12 March 2006
4,000-year-old settlement unearthed in Bangladesh
Archaeologists have discovered artefacts at a village in Narsingdi (Bangladesh) that may date to the Chalcolithic, which is around 4,000 years old, and believe the finds are the earliest signs of settlement in the region. The excavators led by Prof Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, chairman of the Department of Archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, traced a pit-dwelling, one of the primary means of living in which people lived in small ditches, at Wari-Bateswar under Belabo upazila, some 70km from the capital. This is the first discovery of the Chalcolithic occurrence in the country, the earlier findings not dating back before the Mouryan Age in 400 BCE.
Artefacts of the pit-dwelling era in the Indian subcontinent have been found at places including Burzahom at Swat Valley in Pakistan, which is around 5,000 years old, and Inamgaon in South India, which dated back to around 1400BC-700BCE. The team of Rahman and his students found a water reservoir, a hearth, a storage pit and some household accessories inside the pit-dwelling. They also unearthed an earlier dug-out road, leading to what seems to be a fortified town. The team in March 2004 found a 20-metre stretch of a road, which later tested to be some 2,450 years old. Examining the location and landscape, they claimed it to be a fortified town which is a significant symbol of urbanisation in the area.
Rahman and his students started digging a six metre by four metre trench in February last year. They dug up to 1.3 metre deep to find a pit on the ground level of the ancient time. "We took the hole for a garbage pit," said Rahman. In February this year, the team found a hearth on the other side of the ditch, a dish and bones beside it, which confirmed about the pit-dwelling settlement, Rahman explained. Usually, Chalcolithic people stored grains in those holes, he said.
They dug another metre horizontally from the hearth and found four bags of ash. They also found a well, a sign of a pillar for supporting the roof, dishes and a coconut, the earliest known botanical remain in the region. The coconut and two other samples have been sent to the Institute of Archaeology at London University, which took up the task of determining the age of these finds through Carbon-14 dating. The road dates back to a time older than 450 BCE. "The water reservoir, hearth, storage pit and other household accessories, which have been found after digging more than a metre, convince me that the pit-dwelling settlement dates back to a much earlier period," Rahman said. The archaeologists are now studying the environment of the dwelling place, means of living and other aspects of the time to learn more about the inhabitants who settled there.
Prof Dilip K Chakraborty, an expert on South Asian archaeology and a teacher of Cambridge University, said the discovery of pit-dwelling is historic. "Hearing about the measurement and description of the site, I think, that is definitely a pit-dwelling," Chakraborty told The Daily Star over telephone. The discovery is historic as no such settlement has been found in the region earlier, he added.
Sources: The Daily Star, People's Daily Online (12 March 2006)