THE Harappan sites of 4MSR and 43GB situated 50 km apart in Rajasthan present contrasting pictures as far as their mounds go. While the mound in 4MSR is more or less intact and without habitation, thus facilitating excavation in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the one at 43GB has numerous houses making it impossible for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to undertake a systematic excavation. However, in March the ASI excavated two trial trenches in the mound in an attempt to understand the cultural linkage between 4MSR and 43GB.
A two-hour drive on a broad, unpaved road over much of the 50 km distance takes one from 4MSR to 43GB. The village has a primary school, and tractors were parked in front of several houses. Bulls were roaming around on the unpaved streets. The mound itself was surrounded by wheat fields, as at 4MSR. The Ghaggar river, now dry, flowed about 500 metres away on the southern side of the mound.
Sanjay Kumar Manjul, director of the excavation at both sites, said Rakesh Tewari, Director General, ASI, inspired him “to do a detailed investigation of the sites surrounding 4MSR in order to understand the complete picture of the region”. After extensive exploration, 43GB was taken up for trial excavation. The site belongs to the Mature Harappan and late Mature Harappan phases.
V.P. Yathees Kumar and M. Prasanna, Assistant Archaeologists, ASI, were supervising the excavation. The trial trenches revealed mud-brick structures and potsherds that belonged to the later phase of the Mature Harappan civilisation. Bangles made of terracotta, beads fashioned out of semi-precious stones such as carnelian and steatite, and painted pottery were found. A steatite seal showing a unicorn and Harappan signs was found on the surface of the mound. “We began the excavation at 43GB to understand the cultural sequence of the site and its relationship with 4MSR and other sites nearby,” said Manjul. “We are trying to understand the paleoclimate of this region with the evidence provided by the archaeological finds and the settlement pattern of Harappan sites in this region,” he added.
Manjul and his team from the Institute of Archaeology visited several Harappan sites in the region, which had been earlier explored by scholars such as Aurel Stein, A. Ghosh and K.N. Dikshit. But unlike 4MSR, 43GB had no Early Harappan phase at all, Manjul said. When the Harappans settled down at 43GB, a dry climate seemed to have prevailed during the transitional phase from the Early Harappan to the Mature Harappan stage.
Manjul said the Mature Harappan people dispersed to many places because of the climatic conditions and the availability of more resources in those places. “That is how the settlement came up here at 43GB. Tarkhanewaladera, a site that is about 7 km from 4MSR, witnessed dispersal during the Mature phase. The ASI had excavated it earlier,” he said.
On why the Harappans abandoned these sites, he said the setting in of a dry climate and aridity could have driven them towards the upper reaches of the Ghaggar river. This held good for almost all Harappan sites in the region, including Baror and 68/2.
Even as this discussion was under way, Yathees Kumar and Prasanna unearthed a small hearth with ash and charcoal pieces in one of the two trenches. Nearby was a triangular stone. Rajan was sure that it was a domestic hearth for cooking and the triangular stone was meant for grinding.
During the exploration at68/2,which is around 13 km from Anupgarh on the way to Suratgarh, some Early Harappan ceramics were found. The villagers had cut the ancient mound, but some portion was left intact which was investigated by the ASI team in 2017. During the excavation, it was observed that the pottery and other artefacts were similar to those of the Early Harappan phase of 4MSR, Kalibangan, Sothi and Kunal. A disturbed human burial was exposed along with pottery. Manjul said: “We have collected samples down to the natural soil for scientific dates and other analysis to understand more about the contemporary settlements in this region as well their connection with other settlements on the ancient Sarasvati basin.”