Excavation

1. Excavated sites in and around Uttarakhand

A.Centrally protected sites(excavated by A.S.I)

i. KASHIPUR, District Udham Singh Nagar

Kashipur is identified by A. Cunningham with Kiu-pi-shwang-na of Hiuen Tsang, which is rendered into Sanskrit by Julien as Govisana. Cunningham traced remains of a large structure at Bhim-Gaja the highest place at the site. The ASI conducted excavations here in the year 1939-40, 1965-66 and 1970-01 in order to reveal the details of the structure traced by Cunningham. Excavation revealed substantial part of the plan of the temple built in three different phases. Initially, the temple appear to have started as soiled brick built high platform surmounted possibly by sanctum during Gupta period but later, two encircling walls probably in 6th -7th century AD were laid around it covering it finally into an extensive and impressive Panchayatana complex.

Since the excavation was aimed to obtained the detail plan of the temple, hence, no attempt was made to reveal the complete cultural sequence of the site, however pottery collected from the site revealed that site remained under occupation from Painted Grey Ware period to the early medieval time. The thick brick debris accumulated against the wall of the temple contained copper coins, copper and glass bangles, copper rings, terracotta and, stone beads, nails and chisels of different period.

ii. VIRBHADRA RISHIKESH, District Haridwar

The site was excavated by N.C. Ghosh of Archaeological Survey of India between 1973-75. The excavation brought to light remains of a three cultural phases:
  1. The early phase (1st Century AD to circa 3rd century AD) represented mud brick wall.
  2. The middle phase (circa 4th century to circa 5th century AD) is marked by a floor of brick bats and remains of a Saiviate Temple.
  3. The late phase (circa 7th century to circa 8th century AD) is marked by some residential structures of burn brick bats.

iii. JAGAT GRAM, District Dehradun:

This ancient site was excavated by, ASI between the year 1952 - 54. Excavations revealed remains of three fire alters and other associated material include inscribed bricks. These fire alter known as Syena chiti in form of flying Eagle shaped belongs Ashvamedha sacrifices perform by their authors. Sanskrit inscriptions in the late third century AD Brahmi characters on bricks used in one of the three Jagatgram altars inform that the king. Silavarman, alias Pona, of Yugasaila, who belonged to the Vrishagana gotra, performed four Asvamedha sacrifices here. Obviously during the third century AD at least western part of Central Himalaya was known as Yugasiala. In Pan Indian context such altars are extremely rare.

B.Centrally protected sites(excavated by H.N.B. University, Srinagar,UK)

iv. PUROLA, District Uttarkashi

The ancient site at Purola is located on the left bank of river Kamal in District Uttarkashi. The excavation carried out by Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University, Srinagar Garhwal. The site yielded the remains of Painted Grey Ware (PGW) from the earliest level along with other associated materials include terracotta figurines, beads, potter-stamp and the dental and femur portions of domesticated horse (Equas Cabalus Linn). The most important finding from the site is a brick alter identified as Syena chitti by the excavator. The structure is in the shape of a flying eagle Garuda, head facing east with outstretched wings having a square chamber in the middle yielded the remains of pottery assignable to circa first century B.C. to second century AD along with copper coin of Kuninda , bone pieces and a thin gold leaf impressed with a human figure identified as Agni.

v. MORADHWAJ, District Bijnor:

Ancient site Moradhwaj was excavated under the direction of Prof K P Nautiyal of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University, Srinagar Garhwal in the year 1978 - 81. The excavation revealed three occupational periods.
  • Period I (circa 5th century - 2nd century B C ) is characterized by the occurrence of Northern Black Polished ware along with the associated fine gray and red ware. Houses made of backed bricks and mud wall encircling the habitation were encountered from this period.
  • Period IIA (2nd century BC - 1st century AD) is marked by the pottery similar to one from the other contemporary historical sites in the Ganga plains which include typical sprinklers. Structures in this period are made of backed bricks. Important antiquities includes terracotta human and animal figurines, cart wheels, copper bangles and iron implements from this level.
  • Period IIB , belonging to Kushan time represented by typical pottery and backed brick defense wall. The most noteworthy discovery of this period is a terracotta figure of Buddha and Krishna slaying demon Keshi. In addition remains of a temple consists of sanctum and mandapa with a circumbuletery path and remains of Stupa have also reported from the period.
Moradhwaj is a centrally protected monument under jurisdiction of Agra Circle of ASI.

C. Other un-protected sites in Uttarakhand(excavated by HNB University,Srinagar,UK)

i. THAPLI, District Tehri:

The Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University, Srinagar Garhwal, carried out excavation at Thapli under the direction of K.P. Nautiyal in the year 1982- 83. Situated on the right bank of River Alaknanda at Srinagar, the excavation revealed 1.20m. thick deposit of single phase of P.G.W. culture , associated ware and related material. Along with the typical dishes and bowls, the miniature vase with painting, black slipped, grey, fine red and coarse red ware were discovered. The Thapli P.G.W. having all usual paintings and deigns as other PGW sites. Among other finds a terracotta bird, perfectly baked, showing a pale- red colour decorated with notches on the body, copper bangles, copper nail papers, and terracotta beads and a red ware shred depicting and husk mark indicated the use of rice.

The discovery of PGW at Thapli proved the presence of this culture in hilly region of Central Himalaya which was not noticed earlier.

ii. MALARI, District Chamoli:

Located in the inner Himalayan Zone at a height of 4000 m above MSL and 60km north-east of Joshimath, the site was excavated by Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University, Srinagar Garhwal in 1982-83. Excavation revealed cave burial dug on the soft calcareous limestone on the mountain slop. Primarily for burying the dead. The cave was oval in shape with an entrance of 1.15m height. The width of the inner portion was three meters and at the entrance a few large boulders were kept to block the passage.

The excavation yielded a complete skeleton of a Jhabu (Himalayan Yak) oriented in EW direction with other associated funerary material included decorated red and black ware jars. Inside the cave, along with the skeleton a big storage jar in grey ware, highly fragile iron arrow-heads and a few bone arrow-heads were also recorded. This cave burial can be tentatively assigned a date around 1st -2nd century BC.

iii. RANIHAT, District Tehri

Located on the right bank of the river Alaknanda, opposite to Srinagar town, this ancient site was subjected to excavation by the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University, Srinagar Garhwal under the direction of Prof K. P. Nautiyal in the year 1977. The site had a total thickness of 3.25m of habitational deposit, which divided into three occupational periods i.e., Period I (600-400 B.C.), Period II A (400-200 B.C.), Period II B (200 B.C.-A.D. 200), Period III (A.D. 800-1200). Period I yielded fine unpainted grey were, glossy red ware, black polished ware and evidences of smelting of copper and iron. Period II A witnessed use of burnt bricks, a variety of pottery such a rimless handi, miniature bowl and terracotta figurines belonging to the Maurayan period. In the Period II B people laid decent floors with the help of stones and used a few new types of pottery like the sprinkler, miniature vase etc. However, in Period III after a long gap of about 600 years, people abandoned the use of bricks and built structures of stones. The people of Ranihat specialized themselves in the smelting of iron from the locally available ore and manufactured iron tools for fishing and hunting which appear to be the main source of subsistence of the people.

iv. SANANA BASERI, District Almora:

The excavations conducted at Magalithic burials site at Sanana Baseri by the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University, Srinagar Garhwal brought to light the remains of the dolmenoid Cist and the Urn Burial. At Sanana nine cist burials were exposed found in clustered suggestive of a graveyard. These graves have been dug into the alluvial terrace to a depth of 1.0m to 1.50m below the surface .The Cist-chamber was covered all around by rectangular or semi-oval protective wall of boulders. Cist chambers consist of three to six upright orthostats placed vertically according to the need and size of the body or the funerary objects. At Baseri, six cist burials including twin cist burials have also been reported.

Urn burials contained large sized handmade earthen jars ranging from 48cm to 56cm in diameter have mat impressions or ripple marks on the exterior. In most of these burials were laid outside the periphery of the protective wall of the cist burials.

The burials contained tiny fragments of human bones, teeth, and skulls etc. Twenty-four human teeth along with a bead of banded agate were kept in a bowl is important finding. The discovery of skeletal human remains forming disarticulated bones of two skulls, tibia-fibula, parts of upper jaw (maxilla), an lower jaw (mandible) and a few lone teeth buried systematically inside the chamber were worth reckoning. Interestingly, both the skulls were found placed together side-by-side reflecting on the practice of multiple burials.

A wide variety of pottery is the characteristics feature of these burials. Most of them are dishes, miniature bowls, vases, globular goblets, and bowls with pedestal base and bowl with flat base which are more akin to true tradition of the Painted Grey Ware of the Ganga-Yamuna Doab.

D. Other important excavated sites around Uttarakhand

i. MADARPUR, District Moradabad:

The site is located on the bank of small tributary of Ramganga near village Madarpur in Thakurdwara tehsil of Moradabad. 31 copper anthropomorphic figures were discovered in 2000 near a brick kiln from a chance discovery. Excavation at the site was conducted during 2000-01 with a view to know the associated material culture of the copper antiquities and to know the cultural sequence of the site . The excavation has revealed remains of a single culture belonging to Ochre Coloured Pottery culture. Open hearths were exposed during excavation. The antiquities from the site include , terracotta toy cart frame, toy cart wheel, sling ball, stone pestle fragments and querns . The pottery include OCP red ware and associated coarse ware. The OC ware are mostly fine fabric where as the associated ware are of coarse fabric due to addition of sand as tempering material. Many sherds of associated ware are found decorated with cord impression, mostly horizontal bands. Few red ware sherds are found decorated with incised decorations. Sherds of perforated pots are also found from the excavation.

2. Scientific Clearance

i. LAKHAMANDAL, District Dehradun:

Scientific clearance of buried structures on the southern area of temple premises were carried out between 2005 -2007. During the course of the clearance, remains of ancient structures have been brought in to the light. Most important finding are the remains of miniature flat roofed temple assignable to 5th - 6th century AD which are commonly not found from this region. These findings have added new domination in the history of the temple architecture in the Himalayan region.

ii. CHANDPUR GARHI, Khal, District Chamoli:

Considered as earliest capital of Raja of Garhwal, the site was subjected to scientific clearance by the circle since 2005. The residential blocks constructed on the hill slope around the palatial complex on the top of the hill were buried with its own derbies probably due to some natural calamities or neglect in the past. However during the course of the clearance a large number of residential structures built in typical traditional style are exposed. In this method stone blocks are joined together with the help of thin stone chips fixed in mud mortar to make the buildings earthquake resist, however in later stages lime mortar was also used. Construction of such traditional structures has now become things of past and substituted with modern Rcc buildings In addition, remains of double storied building, a lime plastered circular well, potsherds, mettle utensils and some iron implements of 14th -15th century have also been recovered.

3. Rock Art/Rock Shelters

Painted rock shelters and petroglyphs are other noteworthy prehistoric monuments of Central Himalaya, which add new dimensions to the prehistory of this region . The painted rock shelters are found in a dozen odd sites in Almora District and two sites in Chamoli, the important ones are Lakhu- Udiyar and Lwethap in Almora District and Dungri in Chamoli District. Lakhu-Udiyar rock shelter is protected monument by Uttarakhand Government. Significantly, in the entire Himalayan range prehistoric rock shelters are reported from Central Himalaya alone.

The rock engravings depict geometrical patterns, Faunal and floral patterns and schematic alignments of depressions. Rock paintings of Central Himalaya are simple, mostly stylized and done in solid and give the optical impression of silhouettes. Colours used are black different shades of red and white. Digital photographs of rock painting from Kumaon reveal interesting use of colours and add considerably to our knowledge of communication skill of their authors. The artist have been successful in showing deliberate superimposition, organization of space and animation. Digital view also shows that a large number of motifs, hitherto identified as stylized human figures are in fact enigmatic symbols and do not conform to any particular object whether stylized or real. Undoubtedly, such representations give new insight into understanding prehistoric human behaviour. These painting depict anthropomorphic figures, zoomorphic figures, symbols and some enigmatic patterns.