Archaeology

Telltale furnaces

Print edition : June 23, 2017

An oval furnace with a hub in the middle for keeping the crucible where artisans kept the copper ingots before fashioning them into artefacts. The furnace has holes for aeration and for inserting tuyeres to work up the flames. Photo: V.V. KRISHNAN

The star discovery of the year at 4MSR, the Archaeological Survey of India's site in Rajasthan, was this oval-shaped furnace lined with mud bricks. It was in furnaces such as these that the laborious process of making copper artefacts began. The furnace was used to smelt copper from the copper ore. It had a hole for inserting the tuyere for fanning the flame and holes on its sides for aeration. Beside the furnace is an anvil where the sheeted ore was hammered into ingots. Photo: T.S. Subramanian

Sanjay Kumar Manjul, ASI’s director of excavation, studying storage jars adjacent to furnaces build on brick platforms. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

In 4MSR, trench after trench threw up furnaces and hearths in different shapes, clearly indicating that it was a thriving industrial centre. The picture shows a long, oval-shaped furnace and a circular furnace built on a mud-brick platform. Photo: V.V. KRISHNAN

A circular hearth with charcoal pieces and ash. Harappans made beads out of steatite, agate, carnelian, lapis lazuli, and so on here. Photo: T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

A yoni-shaped furnace found at 4MSR. Photo: T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

This terracotta vessel with a pronounced knob at the centre has engaged the attention of archaeologists as a "unique find" and is probably used in rituals or ceremonies. Similar vessels have been depicted on Harappan seals and copper plates. Photo: ASI

The copper plate with the engraving of the knobbed ceremonial vessel similar to the one found in the 2017 round of excavations. Photo: VASANT SHINDE

At the ASI's 43GB site, Sanjay Kumar Manjul (right) and K. Rajan, professor of history, Pondicherry University. Photo: V.V. KRISHNAN

An inverted pot, probably of the Mature Harappan period, found in situ in a trench at 4MSR. Photo: V.V. KRISHNAN

A portion of the enclosure wall that has been excavated in different areas around the mound. The wall, made of mud bricks, is thought to run around the settlement, and this one is in the south-east corner. Photo: ASI

A painted terracotta pot. Photo: ASI

A view of the sunset from the mound at 4MSR surrounded by wheat fields. Photo: T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

Harappan beakers for measuring liquids. Photo: V.V. KRISHNAN

Boards announcing the names of 4MSR village near Bijnor. 4MSR is, as the crow flies, 7 km from the border with Pakistan. After Partition, Rajasthan Irrigation Department officials gave names such as 4MSR, 43GB and 86GB to newly created settlements for refugees from across the border. Photo: T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

The ASI's Arvin Manjul (third from left), co-director of the excavation at 4MSR, 43GB and 68/2GB, and other archaeologists examine a human skeleton found in the trench at 68/2GB. Photo: ASI

On the mound at 43GB around 50 km from 4MSR. Unlike 4MSR, the mound is heavily built up with houses and other structures, making excavation a real challenge. People of the Mature Harappan period settled on a big sand dune at 43GB, which became a mound after they abandoned it. Photo: T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

The trial trench at 68/2GB near 4MSR. It yielded Early Harappan ceramics, beads made of semi-precious stones, terracotta bangles and pestles. Photo: ASI

Gold rings, pieces and foils found in the 2017 excavations testified to the fact that the 4MSR Harappans made gold products too. They sourced gold from present-day Karnataka. Photo: ASI

The seal with a perfectly carved figure of a unicorn-it has been scooped out with precision on a thin slate of white steatlite-belongs to the Mature Harappan period. The ceremonial vessel in front of the unicorn is a puzzle. The seal has one Harappan sign on top and other signs that seem to have been scraped off. It has a perfectly made knob with a hole on the reverse and is a good example of seals of the Mature Harappan period. Photo: ASI

Seven different seals were found at 4MSR in the 2017 round of excavations and they provided insights into the gradual development in the production of seals. The seal with triangular designs and a crudely made knob, with a hole through which to string a thread, belongs to the transitional phase between the Early Harappan and Mature Harappan phases. Photo: ASI

Arrowheads, spearheads, celts and fish hooks, all made of copper, were found in the trenches at 4MSR, affirming to the industrial nature of the site. Archaeologists found copper bangles, rings, beads, and so on. Photo: ASI

Hundreds of oblong (popular qamong archaeologists as idli-shaped), triangular terracotta cakes have been found at 4MSR and the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Haryana, 340 km away. While the oblong cakes were used to retain heat in domestic hearths and chulas for keeping milk and water warm, the painted triangular cakes were embedded as decorative pieces on walls and floors of houses. Photo: ASI

Humped bulls, made of terracotta, found in the trenches at 4MSR. Photo: ASI

The shell of a tortoise in one of the trenches. Two such shells were found in different trenches along with charred bones, indicating that the Harappans consumed tortoise meat. Photo: ASI

The latest round of the Archaeological Survey of India’s excavations at 4MSR in Rajasthan gives valuable insights into how the Harappans made the transition from an agricultural society into an industrial one.

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