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Delhi site linked to Mahabharat throws up ancient finds in excavation

By Kunal Dutt
May 30, 2023 17:34 IST
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A spoked copper wheel of the Kushana era, an arrowhead of Rajput period and coins dating from the Mughal reign are among a range of ancient artefacts unearthed in the latest excavation currently underway at the Purana Qila site in Delhi, a top official of the Archaeological Survey of India said on Tuesday.

IMAGE: Kindly note that this image has been posted for representational purposes only. Photograph: ANI Photo/ASI

It is one of the "rare archaeological sites" in India where layers of history spanning over 2,500 years have been found, ASI spokesperson Vasant Swarnkar said.

The fresh round of excavation, which began late January, is being led by archaeologist Swarnkar. This is the third season of excavation at the 16th century Purana Qila, after excavations in 2013-14 and 2017-18.

Painted grey wares or PGWs were found in the first round of excavation in 2013-14, Swarnkar said.


Padma Vibhushan Prof B B Lal, who had also carried out excavation works inside the fort and its premises in 1954 and 1969-73, had co-related the finding of PGWs at various sites believed to be linked with Mahabharata with that period, according to ASI officials.

The artefacts have been unearthed as a result of multiple rounds of excavations, which date from pre-Mauryan era to Mughal period, Swarnkar said.

"In the latest excavation at Purana Qila site, artefacts from Kushana period, Rajput period and Mughal period have been found, among other antique remains. These include a spoked copper wheel about 5 cm in diameter (Kushana period), a copper arrow head (Rajput period), a bone needle and a pint (Gupta period) and old coins (Mughal period)," Swarnkar told PTI.

Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy visited the excavation site on Tuesday morning and said the government considers it as an "important archaeological site".

He also said efforts will be made to expedite the excavation work before the onset of the monsoon.

Swarnkar said the Purana Qila is among the "possible sites" in Delhi which will be visited by delegates during the G20 Summit slated to be held in New Delhi in September.

Asked what artefacts have been excavated in the last one month or so, he said a "brick platform" and a "kiln" of the Kushana period were found at the site.

Officials in January had said archaeologists were all set to carry out a fresh round of excavation at Purana Qila with an aim to expose and preserve the trenches that were excavated in previous such exercises.

A fresh trench has also been dug at the excavation site, Swarnkar said.

The ministry of culture in a statement earlier had said that during the closure of the previous season's excavation, "evidence of layers predating the Mauryan period was found".

Identified as ancient settlement of Indraprastha, a continuous habitation of 2,500 years at Purana Qila was established in earlier excavations, it said.

"The findings and artefacts unearthed in earlier excavations comprise painted grey ware, belonging to 900 BC, an earthen pottery sequence from Maurya to Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Rajput, Sultanates and Mughal periods," the ministry had said.

ASI spokesperson Swarnkar said in the first round of excavation at the Purana Qila site, "a ring well, beads and sealings" from the Mauryan era was found, adding that some of the artefacts carry "symbols from that era" but no text, so one cannot ascertain who was Mauryan ruler.

Among Pre-Mauryan era artefacts, beads and a bead-making set up unearthed in the previous round of excavation.

Purana Qila was built by Sher Shah Suri and Mughal emperor Humayun. The fort stands on a site nestling thousands of years of history.

Asked if anything from modern period has been found in the latest excavation at the Purana Qila site, Swarnkar said, "We have found a British-era shoe polish box. The brand name is 'Parrot' with 'Made in England' printed on its side. Besides, we have also found a tiny porcelain sculpture and a cobble stone-made drain line at the upper level".

"After cleaning and documentation, and material identification, these artefacts will be kept in a museum," he said.

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Kunal Dutt in New Delhi
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