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rassel
April 1, 2004, 06:40 PM
Oldest civilisation dug out
Road, fortified citadel, artefacts in Wari village date back to 450 BC
Shamim Ashraf

The excavation of an ancient road suggests Narsingdi was part of a 2,450-year-old civilisation and formed the eastern fringe of Mauryan Empire.

A prime trade centre flourished in Narsingdi that maintained contacts with contemporary South Asian and Roman civilisations through waterways, archaeologists citing recent finds in Belabo upazila in Narsingdi said. (

The March 21 excavation of country's oldest road, a fortified citadel and a raft of artefacts dating back to 450 BC in Wari village promised to redefine history of eastern India and embolden the theory of the Brahmaputra civilisation.


Examination of charcoal samples from the site in 2001 by Netherlands' Centrum voor Isotopen Onderzoek' also spoke of human habitation and industry in the area in 450 BC, dwarfing the ancient aura of Mahastangarh, which flourished 80 years later.

After finding rouletted and knobbed pottery from Wari and Bateshwar villages in 2000 and 2001, archaeologists suggested Buddhism dominated life in the urban centre.


FABLED ARTEFACTS

About three years ago, archaeologists found the pottery and other archaeological treasures in the two villages in Belabo lending colour to the conviction that the region was a cradle of the Brahmaputra civilisation.


The finds of the 18 by 16-metre road and a citadel fortified by bunkers in Wari village, reinforced the conviction this month.

Dr Sufi Mustafizur Rahman, associate professor of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University and leader of the excavation team, found a 600 by 600-metre area housing the citadel a few days after kicking off the current mission on March 4.

He believes the citadel formed the eastern limit of the Mauryan Empire. "I think the citadel ran very organised administrative activities with trade activities around it," he added.

"Discovery of the road will revolutionise the early archaeology of eastern India as a whole since no road was found in the Trans-Gangetic valley earlier," Prof Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti, who teaches archaeology at Cambridge University, told The Daily Star from Cambridge by phone.


"The carbon dating of previous finds here is enough proof of the age of the site. We don't need to test the age of the road anew," said Chakrabarti, who is involved with the Narsingdi quest since 1992 and currently helping Mustafizur's excavation team.


The finds dwarf Bangladesh's ancient hubs of Pundrabardhan in Bogra's Mahastangarh that dates back to 370 BC, the Buddhist seat of learning in Paharpur, Comilla of the 8th century and Buddhist centre of Mainamoti that flourished between 7th and 12th century.

ROAD ENCOURAGES DIGGERS

"Spotting an extended part, we began digging the site that exposed the 18 by 16-metre, 27-centimetre thick road," Mustafizur said, adding the road, Bangladesh's ancient, was made of crushed brick and potshots (black slipped ware) and cemented by brick dust.

"In the two-layered road, potshots were used as chief raw material," he said, adding in the distant past the material was used to build roads as it was available and harder than crushed bricks.


"The eastern end of the two-layered road gradually widened and stretched up to the eastern bunker (of the citadel). Two layers hint the road was either renovated or used after it was abandoned once."

Comparing the finds with Pundrabardhan citadel's, he said there were four entrances to Pundrabardhan citadel, but no road.


He said the Wari citadel floor was made of crushed bricks, dust and lime that resembled with early historic Indian and Horoppan practices.

The fortification was similar to those in Mahastangarh, Chandaraketugarh and Banhgarh (West Bengal), Shishupalgarh (Orissa).


A team of the Department of Archaeology that began excavation last year also dug up part of a brick wall in Wari.

Potshots, beads and punch-marked coins -- marks of early historic artefacts -- also ran abundant in the surrounding villages of Sonarutala, Rangartek, Algartek and Bateshwar.

The artefacts found in Wari and Bateshwar bear a testimony to the chronology of markers in early historic period, while chips, flakes and semi-precious stone beads indicate existence of manufacturing centres.

A few pieces of raw materials like jasper and quartz support the existence of production centres and hand-axes, spearheads, knives and smelted tiny parts of iron confirm the idea of furnace as well as of smelting centre there.

Commenting on the availability of Indo-Pacific monochrome glass beads, Mustafizur said the area might be Souanagoura as described by Alexandrian geographer Ptolemy in his Geographia.


EXCAVATION HOLDS KEY

Expressing similar views, Chakrabarty stressed massive excavation of the site of opulent past.

But Mustafizur finds the excavation prospects bleak because of fund crisis after the end of his Asiatic Society fellowship on April 9.

"It will take a long time to excavate the huge site," said Mustafizur, adding his university had the expertise and tools for the job.


Recognising the significance of the site, Dewan Delwar Hossain, director of the Department of Archaeology, said: "Encouraging local excavators, we will also invite foreign experts, if necessary, to uncover the mystery of Wari, Bateshwar villages. (Daily Star)

rassel
April 1, 2004, 06:54 PM
This is a fascinating find; I hardly see any history of our country’s past civilization.

fab
April 1, 2004, 07:21 PM
Wow, that was really interesting. Thank you.

Does anyone know of any good books about ancient bengal history?

Arnab
April 1, 2004, 08:05 PM
There's not too many.

If you want to read about the history of Bangla language (Bangla is at least 1100 years old) and linguistics in general, Humayun Azad has written a few accessible books. They are very entertaining if you are Bangla grammar and spelling nut like me.

If you want to read the history of Dhaka, Muntasir Mamun is THE man.

There are many pedantic history books out there I am sure. And I have read quite a few of them when I was in high school. I am sure there are books by West Bengal writers.

Zunaid
April 1, 2004, 08:19 PM
Don't forget the Banglapedia:

History section (http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/H_0136.htm)

The Banglapedia is a magnificent endeavor..

A Star Weekend Magazine Article (http://www.thedailystar.net/magazine/2003/09/02/coverstory.htm)

This makes VB redundant :)

The print publication is a 10 volume set and costs only $460. I believe only the first volume has been published in hardcopy. A multimedia CD is also in the works.

- Z

rassel
April 1, 2004, 08:42 PM
:fanflag:

say
April 4, 2004, 07:52 PM
Originally posted by fab
Wow, that was really interesting. Thank you.

Does anyone know of any good books about ancient bengal history?

I might have mentioned this before - that recently I read a very interesting book that discusses a part of Bengal history. The book is named "The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier" written by Richard M. Eaton. It has a chapter on the 'ancient period' of Bengal but not in detail (just to provide some background to the main subject). It goes in detail about the history of 'middle ages' (1204 - 1760). As the name suggests, this is not meant to be a complete history book. It focuses only on the subject of the development and attributes of Islam / Muslims in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) - therefore it is only a partial history of Bengal. Nonetheless, the book is a fantastic discussion about how we have approached our history. The best thing about this book is - it is refreshingly free of the biases that we usually see among the Bangladeshi History writers.

An online version of the book is available from http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft067n99v9/

For a book like this I prefer reading a paper copy over reading it in the computer screens - so I borrowed it from a library.

[Edited on 5-4-2004 by say]