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31 March 2008
Stone Age weapons dug up in India

Archaeologists in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal have discovered small weapons made of stone which are around 15,000-20,000 years old. About 200 small stone tools, knives and needle-like 'microliths' among others were found during excavations in Murshidabad district, near Bangladesh. Archaeologists say the find is potentially significant as it suggests man's presence in the area dates back much earlier than previously believed.
     The weapons - which include small axes - were discovered at Ekani-Chandpara village near Sagardighi, which is an ancient site. Archaeologists say the weapons were found from a soil layer belonging to the mid-Pleistocene period - much below the Holocene layer where present human habitation takes place. "We have not only discovered the weapons at this site, but raw materials and the scraps were also found," Dr Gautam Sengupta, director of the State Archaeology Department, said. "This proves that the weapons were made at this place itself."
     Another reason why the find is so significant, archaeologists say, is because Stone Age weapons are not normally found at such an old soil layer in the Gangetic alluvial plains. However it is well known that raw materials for making weapons are easily found in the plateau region and most Stone Age discoveries are from this area. So far, no human fossils or remains other than some charcoal have been found at the site. Scientists have yet to confirm how old the charcoal is.
     The discovery was made by chance, Dr Sengupta said. "We were digging the site for some archaeological evidence of the Sultanate period. We were expecting some ancient artefacts related to Sultan Hussein Shah," he said - referring to a former ruler from the area. "We did find those, but our archaeologists kept on digging to unearth some more historical evidence of that period and now we have found these Stone Age weapons," Dr Sengupta said.
     "The discovery indicates that an ancient civilisation existed in this part of Bengal and the stone tools, besides agate, quartz, chert and chalcedony were found to be used by a hunting tool-producing community in the pre-historic period," state Archaeology department's superintendent Amal Roy said from the excavation site at Haatpara mouza in Sagardighi block. "The finds have been closely examined and found to be beyond Holocene period (over 10,000 year-old)," he added. After winding up the excavation at Ekani Chandpara in a couple of weeks, archaeologists are planning to launch a search for ancient human habitation in a wider area.

Sources: BBC News (28 March 2008), Deccan Herald, Times of India (29 March 2008)

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