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10 June 2003
Cache of seal impressions discovered in western India

A bin containing more than 100 seal impressions dating to 2100–1700 BCE has been discovered amidst excavations at the ancient town of Gilund in southern Rajasthan, India, one of the largest sites of the little-known Ahar-Banas culture. According to Dr. Gregory Possehl, curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and excavation co-director, the existence of these seals, and their particular styles, provides new evidence of an apparent complexity of this nonliterate, late and post-Indus Civilization era culture.
     Teams of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania and the Deccan College, Pune, India, have been conducting excavations at Gilund since 1999, with the bin of seal impressions being discovered in the 2002–2003 season that ended in February. The bin was in a large building between two walls of 30 to 49 inches in thickness in a space of about the same width. The size (more than 25 x 60 feet) and nature of the building, while has yet to be fully excavated, indicates it was a “public” structure, with its narrow rooms possibly used for storage. According to Dr. Possehl, while the contents of the warehouse are not known, agricultural or animal products, possibly valuable items like oil, ghee and textiles, seem likely.
   Although no seals have been discovered at Gilund, the collection of so many seal impressions indicates a population of elite citizens who used stamps as a means to identify themselves and their high status, as well as commodities stored in buildings under their control. The impressions, while quite simple and made from seals both rectilinear and round, offer additional evidence of a more worldly wise culture than was formerly assumed to exist at Gilund, as there are distinct parallels with seals from Indus Civilization sites 400 to 500 miles away, as well as those from as far away as Central Asia and Afghanistan.
     Dr. Possehl stated, “Archaeologists have known for a number of years that the so-called BMAC peoples were in Sindh and Baluchistan, as well as Iran, and even as far south as the Arabian Gulf. This, however, is the first time that such evidence has come from so deep within India.”
     Further exploration of the large building where the impressions were found will resume next winter, where further evidence of its function will be sought.

Source: museum.upenn.edu (May 2003)

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