Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) along with Pune’s Deccan College of Postgraduate & Research Institute has initiated an in situ conservation and protection of Megalithic burial site at the Gorewada Reserve Forest of Nagpur.
This is first-of-a-kind project to be conducted in the Indian sub-continent.
While excavating two burial sites near AAM Nullah which is on the safari trail of then Gorewada International Zoo, several artefacts and objects were discovered. These unearthed items belonged to the Megalithic traditions and dated as long ago as 3,000 years.
“Vidarbha is one of the important regions where one finds this type of stone circles site. The artefacts, some of them found for the first time, show cult of dead (ancestral worship). These objects used to be buried with the dead with a strong belief that there is life after death,” says Dr Kantikumar Pawar, project in-charge, Gorewada Archaeological Theme Park (ATP). The cost of the ATP project is estimated to be Rs 8.5 crore. Some portion of the excavated material from burial site will also be exhibited at the park.
FDCM managing director Dr N Rambabu said, “FDCM signed an MoU with Deccan College for archaeological theme park in June 2018. The actual excavation started on November 3. Apart from tourism, the burial site will help understand relations between different rural communities situated in cluster such Megalithic sites excavated in the 70s in Junapani, Mahurzari, Vyhad, Dhamna Linga, Hirapur, Khopdi and Naikund near Nagpur and Chandrapur.”
Nandkishore Kale, Gorewada divisional manager, revealed that the burials will be preserved for the tourism reasons. They will be covered with large glass tombs and pathways for tourists. “This is the first kind of attempt in the Indian sub-continent. Such projects need to be taken up in other forest areas to tell visitors about our rich cultural heritage,” he said.
When the national daily went to the site, they found about 13 students and some trained labourers digging out the artefacts. Amongst all the discoveries was the finding of black cotton soil which was used for burial. The Megalithic culture did note use such kind of soil for burial which took the department by surprise. This was the first half of the soil. The other consisted of rubbles and cobbles. The other burial had two oblong pits were discovered and human skeletons in two pits in them.
“After excavation, ceramics and metal objects were recovered. One of them is an iron dagger with copper handle with repeating technology and may be of the chieftain of the community. Such an object has so far not been recovered anywhere at such sites. In Mahurzari, a simple dagger was recovered,” says Pawar, who is also professor of archaeology with Deccan College.
Pawar revealed that finding bangles is a sure sign of woman’s burial. It also points towards the fact that two noted personalities were buried at the spot.
The unearthed objects indicated that the people of those times had immense know-how of metal technology. In the year 2014, a Korean professor Jang-Sik Park along with Deccan College University vice-chancellor Vasant Shinde jointly conducted scientific work and found that the people were probably the best producers of iron and steel in whole of the Indian sub-continent.
“These objects will be analysed using various scientific methods like residue and geo-morphological analysis and dating will be undertaken to find exact age of this burial. Deccan College is also excavating their habitation sites located towards extreme north of Gorewada,” says Pawar.
“We have found evidences of floor, chulhas along with utilization pots. Some of the terracotta beads are important findings during excavation. Now, these findings will be helpful to know relation between burial objects and habitation data,” said Pawar.
Nagpur University’s Ismail Kellellu who is the authority on Megaliths and retired HoD of ancient Indian history, culture, and archaeology said, “The work carried out at Gorewada is unique as it is difficult to excavate object in black cotton soil. It is a 3,000-year-old burial site from early iron age period constructed by community efforts. These people lived in small huts but gave honourable burial to their kin believing life after death. So, these objects were as a symbol of implements of future life journey of the dead.”
Representive title image: ncifredrick