Latest excavation at Rakhigarhi
A team of researchers from Deccan College Pune, in collaboration with the Central Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), has confirmed that human remains discovered at the ancient site of Rakhigarhi, located in the Hisar district of Haryana, date back approximately 8,000 years. This significant finding was made during the third phase of excavations conducted by the ASI, involving teams from various parts of the country, including researchers from Pune’s Deccan College.
The initial excavations at Rakhigarhi, led by Dr. Amarendra Nath from the Indian Archaeology Department between 1997 and 2000, revealed evidence of the North Harappan culture dating back to 2500 BCE. The second phase, carried out by Professor Vasant Shinde of Deccan College Pune from 2006 to 2013, utilized DNA tests to establish the antiquity of this culture, suggesting an age of over 4,000 years. In the most recent phase, conducted over the past two years, ASI and Deccan College Pune jointly continued excavations, uncovering evidence that pushes the origins of the Sindhu-Sarasvati (Harappan) culture back 7,000 to 8,000 years.
Prabhodh Shirwalkar, Assistant Professor at Deccan College, explained that the earlier excavations focused on the Middle and Modern Harappan cultures, dating back around 4,000 years. At the same time, the latest findings extend the timeline significantly. Ongoing research, with a final report in progress, involves the examination of human DNA, ancient burial grounds, and the discovery of utensils, including gold and silver items. The excavation also revealed large ancient houses, a courtyard, and a drainage system, providing insight into the inhabitants’ daily lives.
Shirwalkar highlighted the discovery’s significance, emphasizing that it provides strong evidence supporting the existence of the Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. The research indicates that the people of that era were advanced, with evidence of clothing, ornaments, and even a dinner set from that period. The ASI’s active involvement aims to make the Rakhigarhi site accessible to the public, with plans for on-site museums showcasing the archaeological findings. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had earlier underscored Rakhigarhi’s importance in her 2023 budget speech, allocating funds for the development of archaeological sites, including the construction of a museum near Rakhigarhi estimated to be worth ₹23 crores.
Significance of the recent discoveries
Recent excavations at Rakhigarhi have pushed back the Sindhu-Sarasvati Civilization (SSC) timeline to 7000-8000 years Before Present (BP), equivalent to 6000 BCE. Gold and silver utensils and clay pots were uncovered during the excavation.
This new revelation challenges previous assumptions, particularly regarding the SSC’s early phase, which dates back to 6000 BCE. This timeframe places Rakhigarhi contemporaneously with Mehrgarh, a Neolithic site. While Mehrgarh remained in the Neolithic stage, Rakhigarhi had already evolved into a civilization featuring planned housing and drainage systems, as highlighted in the article.
This discovery disrupts the belief that the SSC spread from west to east due to changing monsoon patterns and the drying up of the Sarasvati River. The new evidence suggests that this assumption may be unfounded. Pakistan’s lack of interest in further excavations at Mohenjo Daro and Harappa raises the possibility that more surprising proof of the SSC’s antiquity may still be buried and undiscovered. Such findings could potentially reshape our understanding of the SSC.
Rakhigarhi – an important SSC site in Haryana
Rakhigarhi in Haryana is arguably the most essential SSC site discovered till now. Spread over 550 hectares, it is double the size of Mohenjo Daro. Excavations conducted in 2019 at this over 5000-year-old site have provided evidence of the place being a central manufacturing and trade hub, and the study of skeletal remains showed no sign of violent conflict and a manner of burial quite similar to the early Vedic period.
In a 2016 interview, Prof. Vasant Shinde said, “Scientists have, for the first time, successfully extracted DNA from the skeletons of the Indus Valley Civilisation. More skeletons have been found during the ongoing excavation season from mound 2 for further analysis. Three different institutes of world repute are conducting the DNA analysis for a foolproof study, so there is no scope of any contradiction”.
A team led by geneticist David Reich at Harvard University obtained DNA signatures from a few skeletal remains. They developed a new scientific technique to extract and study DNA from the petrous bone of the inner ear of a 5,000-year-old woman’s skeleton. As mentioned earlier, the results of the DNA have brought to light some exciting findings and have established that AIT was nothing but a myth. Here are some of these findings:
1) No DNA strands from Iranian or Steppe pastoralists in the Rakhigarhi sample show that these people were indigenous and independently developed farming practices in Rakhigarhi.
2) The DNA of the Rakhigarhi sample matches those of modern Bharatiyas.
3) Continuity of culture is visible from Rakhigarhi to modern times, as seen in both the genetic and archaeological data. These indigenous people introduced urbanization.
Other archaeological sites
Several archaeological sites have thrown up ample evidence that points towards indigenous origins of the Bharatiya civilization and developments starting from as early as 7000 BCE. These sites, such as Mehrgarh, Girawad, Mitathal, Farmana, Kunal, etc, are strewn across the Saraswati-Sindhu river basin on both sides of the border, and now sites are also being found in Gangetic plains and places like Odisha.
Fire altars at the 5700-year-old Lothal SSC site in Gujarat relate to ancient Vedic Yagna practices. So archaeological & genetic evidence are both now saying that no ‘Aryans’ invaded or migrated into ancient Bharat and that indigenous people, ancestors of present-day Bharatiyas, have been inhabiting this land since times immemorial. It has also been established that Vedic culture was developed by indigenous people in the Sindhu Saraswati basin. It continues to live even today, making Hindu Vedic culture the oldest continuously surviving.
The latest discovery at Rakhigarhi has once again challenged certain set notions. It is high time that we updated our history textbooks accordingly. As more research is conducted, newer and fascinating information is emerging.