes accompanied Rodin's essay, there was little doubt about which among the two had created an impact.
Opinions on Indian art, as Havell himself remarked, changed in the later part of 1920s. Images of the Tiruvalangadu Nataraja began to appear regularly in essays and books. For example, Stella Kramrisch, an authority on Indian art, in 1922 used the sculpture as an illustration with her article on space in Indian sculpture. Havell, too, in 1928, when he rewrote his book, Indian Sculpture and Painting, chose to print the Tiruvalangadu bronze instead of the Velankanni one. Almost at the same time, Rabindranath Tagore, who was friends with Havell, Coomaraswamy and Rothenstien, composed a play titled Nataraja: Ritu-rangashala (Nataraja : A Theatre of Seasons). It was more than a coincidence that the practice of displaying Nataraja sculpture in the stage during Bharatanatyam dance performances as studies show commenced only after 1930.
Enduring spell
The spell of Nataraja was well cast and the process of ‘grooming' the image was complete. Museums across the world could not help but compare their own bronzes with the “famous example in the Madras Museum”. Cleveland museum, for instance, in 1930, took pride that its own Nataraja “fails by only three and a half centimetres” when compared with the Madras icon. Newspapers, as The Hindu did in 1941, featured the Tiruvalangadu bronze as one of the world's most delightful bronzes. The Indian postal department was not far behind. When it decided to publish a definitive series of 16 stamps focusing on Indian heritage in 1949, the Tiruvalangadu icon was a natural choice.
In many ways, the exhaustive account given in 1974 of Nataraja in art and literature by C. Sivaramamurti, the reputed art historian, firmed up the significance of this sculptural form and summed up its renown. In Sivaramamurti's list, too, the Tiruvalangadu bronze found a special place. After analysing hundreds of sculptures, he concluded that it was “the best known image of its kind in any public museum”. The journey came a full circle in 1992 when the Madras museum published a brief catalogue of its select bronzes. The Velankanni bronze was left out, but Tiruvalangadu Nataraja adorned the cover, and prominently included in the catalogue.
The sculpture of Nataraja continues to be reinvented. Its cosmic symbolism now has a new-age interpretation, and this has helped it circulate further. In 2004, the icon of the dancing Siva reached the lawns of the CERN building in Geneva, where the search for the ‘God particle' is now under way.



 
 
 
shiva_statue.jpgshiva_spacer.gifshiva_shadow.jpg
photo credit: Giovanni Chierico
Shiva's Cosmic Dance at CERN
On June 18, 2004, an unusual new landmark was unveiled at CERN, the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva — a 2m tall statue of the Indian deity Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. The statue, symbolizing Shiva's cosmic dance of creation and destruction, was given to CERN by the Indian government to celebrate the research center's long association with India.
In choosing the image of Shiva Nataraja, the Indian government acknowledged the profound significance of the metaphor of Shiva's dance for the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, which is observed and analyzed by CERN's physicists. The parallel between Shiva's dance and the dance of subatomic particles was first discussed by Fritjof Capra in an article titled "The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics," published in Main Currents in Modern Thought in 1972. Shiva's cosmic dance then became a central metaphor in Capra's international bestseller The Tao of Physics, first published in 1975 and still in print in over 40 editions around the world.
A special plaque next to the Shiva statue at CERN explains the significance of the metaphor of Shiva's cosmic dance with several quotations from The Tao of Physics. Here is the text of the plaque:
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, seeing beyond the unsurpassed rhythm, beauty, power and grace of the Nataraja, once wrote of it "It is the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of."
More recently, Fritjof Capra explained that "Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter," and that "For the modern physicists, then, Shiva's dance is the dance of subatomic matter."
It is indeed as Capra concluded: "Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics."
  

 


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Indus Script: A Study of its Sign Design - Nisha Yadav and Mayank Vahia

 

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Indus Script: A Study of its Sign Design

 
 
Large unicorn seal
One of the largest unicorn seals, found at Harappa in 1999.
A recent essay on the structural design of signs in the Indus script by experts at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
Abstract
The Indus script is an undeciphered script of the ancient world. In spite of numerous attempts over several decades, the script has defied universally acceptable decipherment. In a recent series of papers (Yadav et al. 2010; Rao et al. 2009a, b; Yadav et al. 2008a, b) we have analysed the sequences of Indus signs which demonstrate presence of a rich syntax and logic in its structure. Here we focus on the structural design of individual signs of the Indus script. Our study is based on the sign list given in the concordance of Mahadevan (1977) which consists of 417 distinct signs. We analyse the structure of all signs in the sign list of Indus script and visually identify three types of design elements of Indus signs namely basic signs, provisional basic signs and modifiers. These elements combine in a variety of ways to generate the entire set of Indus signs. By comparing the environment of compound signs with all possible sequences of constituent basic signs, we show that sign compounding (ligaturing) and sign modification seem to change the meaning or add value to basic signs rather than save writing space. The study aims to provide an understanding of the general makeup and mechanics of design of Indus signs.
First published in Scripta, Volume 3, June 2011


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Rare Indus seal discovered in Cholistan

Feb. 7, 2012
The archaeologists team leader said the excavation revealed a circular platform at Sui-Vihar built with sun-dried bricks and a number of supporting walls to hold the platform and the cylindrical structure. – File Photo
LAHORE, Feb 6: The Punjab University archaeology department has discovered a rare Indus seal in steatite material with carved figure of Ibex with two pictographs from Wattoowala, Cholistan, during a survey of different sites near Derawar Fort along the ancient bed of River Hakra.


The seal dates back to 2500-2000 BC.

The seal has been discovered by a six-member team of archaeologists headed by PU archaeology department chairman Dr Farzand Masih, who has just concluded a Unesco-funded US$26,000 project “Sui-Vihar Excavations and Archaeological Reconnaissance of southern Punjab”.

Dr Masih told Dawn that the discovery would open new dimensions for scholars. The seal has a perforated boss in the back with variant style from Harappan seals showing the regional influence and perhaps a separate identity in the Harappan domain. The seal is almost square in shape and slightly broken from the right side but figure of Ibex is almost intact. The muscles, genitalia, hooves and tail of the Ibex were engraved artistically with high proportion of skill and craftsmanship.

Under the project, Dr Masih said the PU team had also taken up the gigantic task of exploring the sites along the Hakra River in spite of the inhospitable climatic conditions. He said the team surveyed different sites including the Mihruband, Derawar Ther, Charoyanwala, Sunkewala, Pararewala, Sheruwala, Ganwariwala, Siddhuwala and Wattoowala. He said the cultural material collected from various mounds witnessed the presence of Early, Mature and Late Harappan settlements.
Under the project, Dr Masih said the team also conducted excavations at Sui-Vihar, which was the only existing example of Sankhya doctrines in Pakistan. He said the tablet on the stupa consecrated by Balanandi in the 11th regnal year of Kanishka-I suggested that the Vihara was constructed to impart the philosophy of Sankhya/Samkhya to the devotees. He said the Sankhya was one of the six Hindu orthodox philosophy attributed to sage Kapila. The Sankhya doctrines were based on the renunciation of the worldly affairs and to undertake severe penances to perform yoga to attain the nirvana. The vedic cosmological-ritual, mysticism and the philosophical views of the six darsanas were the stages for the liberation (moksa) from the sequence of birth, death and re-birth (samsara).

The archaeologists team leader said the excavation revealed a circular platform at Sui-Vihar built with sun-dried bricks and a number of supporting walls to hold the platform and the cylindrical structure. He said the remnants of a votive stupa suggested that the place might had been converted to Buddhist establishment when Kanishka-I embraced Buddhism. In spite of this, he said, Kanishkas had great respect for other faiths and beliefs. There was religious toleration and fraternity amongst the believers of different religious cults. “The plan laid bare by the team is understudy and likely to shed more light on the architectural grandeurs of Kushana period,” he added.
Dr Masih said the team had also combed the Cholistan desert in the vicinity of Derawar Fort. Prior to that, he said, Sir Aural Stein and Henry Field had conducted the survey in 1941 and 1955, respectively. After the Independence, he said, Dr Muhammad Rafique Mughal had conducted an extensive survey during 1974-77 and discovered altogether 424 settlements on a 24-32 km wide strip on both sides of the dry bed of Hakra River.

He said the Mughals’ work in Cholistan had established a new dimension in the understanding of Indus cultures in Cholistan but unfortunately any indigenous or foreign scholar could not precede his work further even after three decades.

Consequently, he said, the PU took the gigantic task of exploring the sites in spite of the inhospitable climatic conditions and surveyed some 25 sites in Cholistan Desert, which eventually led to the discovery of the rare Indus seal.

During explorations in Cholistan, the archaeology department chairman told Dawn that the team had also recorded flagrant violation of the Antiquities Rules to the cultural mounds which had been subjected to the worst human vandalism. “The land grabbers and other mafias have brutally murdered the cultural heritage while sinking tubewells on the mounds and ploughing the mounds to convert them into farm lands,” he said.
Dr Masih said the private land owners had sold the land including the cultural mounds and now the attitude of the new buyers towards the heritage was very hostile and it was feared that if no concrete steps were taken to safeguard the relics of the past, it might meet the fate of ruins of Harappa that suffered colossal damage during the laying of Lahore-Multan railway track.

“The entire scenario shows the dexterity of the investors and the pathetic attitude of the agencies responsible for cultural heritage of Pakistan,” he observed.

http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/07/rare-indus-seal-discovered-in-cholistan.html


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Sanchi project: Institute of Archaeology, UCL, London

 

LANDSCAPE, WATER AND RELIGION IN ANCIENT INDIA

Director: Dr. Julia Shaw, Institute of Archaeology, UCL, London.

The Sanchi Dams Project

Director: Dr. Julia Shaw, London. Collaborators: Dr. John Sutcliffe, Reading; Mr. Lindsay Lloyd-Smith, Cambridge; Dr. O.P Misra, Bhopal. Under sanction from the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Archives, Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal.
Sanchi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a major Buddhist hilltop complex in central India . It is one of India 's best preserved and most studied Buddhist sites with a continuous constructional sequence from c. 3rd century BCE to 12th century CE. The establishment of Sanchi is closely tied to the spread of the Mauryan empire and related processes of urbanisation, the latter well-represented by the early historic city-site of Vidisha, 6 km to the north.
sanchi-dam.jpg
Masonry face of the Sanchi dam
While the formal establishment of Buddhism at Sanchi was connected with state patronage, as attested by the Aśokan inscription there, much building work took place between the late 2nd century BCE and early 1st century CE. Inscriptions show that this work was funded by extensive programmes of collective patronage supported by powerful families and guilds. In the Gupta and post-Gupta periods, the donations of land and villages recorded in inscriptions indicate that the Buddhistsangha was involved in sustainable exchange networks with local agricultural communities. That such links may have existed during earlier periods in central India is suggested by the remains of a 350 m long dam immediately to the south of the hill at Sanchi. This, and a second dam to the west, would have created a reservoir about 3 km2 with a storage capacity of about 3.6 m3 x 106 . Two smaller tanks at Karondih and Dargawan in the shorter valleys to the west appear to have been designed to maintain water levels in the main reservoir as part of an upstream irrigation system.
Similar dams have been found throughout the Sanchi area. All consist of earthen cores with stone facing, mainly on the upstream side, and with heights and lengths varying from 1 to 6 m, and 80 to 1400 m, respectively. The reservoirs have volumes ranging between 0.03 to 4.7 m3 x 106 . While those built on gradually sloping terrain, as at Sanchi, appear to have acted as inundation tanks for upstream irrigation, dams built across deeper valleys as found in the eastern part of the study area were used for downstream irrigation. Some of those in the latter category, such as Devrajpur, show evidence of spillways and sluice gates.
The dams were recorded between 1998 and 2001 during an extensive archaeological survey over c. 750 km2 around Sanchi. The four outlying Buddhist sites documented by Alexander Cunningham in the 19th century were included: Satdhara, Sonari, Morel Khurd and Andher. The survey aimed to situate the monuments within their wider archaeological landscape, relating religious changes during the late centuries BCE to other key processes such as urbanisation, state-formation, and agricultural innovation. The survey resulted in the systematic recording of about 35 Buddhist sites, 145 settlements, 17 irrigation works and numerous sculpture fragments. In recent years, the survey has been developed in several ways including the application of intensive site-mapping, satellite remote-sensing, and the collection of dam and reservoir sediments for geological dating and palaeo-ecological analysis.
Chronological indicators in the form of nāga (serpent) sculptures located on or near some of the embankments have provided a range of terminus ante quem dates between the c. 1st century BCE and 5th century CE. However, recent Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating of sediments from selected dam sites suggest that their construction was contemporary with the earliest monuments at Sanchi.
Analysis of surface remains, local present-day hydrology, and ancient pollen sequences, has led to a number of hypotheses regarding the dams' chronology and function, their associated crop usage, and their relationship to the urban sequence at Vidisha and the history of Buddhism at Sanchi and neighboring sites. These may be summarized as follows: i) the earliest dam construction occurred between c. 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE , following the chronology of the earliest monuments at Sanchi and neighboring Buddhist sites; ii) they were built to provide irrigation, principally for rice, as a response to the increased population levels suggested by the distribution of habitational and Buddhist sites in Vidisha's hinterland; iii) their position within the wider archaeological landscape warrants their being viewed as part of a cultural package that accompanied the spread of Buddhism, urbanisation and the development of centralised state polities during the late centuries BC; and iv) similarities with inter-site patterns in Sri Lanka, where monastic landlordism is attested from c. 2nd century BC onwards, support the suggestion that the Sanchi dams were underlain by a similar system of exchange between Buddhist monks and local agricultural communities.
The position of nāga sculptures within the wider archaeological complex also sheds important light on theories of religious change, especially those regarding the dynamics between the sangha and 'local' agricultural cults. Gupta period accounts of Chinese pilgrims in eastern India show thatnāga shrines were propitiated by monks, often within monastic compounds, because of the nāgas' ability to ensure adequate rainfall and agricultural success. In the Sanchi area, the positioning of nāga shrines on dams conforms with this model, particularly since the sangha appears to have played a role in the management of local irrigation. Nāgaworship was part of Buddhist practice because its effects were in harmony with thesangha's economic concerns with water-harvesting and agrarian production. This hypothesis, based on the relative configuration of dams, settlements and monasteries in the Sanchi area, as well as similar patterns in western India and Sri Lanka, forms part of an active model of religious change which indicates that monks moved into new areas with a set of motives for local communities to extend their economic support to the monastery.

Relevant Publications

  • Shaw, J. (2004) 'Naga sculptures in Sanchi's archaeological landscape: Buddhism, Vaisnavism and local agricultural cults in central India , first century BCE to fifth century CE', Artibus Asiae LXIV(1), 5-59.
  • Shaw, J. (2004). 'Early historic landscapes in central India : recent archaeological investigations in districts Raisen and Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, 2003-4', Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in History and Archaeology 1, 143-150.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2001) 'Ancient irrigation works in the Sanchi area: an archaeological and hydrological investigation', South Asian Studies 17, 55-75.
  • Ibid. (2003). 'Ancient dams, settlement archaeology and Buddhist propagation in central India : the hydrological background', Hydrological Sciences Journal 48(2), 277-291.
  • Ibid. (2003). 'Water management, patronage networks and religious change: new evidence from the Sanchi dam complex and counterparts in Gujarat and Sri Lanka ', South Asian Studies 19, 73-104.
  • Ibid. (2005) 'Ancient dams and Buddhist sites in the Sanchi area: new evidence on irrigation, land use, and patronage in central India ', South Asian Studies 21, in press.
chandna.jpg
General view of recently-reconstructed dam at Chandna

SANCHI SURVEY PROJECT

Sanchi hill viewed from the west

Exploration of Indian religious, social and economic history

The Sanchi Survey Project (SSP) which forms the core of the ‘Landscape, Water and Religion in Ancient India’ project centres upon Sanchi, a major Buddhist hilltop complex in Madhya Pradesh, India. A recently declared UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of India's best preserved and most studied Buddhist sites with a continuous constructional sequence from c. 3rd century BCE to 12th century CE. 
Initiated in 1998, the SSP developed into a multi-phase exercise aimed at relating the histories of Buddhist monasticism and urbanism as represented by the sequences at Sanchi and the nearby early historic city site of Vidisha respectively to archaeological patterns within their hinterland. The project sought these newly documented data within broader discussions in Indian religious, social, and economic history. 
Of key interest is the question of how the Buddhist order (sangha), having spread from its base in the middle Gangetic valley during the early centuries BC, integrated itself within the social and economic fabric of the area in which it arrived, and how it generated sufficient patronage networks to grow into the powerful Pan Indian and subsequently Pan Asian institution that it became. Further questions include how Buddhist propagation related to wider processes of urbanisation, state formation, and changes in agrarian production and ways of managing water.
The main phase of exploration over an area of approximately 750 sq km, took place between 1998-2001, resulting in the systematic recording of about 35 Buddhist sites, 145 settlements, 17 irrigation works, numerous rock-shelters, as well as architectural and sculptural fragments. In subsequent years, the survey has been developed in several ways including the application of intensive site-mapping, satellite remote-sensing, and the collection of dam and reservoir sediments for geological dating and palaeo-ecological analysis.

Related outputs

  • Shaw, J., (In preparation, 2013) ‘Introduction’. Archaeology of Religious Change. World Archaeology, vol. 45.1
  • Shaw, J., (In preparation, 2013) ‘Buddhist mortuary rituals in ancient India’. Invited paper for pre-circulation in seminar to be held at the McDonald Institute, Cambridge in April 2011. Papers will be peer reviewed and published in a single volume by 2013. Seminar title: Death Shall Have no Dominion. Organisers: Colin Renfrew, Michael Boyd, and Ian Morley
  • Shaw, J., and A. Beck, In Preparation (2012). ‘The archaeological application of satellite remote-sensing in Central India'. 
  • Shaw, J. (2011). 'Monasteries, monasticism, and patronage in ancient India: Mawasa, a recently documented hilltop Buddhist complex in the Sanchi area of Madhya Pradesh', South Asian Studies 27 (2): 111-130.
  • Sutcliffe, J., J. Shaw, and E. Brown (2011). 'Historical water resources in South Asia: the hydrological background', Hydrological Sciences Journal 56 (5): 775-788.
  • Shaw, J. (2009). ‘Stūpas, monasteries and relics in the landscape: typological, spatial, and temporal patterns in the Sanchi area', in A. Shimada and J. Hawkes, eds., Buddhist Stūpas in South Asia: Recent Archaeological, Art-Historical, and Historical Perspectives. New Delhi : Oxford University Press.
  • Shaw, J. (2007). Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi hill and archaeologies of religious and social change, c. 3rd century BC to 5th century AD. London: British Association for South Asian Studies, The British Academy.
  • Shaw, J. (2007), ‘Landscape, Water and Religion in Ancient India’, Archaeology International 2006-2007, 43-52.
  • Shaw, J., J. V. Sutcliffe, L. Lloyd-Smith, J-L. Schwenninger, and M.S. Chauhan, with contributions by E. Harvey and O.P. Misra (2007), ‘Ancient Irrigation and Buddhist history in Central India: Optically Stimulated Luminescence and pollen sequences from the Sanchi dams’, Asian Perspectives 46(1): 166-201.
  • Shaw, J. (2005), 'The archaeological setting of Buddhist monasteries in central India: a summary of a multi-phase survey in the Sanchi area, 1998-2000', in C. Jarrige and V. Lefèvre (eds.), South Asian Archaeology 2001: proceedings of the 16th international conference of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, ADPF, Vol. 2, 665-676.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2005), ‘Ancient Dams and Buddhist Landscapes in the Sanchi area: New evidence on Irrigation, Land use and Monasticism in Central India’, South Asian Studies 21, 1-24.
  • Shaw, J. (2004), ‘Naga sculptures in Sanchi’s archaeological landscape: Buddhism, Vaisnavism and local agricultural cults in central India, first century BCE to fifth century CE’, Artibus Asiae LXIV(1), 5-59.
  • Shaw, J. (2004), ‘Early historic landscapes in central India: recent archaeological investigations in districts Raisen and Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, 2003-4’, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in History and Archaeology 1, 143-150.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2003), ‘Ancient dams, settlement archaeology and Buddhist propagation in central India: the hydrological background’, Hydrological Sciences Journal 48 (2), 277-291.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2003), ‘Water management, patronage networks and religious change: new evidence from the Sanchi dam complex and counterparts in Gujarat and Sri Lanka’, South Asian Studies 19, 73-104.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2001), ‘Ancient irrigation works in the Sanchi area: an archaeological and hydrological investigation’, South Asian Studies 17, 55-75.
  • Shaw, J. (2000), ‘The sacred landscape’, in M. Willis, with contributions by J. Cribb and J. Shaw, Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India, London: British Museum Press, 27-38.
  • Shaw, J. (2000), ‘Sanchi and its archaeological landscape: Buddhist monasteries, settlements and irrigation works in central India’, Antiquity 74, 775-776.
  • Shaw, J. (1999), ‘Buddhist landscapes and monastic planning in eastern Malwa: the elements of intervisibility, surveillance and the protection of relics’, in T. Insoll, (ed.), Case Studies in Archaeology and World Religion: the proceedings of the Cambridge conference, Oxford: Archaeopress, 5-17.

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LANDSCAPE, WATER AND RELIGION IN ANCIENT INDIA

Chandna dam, near Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh


Ritual sites and water resource structures in their archaeological landscape

This project is geared towards building integrated models of religious, economic and environmental history in central and western India through the documentation of ritual sites and water-resource structures in their archaeological landscape. 
A central question is how did the spread and institutionalisation of Buddhist and Brahmanical religious traditions between c. 3rd century BC and 6th century AD relate to other important processes such as urbanisation, state-formation and innovations in agriculture? 
There are two major interrelated research themes: Religion in the Landscape; and Water and Civilisation, with three main geographical zones of application: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Research themes
  • Religion in the Landscape
    The study of ancient Indian religion has long since been dominated by textual scholarship which has given priority to the Sanskrit tradition, and drawn on archaeology largely for supplementary evidence. Furthermore, until recently the site-based focus of South Asian archaeology has meant that ritual sites have tended to be studied in isolation from wider patterns in the landscape. This project has sought to build a more integrated approach to textual and archaeological scholarship on early Indian religion, focussing in particular on the following questions: What was the changing relationship between the state and religion? How did the different religious traditions attract local patronage networks? How did they relate to local agricultural communities? What was the nature of inter-religious dynamics?
  • Water and Civilisation
    The development of advanced irrigation systems has been seen as a major factor in the rise of complex, urban societies in ancient India. However, a number of questions regarding the history and chronology of irrigation technology and its role in the wider economic, political and religious landscape, have remained unanswered. The traditional view, based largely on readings of problematically dated texts such as the Arthasastra, is that the building and management of irrigation works was dependent on centralised state administration. Marxist-inspired models such as Wittogel’s ‘Hydraulic Civilisations of the Orient’ have led to similar notions regarding Asian economic systems as a whole. In recent years, these have undergone major revision following studies of more devolved systems of irrigation management in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia involving village councils and religious institutions. In India, however, traditional models have until recently remained unchallenged due in part to the paucity of archaeological research on irrigation.

    Steps towards redressing this problem have been taken in relation to a group of dams documented during the Sanchi Survey Project (Madhya Pradesh) with comparative studies in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Datable to the early centuries BC, the Sanchi dams appear to have been central to the development of sustainable exchange networks between Buddhist monks and the local laity, just as contemporaneous irrigation systems in Sri Lanka formed the basis of monastic landlordism and a distinctly ‘Buddhist economics’.

Related outputs

  • Shaw, J. (2011). 'Monasteries, monasticism, and patronage in ancient India: Mawasa, a recently documented hilltop Buddhist complex in the Sanchi area of Madhya Pradesh', South Asian Studies 27 (2): 111-130.
  • Sutcliffe, J., J. Shaw, and E. Brown (2011). 'Historical water resources in South Asia: the hydrological background', Hydrological Sciences Journal 56 (5): 775-788.
  • Shaw, J. (2009). ‘Stūpas, monasteries and relics in the landscape: typological, spatial, and temporal patterns in the Sanchi area', in A. Shimada and J. Hawkes, eds., Buddhist Stūpas in South Asia: Recent Archaeological, Art-Historical, and Historical Perspectives. New Delhi : Oxford University Press.
  • Madella, M., R. Osborne, and J. Shaw, (Eds.) (2009), The Archaeology of Water. World Archaeology, vol. 41.1.
  • Shaw, J. (2007). Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi hill and archaeologies of religious and social change, c. 3rd century BC to 5th century AD. London: British Association for South Asian Studies, The British Academy.
  • Shaw, J. (2007), ‘Landscape, Water and Religion in Ancient India’, Archaeology International 2006-2007, 43-52.
  • Shaw, J., J. V. Sutcliffe, L. Lloyd-Smith, J-L. Schwenninger, and M.S. Chauhan, with contributions by E. Harvey and O.P. Misra (2007), ‘Ancient Irrigation and Buddhist history in Central India: Optically Stimulated Luminescence and pollen sequences from the Sanchi dams’, Asian Perspectives 46(1): 166-201.
  • Shaw, J. (2005), 'The archaeological setting of Buddhist monasteries in central India: a summary of a multi-phase survey in the Sanchi area, 1998-2000', in C. Jarrige and V. Lefèvre (eds.), South Asian Archaeology 2001: proceedings of the 16th international conference of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, ADPF, Vol. 2, 665-676.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2005), ‘Ancient Dams and Buddhist Landscapes in the Sanchi area: New evidence on Irrigation, Land use and Monasticism in Central India’, South Asian Studies 21, 1-24.
  • Shaw, J. (2004), ‘Naga sculptures in Sanchi’s archaeological landscape: Buddhism, Vaisnavism and local agricultural cults in central India, first century BCE to fifth century CE’, Artibus Asiae LXIV(1), 5-59.
  • Shaw, J. (2004), ‘Early historic landscapes in central India: recent archaeological investigations in districts Raisen and Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, 2003-4’, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in History and Archaeology 1, 143-150.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2003), ‘Ancient dams, settlement archaeology and Buddhist propagation in central India: the hydrological background’, Hydrological Sciences Journal 48 (2), 277-291.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2003), ‘Water management, patronage networks and religious change: new evidence from the Sanchi dam complex and counterparts in Gujarat and Sri Lanka’, South Asian Studies 19, 73-104.
  • Shaw, J. and J.V. Sutcliffe (2001), ‘Ancient irrigation works in the Sanchi area: an archaeological and hydrological investigation’, South Asian Studies 17, 55-75.
  • Shaw, J. (2000), ‘The sacred landscape’, in M. Willis, with contributions by J. Cribb and J. Shaw, Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India, London: British Museum Press, 27-38.
  • Shaw, J. (2000), ‘Sanchi and its archaeological landscape: Buddhist monasteries, settlements and irrigation works in central India’, Antiquity 74, 775-776.
  • Shaw, J. (1999), ‘Buddhist landscapes and monastic planning in eastern Malwa: the elements of intervisibility, surveillance and the protection of relics’, in T. Insoll, (ed.), Case Studies in Archaeology and World Religion: the proceedings of the Cambridge conference, Oxford: Archaeopress, 5-17. 
    Publications in preparation
  • Shaw, J. (Ed.) Archaeology of Religious Change. World Archaeology, vol. 45.1
  • Shaw, J., ‘Introduction’. Archaeology of Religious Change. World Archaeology, vol. 45.1
  • Shaw, J., ‘Archaeologies of Religious Change in South Asia’. Archaeology of Religious Change. World Archaeology, vol. 45.1
  • Shaw, J., ‘Archaeologies of well-being and suffering: environmental ethics and Buddhist economics in ancient India’ (2013)
  • Shaw, J., ‘Buddhist mortuary rituals in ancient India’. Invited paper for pre-circulation in seminar to be held at the McDonald Institute, Cambridge in April 2011. Papers will be peer reviewed and published in a single volume by 2013. Seminar title: Death Shall Have no Dominion. Organisers: Colin Renfrew, Michael Boyd, and Ian Morley
  • Shaw, J., and A. Beck, ‘The archaeological application of satellite remote-sensing in Central India' 2012/3).
  • Shaw, J., J. Sutcliffe, and E. Brown. ‘Irrigation and complex society in ancient India: an archaeo-hydrological assessment’. Water History(journal). (2012)
  • Shaw, J., J., Sutcliffe, E. Cork, and H. Bakker. ‘Archaeological landscapes at Ramtek and Mansar: religion, politics and water in the Vakataka empire’, South Asian Studies (2012)

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Bihar stupa could contain Buddha relics

 


By IANS,
Patna : The Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) is set to begin excavation of a newly-found ancient stupa that was badly damaged and has been lying neglected for centuries in Bihar's Begusarai district, an official said Saturday.
The Patna circle of the ASI has identified the location of the stupa at Harsai near Garhpura village. Archeaologists here believe that it could be one of the eight original stupas built to house the relics of Lord Buddha.
"Going by the physical appearance of the stupa and the use of mud lumps denotes that it could be one of the eight original stupas housing the Buddha's corporeal relics. But that can be determined only after excavation," the superintending archaeologist of ASI (Patna circle) S K Manjul said.
According to ancient scriptures, after the Buddha was cremated, there was a disagreement over the division of his remains. They were then divided into eight parts and distributed among the eight powerful kingdoms and republics, which laid claim over them. All of them buried their share of relics in stupas specially built to serve as markers of the physical presence of the Buddha and his teachings.
Till date archaeologists have identified six of them. "If this stupa turned to be seventh, it can be the ASI's biggest discovery," he said.
Manjul said the ASI plans to start the excavation in the next few months this year. "The ASI's central advisory board of archaeology has already granted an excavation license to an archeaologist of ASI's Patna circle to undertake the work," Manjul said.
According to ASI officials here, the stupa may also turn out to be the only one, which emperor Ashoka could not open to take out the relics for distribution over the Indian sub-continent.
This stupa is made of sun-dried clay lumps and fixed with mud mortars and later strengthened with layers of gravel and burnt bricks. It is currently in a bad shape. The stupa is threatened by local resident, who are minning it for clay.
"Some local people have damaged a part of it to extend the agriculture fields.The stupa is lying neglected as it is unprotected till date," he said.
http://twocircles.net/2012feb11/bihar_stupa_could_contain_buddha_relics.html 


  • HARSAI STUPA (Herson)
    (86˚10’40”/25˚36’20”)
    Harsai
    Manjhaul
    20 Kms North from Begusarai district headquarters.
    Stupa
    Archaeological Site
    Only one smaller Stupa of southern part seems to be intact due to thick vegetation cover. The main stupa has been cut almost to half.
    Diameter – 110 m
It consist of four stupas having the largest in the centre and there equidistant smaller in three directions, one each in the west, north and south. The completely clay built stupa use to have a hard outer most surface built by bricks-dust etc. (surkhi)This Bajralepit’ stupa consists of a three strate architectures. ‘Mahavansh’ has reference of such stupas. The finding of such remarkable stupa is significant for the history of the region. It must be seen in the contexet of Buddha’s visit to Anguttarap as referred in the “Majjhim Nikaya”.

http://www.begusaraiheritage.com/pages/imparc3.html


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Brahmi script found at Edakkal caves 

T Ramavarman TNN 

Kochi: Noted historian and archaeologist M R Raghava Varier has confirmed the presence of Brahmi script at the ancient Edakkal caves in a remote part of Wayanad district.The latest discovery makes it plausible that the cultural diffusion of the Indus Valley civilization was more widespread than usually thought.Varier said it was the Dravidian form of Brahmi script that was seen at the Edakkal caves.
The Brahmi script I found can be read as Sree Vazhumi which is believed to be the Tamil equivalent of Lord Brahma.It has been found close to the carving of a human figure with an outsized phallus.The practice of providing an inscription beneath a carving or etching is very much part of Indian tradition.This indicates that Edakkal caves were also a fertility cult site, he explained.
The Brahmi script is believed to be used between fifth century BC and sixth century AD and several historians and archaeologists connect it to the ancient Indus Valley civilization.
Their location at Edakkal caves may lend more credence to the view that the civilization may have extended to southern parts of the country as well,and was not confined to northern and central India alone.The Jain and Buddhist sanyasins staying in these caves (viharas) used to give lessons in scripts,grammar,poetry,medicine and astrology.There is evidence that they used the Brahmi script, Varier said.
Surprisingly the Brahmi script had evaded the attention of numerous historians,archaeologists and epigraphists who had visited and studied Edakkal caves in the past.Even I took note of it only when I had gone there last week,though I had visited it several times in the past, he clarified.

Pc0092400.jpg 

Pc0091700.jpg 
Brahmi script found in one of the caves 
 


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Iron Age artefacts excavated in Mahabubnagar district

 

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February 12, 2012

stone.JPG
Iron Age artefacts discovered in Mahabubnagar district

Hyderabad: A team of archaeologists and historians excavated remnants of Iron Age and the Satavahana era from Mahabubnagar district for first time according to a press release by Prof. P Chenna Reddy, Director, Archaeology and Mu seums Department, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad.

A series of 20 megalithic burials were reported from a local hillock, in Madugula village in Mahabubnagar District. The burials are encircled by 14 to 20 huge boulders in which the actual cist burials topped by a huge capstone measuring 4 mts X2 Mts, dating back to to 1000 B.C., according to Prof. E. Sivanagi Reddy, Officer on Special Duty, Archaeology and Museums Department, Dr. J. Jaikishan, K. Jitendra Babu and D. Surya Kumar, Members of Deccan Archaeological and Cultural Research Institute (DACRI) Hyderabad.

Prof. P Chenna Reddy also revealed that the team in its explorations discovered a huge Satavahana site in an extent of 100 acres littered with bricks (58x29x7 cms), black red and black and red ware, red polished ware (Pottery of different sizes), terracotta beads, shell bangle pieces, iron slogs and stone millers dating to 1st century B.C to 2nd Century A.D. On the north east corner of the village, an earthen rampart with a moat is also noticed confirming it as a Satavahana fortified settlement. Scientific clearance of the site may yield valuable material on the culture of the Satavahanas, Prof. P Chenna Reddy added. 

The team also excavated another two megalithic sites located at Irwin and Charagonda in the same district about a 100 cairn circles and two members (huge stones of 10-0 height) are discovered by the team for the first time, which are dating to 1000 B.C., said Prof. Chenna Reddy.
http://www.thehansindia.info/News/Article.asp?category=1&subCategory=2&ContentId=38722


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India's mother divinity: pratimaa of ca. 3rd cent. BCE found in Samarlakota


Statue of mother Goddess dating back to 3rd Century B.C. discovered by Archaeological Survey of India at Sri Chalukya Kumara Bheemeswara Swamy temple at Samarlakota in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh near Kakinada
— Photo: Special Arrangement Statue of mother Goddess dating back to 3rd Century B.C. discovered by Archaeological Survey of India at Sri Chalukya Kumara Bheemeswara Swamy temple at Samarlakota in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh near Kakinada 
 

Earliest image of Mother Goddess found


Ramesh Susarla

The first-ever ‘Mother Goddess' image carved in sandstone rock —
 
representing the earliest perception of idolising woman as Goddess
dating back to 3 Century BC — has been found close to the Sri Chalukya Kumara Bheemeswara Swamy temple at Samarlakota near Kakinada in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

Archaeological Survey of India's Superintending Archaeologist R.
 
Krishnaiah, told The Hindu that while conducting an exploration around the Bheemeswara Swamy temple to ascertain its origin and antiquity, their Deputy Superintending Archaeologist D. Kanna Babu discovered the stunning and unique image of a seated mother goddess (Yakshini), in a remote corner outside the temple.

The centuries old temple is revered as one of the ‘Pancharama
 
Kshetras.' From the archaeological research point of view, the ‘mother goddess' sculpture was a rare discovery, said Mr. Krishnaiah. This find would be vital for reconstructing the cultural life of ancient
Andhra, the origin and evolution of early cultural art. This idol was
believed to be from the Ashoka period in 3 Century BC.

Samarlakota might have played a vital role with prominent cultural
 
activity from the early times dating back to the 11 century Chalukya
period, he added. “We will conduct more explorations in the near
future to bring out archaeological richness of the ancient Godavari
Valley,” he said.

The archaeologist Mr. Babu, who made the discovery, said that such an
 early image of Mother Goddess had not been found so far in entire
South India in stone media. The highly eroded sandstone sculpture is
150 cm tall, 67 cm wide and 28 cm thick life-size form of a Mother
Goddess seated on a broad pedestal.

“Her facial physiognomic feature is roundish, dignified with chubby
 
cheeks, wide open eyes, a broad heavy nose, and close cut tender pair of lips. She is potbellied, her arms and wrists are embellished with a series of big bangles and she is wearing earrings. The head is covered with a beautiful head-dress, but it is in a deeply eroded state.”

The drapery covers her waist, hanging down between her legs and bears
 folds. Hands rest on her thighs and hold something which the ASI presumes are foodgrain. Mr. Babu says these features have striking similarities with the unique Yaksha, Yakshini images unearthed at important cultural sites like Beta, Patna, Deedarganj, Lauria,
Nandanagarh, and Amaravathi of the Mauryan period.

The ASI team included K. Veeranjaneyulu, senior archaeologist, and
 
KVSSN Murthy, caretaker.
 


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Indus script & computational linguistics - Nisha Yadav, Mayank N Vahia (21 Feb. 2012)

 

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Indus Script & Computational Linguistics

[Article posted on 21-February-2012]
Nisha Yadav Mayank N Vahia
indus_SignRestoration.jpg
Restoration of missing signs using a bigram model of Indus script
Writing is an epitome of the intellectual creation of a civilisation. It involves comprehension as well as abstraction of symbols that signify specific achievement of human creativity and communication. Renfrew points out that "The practice of writing, and the development of a coherent system of signs, a script, is something which is seen only in complex societies... Writing, in other words, is a feature of civilisations". When a civilisation leaves behind some written records, they are invaluable not only to understand their civic society but also to understand the basic thinking processes that moulded the civilisation.
Decipherment of any script is a challenging task. At times it is aided by the discovery of a multilingual text where the same text is written in an undeciphered script as well as known script(s). Both Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform texts were deciphered with the help of multilingual texts. In some cases, continuing linguistic traditions provide significant clues and at times interlocking phonetic values are used as a proof of decipherment. In the absence of these, statistical studies can provide important insights into the structure of the script and can be used to define a syntactic framework for the script.
Indus script is a product of one of the largest Bronze Age civilisations often referred to as the Harappan civilisation. At its peak from 2500 BC to 1900 BC, the civilisation was spread over an area of more than a million square kilometres across most of the present day Pakistan, Afghanistan and north-western India. It was distinguished for its highly utilitarian and standardised life style, excellent water management system and architecture. The civilisation had flourishing trade links with West Asia and artefacts of the Harappan civilisation have been found several thousand kilometres away in West Asia.
indus.png 
 
A large unicorn seal from Harappa
The Indus script is predominantly found on objects such as seals, sealings (made of terracotta or steatite), copper tablets, ivory sticks, bronze implements, pottery etc. from almost all sites of this civilisation and in some West Asian sites too. The objects on which the script was written are typically a few square centimetres in size (with the exception of a sign board in Dholavira) and often have multiple components with highly decorated unicorn and other animal motifs with or without a feeding trough. Many of these objects also have geometric designs with multiple folds of symmetry and depiction of scenes involving humans etc. One of the excavators of Mohenjo Daro Sir Mortimer Wheeler says: "At their best, it would be no exaggeration to describe them as little masterpieces of controlled realism, with a monumental strength - in one sense out of all proportion to their size and in another entirely related to it."
The Indus script has defied decipherment in spite of several serious attempts. This is primarily because no multilingual texts have been found, the underlying language(s) is unknown and the script occurs in very short texts. The average length of an Indus text is five signs and the longest text in a single line has only 14 signs.
Through a series of systematic studies (see table below) the TIFR group, in collaboration with colleagues from India and abroad, has been working on understanding the structure of Indus writing. Adopting a novel methodology based on statistical and computational techniques, the group has approached the problem in a manner that makes no assumptions about its underlying content, language or connection to later writing. The study focuses on exploring the structure of the Indus script in unprecedented detail using developments in the fields of machine learning, data mining and information theory. They approach the problem using various techniques of computational linguistics and pattern recognition such as Markov models, n-grams etc. to understand the structure of Indus writing. Using these methods, they first established that the Indus writing has definite rules or a grammatical structure. Having established that the writing is neither random nor disordered, the group is now working on revealing the subtleties of its structure. They have identified specific signs that begin and end the texts. There exist frequently occurring sign combinations (pairs and triplets) which tend to appear at specific locations in the texts. The bigram model of the Indus script can accurately restore the illegible or incomplete texts found on broken or damaged objects with about 75% accuracy. Equally interestingly, the flexibility of sign usage in Indus texts, as measured by conditional entropy, falls within the range of linguistic systems and is distinct from non-linguistic systems such as Protein or DNA sequences or Fortran.
indus_SciencePlot.jpg
Conditional entropy of Indus inscription compared to linguistic and non linguistic systems
The difference in the pattern of sign sequencing between texts coming from Indus sites and West Asian sites suggests that the script was probably also used for writing West Asian contents. They have also shown that signs that seem to be composite of other signs appear in completely different context from its constituent sign sequences demonstrating that shorthanding was not the purpose of sign merger but that merger of signs changed their context and presumably their meaning.
 
These studies will eventually help in defining a syntactic framework of the Indus script against which different hypotheses about its content can be tested.

MAJOR CONCLUSIONS

Sl. No.Test/ MeasureResultsConclusions
1.Zipf- Mandelbrot LawBest fit for a= 15.4, b =2.6, c = 44.5 (95% confidence interval)Small number of signs account for bulk of the data while a large number of signs contribute to a long tail.
2.Cumulative frequency distribution69 signs: 80 % of EBUDS,23 signs: 80 % of Text Enders, 82 signs: 80 % of Text BeginnersIndicates asymmetry in usage of 417 distinct signs. Suggests logic and structure in writing.
3.Bigram probabilityConditional probability matrix is strikingly different from the matrix assuming no correlations.Indicates presence of significant correlations between signs.
4.Conditional probabilities of text beginners and text endersRestricted number of signs follow frequent text beginners whereas large number of signs precede frequent text enders.Indicates presence of signs having similar syntactic functions.
5.Log-likelihood significance testSignificant sign pairs and triplets extracted.The most significant sign pairs and triplets are not always the most frequent ones.
6.EntropyRandom: 8.70; EBUDS: 6.68Indicates presence of correlations.
7.Mutual informationRandom: 0; EBUDS: 2.24Indicates flexibility in sign usage.
8.PerplexityMonotonic reduction as n-increases from 1 to 5.Indicates presence of long range correlations.
9.Sign restorationRestoraton of missing and illegible signs.Bigram model can restore illegible signs according to probability.
10.Cross validationSensitivity of the bigram model = 74 %Bigram model can predict signs with 74% accuracy.
11.Conditional entropyCloser to linguistic systems than non-linguistic systems.The flexibility of sign usage in Indus texts is similar to closer to that of linguistic systems.
12.Comparison of compound signs with constituent sign sequencesEnvironments in which compound signs appear is very different from that of its constituent sign sequences which rarely appear together.Compound signs are not created for shorthanding but seem to have different function.

Further reading:

A statistical approach for pattern search in Indus writing

Nisha Yadav, M N Vahia, Iravatham Mahadevan and H. Joglekar
International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 37, 39 - 52, January 2008

Segmentation of Indus text

Nisha Yadav, M N Vahia, Iravatham Mahadevan and H. Joglekar
International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 37, 53 - 72, January 2008

Statistical analysis of the Indus script using n-grams

Nisha Yadav, Hrishikesh Joglekar, Rajesh P.N. Rao, M. N. Vahia, Iravatham Mahadevan, R. Adhikari
PLoS ONE 5(3): e9506., doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009506, March 2010

A probabilistic model for analyzing undeciphered scripts and its application to the 4500-year-old Indus script

Rajesh P. N. Rao, Nisha Yadav, Mayank N. Vahia, Hrishikesh Joglekar, R. Adhikari, Iravatham Mahadevan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Dec. 2009106:13685-13690; published online before print August 5, 2009,doi:10.1073/pnas.0906237106

Evidence for linguistic structure in the Indus script

Rajesh P. N. Rao, NishaYadav, Mayank N. Vahia, Hrishikesh Joglekar, R. Adhikari, Iravatham Mahadevan
Science, 324, 1165, 2009

Network analysis reveals structure indicative of syntax in the corpus of undeciphered Indus civilisation inscriptions

Sitabhra Sinha, Raj Kumar Pan, Nisha Yadav, Mayank Vahia and Iravatham Mahadevan
Proceedings of the 2009 Workshop on Graph-based Methods for Natural Language Processing, ACL-IJCNLP 2009, pages 5�13, Suntec, Singapore

Entropy, the Indus script and language: A reply to R. Sproat

Rajesh Rao, Nisha Yadav, M N Vahia, H Jogalekar, R Adhikari and I Mahadevan
Computational Linguistics 36(4), 2010

Harappan geometry and symmetry: A study of geometrical patterns on Indus objects

M N Vahia and Nisha Yadav
Indian Journal of History of Science, 45, 343, 2010

Classification of patterns on Indus objects

Nisha Yadav and M. N. Vahia
International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, Vol. 40: No. 2, June 2011

Indus script: A study of its sign design

Nisha Yadav and M N Vahia
Scripta, Vol. 3, pp. 133-172, September 2011


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