Archaeology

Odisha's Neolithic pre-history

T. S. Subramanian
    The Suabarei mound where the excavation took place in two seasons between 2014 and 2016. It covers an area of 6,330 square metres and is at a height of 4.5 metres from the ground level. Photo: ASI
    Labourers sorting out aretfacts found in the incipient levels of the Chalcolithic period at Suabarei. Photo: ASI
    The discovery of a "hiatus" or a "clear-cut gap" in layer 11 as shown in the photograph, and in the following illustration, established for the first time in Odisha's prehistory the existence of a Neolithic phase clearly separated from the Chalcolithic level in a stratified context at a site. Until then, in other sites, the two levels were found mixed up. The "hiatus" varies in width from 30cm to one metre and was barren. The hiatus indicates, according to the ASI's estimates, that Suabarei had no settlement for 600 years after the Neolithic people abandoned the place and until the Chalcolithic people reoccupied it. Layer 12 in the picture (and the following illustration) belongs to the Neolithic period and layers 10 to two belong to the incipient and mature Chalcolithic periods. Photo: ASI
    Illustration explaining the "hiatus".
    Sun-dried mud bricks can be seen on the inner side of the mud walls of the circular huts. Photo: ASI
    Burnt patches were found on the rammed floor of a circular hut indicating cooking or some ritual activity. Photo: ASI
    A polychrome painted pot of the mature Chalcolithic period found in layer six of a trench. Photo: ASI
    A huge terracota pot in one of the trenches. Photo: ASI
    A hearth found in the upper levels of a trench. It was perhaps used for cooking. The inner side was coated with thick clay so that it could retain heat for a long time. It had projections on which different types of vessels could be kept. Photo: ASI
    A typical fish hook made of copper and belonging to the Chalcolithic period. The Chalcolithic period belongs to the Bronze Age and was pastoral in nature. The Harappan civilisation also belonged to the Bronze Age but it was urban oriented. Copper is one of the ingredients of the alloy that is bronze. Photo: ASI
    A stone fishing net sinker used by people who lived in Suabarei during the Chalcolithic period. Photo: ASI
    A terracotta casket superbly crafted with four legs. Photo: ASI
    Jeeban Kumar Patnaik, director of the excavation at Suabarei and Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Branch-IV, Bhubaneswar, examining a red ware found at the site. Photo: Biswaranjan Rout
    Rice husk found embedded in clay in a trench. Roasted grains, black gram, green gram and horse gram found in the trenches proved that the people who lived at Suabarei knew how to grow crops. They belonged to a transition period from hunting-gathering and fishing to farming. Photo: ASI
    A needle made of bone. It was used for stitching and a variety of other purposes. Photo: ASI
    A copper ring belonging to the Chalcolithic period. Photo: ASI
    An elephant skull, which can be dated to the mature Chalcolithic period. Photo: ASI
    An elephant bone recovered from the excavation. Photo: ASI
    Handmade gritty pottery remains found in the trenches clearly establish that Suabarei had a Neolithic past. These pieces of coarse pottery were made before the potter's wheel came to be used. Photo: ASI
    Decorated pottery with impressions of nails, pellets, cords and mats and reeds were found at Suabarei. Photo: ASI
    Remains of perforated jars that typically belong to the Chalcolithic period. Photo: ASI
    Beads made of semi-precious stones. Photo: ASI
    A Neolithic stone tool found in the lowermost level of a trench. Photo: ASI
    Polished stone axes from the Chalcolithic period found in different layers. Photo: ASI
    Stone tools such as celts and cleavers, stone fish net sinkers and points. Photo: ASI
    Blades made of chert stone used by the people of Suabarei to skin animals. These blades were found in layer six in the trenches and so can be assigned to the mature Chalcolithic period (more than 3,000 years before the present). Photo: ASI
    A circular hut belonging to the Chalcolithic period being excavated. The huts had mud walls whose inner sides were strengthened with sun-dried bricks and clay lumps. A unique feature of the huts was that they had no posts to support their conical roofs. Several such huts, all of which faced east, that is, the entrance was on the eastern side, were found. Photo: ASI
    Rakesh Tewary, Director General, ASI, examining the pottery kept in the pottery yard at the site. Photo: ASI
    The camp site near the mound with neatly erected tents and the pottery yard where segregation of the different types of pottery is done. Photo: ASI
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