Stone-Age Kashmiri was intelligent, skilled: Burzahom findings

Stone-Age Kashmiri was intelligent, skilled: Burzahom findings

5000 years ago, Kashmir had trade links with neighbours, says ASI report

Kashmir had a fledgling international trade with neighbours as early as 5000 years ago, suggests a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Highlighting the glorious past of Kashmir, the report compiled on the basis of unpublished findings of excavations at the Burzahom site, has brought to fore many new facets of the Valley.

According to the report, Kashmiris in olden times were traditionally an artisan community, adept at weaving and intricate craftsmanship.

The findings submitted by the outgoing additional director general ASI RS Fonia clearly indicate that the inhabitants of Burzahom were far advanced than the general image of pit dwellers made out of them.

The report links the Neolithic (or New Stone Age) site to its contemporary Indus Valley civilisation and establishes the inhabitants’ regular trade with the Harappans.

The Burzahom site is unique in the sense that it showcases different stages of evolution of people from food gatherers to food producers, between 3000 BC and 1000 BC. During the excavations, the archaeologists unearthed a large number of artefacts, many of whom were in good condition and provided an insight into the ancient era.

The discovery of bone needles, cotton, wool and other fabric has added a new chapter to the ancient Kashmir economy by proving that Kashmir had a dominant textile industry thousands of years ago.

A number of artefacts like pendants, beads, terracotta bangles give credence beyond doubt that Kashmir freely traded with the present day Pakistan, China and other sub-Himalayan areas.

Pointing towards the ingenuity of the community, the report details how the people adapted to adverse climatic conditions with innovations such as underground dwelling pits and use of wool. The intelligence of people gets further credence with the evidence that they continuously innovated, and technology of that era was gradually taken to a higher level.

The items found included new tool types such as double-edged picks, spindle whorls, spear-heads, copper arrowheads, harvesters, celts and knife blades.

Almost all stone and bone tools exhibit a highly-skilled nature and professional competence of the people. The manufacturing of stone and bone tools show professional competence, skilled technique and cultural contacts. The report specially mentions stone and bone harvesters with two holes for handling it, indicating contacts with China.

Prof Vasant Shinde, vice-chancellor of Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, while speaking to media after the publishing of this report, said that Kashmir Neolithic culture not only was impacted by the Harappan civilisation but it in itself also impacted them. He termed the finding of the proof of high quality textile at Burzahom as a proof that Kashmiris had artisanry in their genes which they innovated and made their tradition.

The findings also confirmed the previous notions that people of that era gave a special position to dogs and goats and some of them were buried alongside people.

The site of Burzahom was discovered by H De Terra and TT Peterson of a Yale-Cambridge expedition in 1935. At that time they were actively pursuing their expedition to find traces of early man and associated human culture in Kashmir.

The trial diggings suggested further excavations that were undertaken by TN Khazanchi between 1960 and 1971. Khazanchi passed away without being able to complete the report and it was Fonia who completed the pending work.

Fonia had extensive knowledge of the archaeological scene in Kashmir as he had served as the superintending archaeologist in Jammu and Kashmir from 1985 to 1997. It took Fonia almost a decade to draft the report as he had to work through tonnes of data and findings.