A 500-Grave Kutch Necropolis Leads To 5,700-Year-Old Harappan Settlement

A 500-Grave Kutch Necropolis Leads To 5,700-Year-Old Harappan Settlement

Archaeologists have said the settlement site dates back to 5,700 years ago


A necropolis with over 500 graves in Gujarat’s Kutch, first unearthed in 2018, has led a team of archaeologists to a fascinating discovery – a Harappan-era settlement going back more than 5,000 years ago.

Dr Subhash Bhandari, head of archaeology department At Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kachchh University, said that the 2018 excavation of the necropolis near Juna Khatiya village had thrown up some key questions. “It was necessary to find out where these people stayed. This was a major question and we were looking for the answer,” he said.

This search took the team of archaeologists to Padta Bet – about 1.5 km from the burial site. “We have found a settlement on a hillock about 200 m x 200 m in size. A river flowed behind the hillock once. During our excavation at the site, we found round as well as rectangular structures where people stayed. We have also found pots, big and small, and dishes,” he said.

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Dr Bhandari said the team also found semi-precious stones such as carnelian and agate, shell fragments and hammer stones at the site. “We can say that this settlement site is around 5,700 years old,” he said, adding that the settlement appears to have been populated from the early Harappan to the late Harappan era.

The team, he said, has also found remains of cows and goats. “We can say that the settlers here were involved in animal husbandry,” he said, adding that they have also found remains of a human skeleton.

Rajesh SV, assistant professor with University of Kerala and co-director of this project, told The Indian Express, “The hillock at Padta Bet may be one of the sites catering to the skeletal remains (in the burial ground) found at Juna Khatiya. Right now it suggests that this was one of the many settlements whose burial site was Juna Khatiya.”

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At Padta Bet, the researchers have identified two localities with archaeological deposits. Professor Abhayan GS, HOD of Archaeology at University of Kerala, who led the excavation at Padta Bet, said it is possible that population growth led to people spreading out from one locality to the other. The other hypothesis is that they were inhabited during different periods.

On why the site of settlement has few structures, Professor Abhayan said, “This site is on a hillock, so the landscape is unstable. This could have led to the collapse of many structures over time.”

The location of the Padta Bet site, he said, was very important. “You can see the surrounding mountains and valley from here. The river flowing nearby may have been the main source of water for those living here.”

Dr Bhandari said they are now focusing on unearthing more about the link between the burial site and the settlement. “We will try to find out more about the people who lived there. This site is on a hillock, so they got a clear view of the surroundings. We will try to find out whether that was from a strategic point of view or due to the availability of water nearby. We will also try to find out their food habits. We have found stones, so we will explore if their occupation was largely pastoral or they were also into trade,” he said.

The institutions involved in the project include University of Kerala, Kachchh University, Pune’s Deccan College, Central University of Karnataka, three Spanish institutes – Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology, Spanish National Research Council, and University of La Laguna, Albion College and Texas A&M University in the US.

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