Monday 15 April 2013

The world's first signboard

This site has the distinction of having the world’s first sign board and symbols of the signboard can still be seen on the ground. Another first in this site is that the world’s first water management system has been excavated here.
What is more striking is that the archaeological finds here date back to the Indus and Harappan Valley Civilizations and this is one of the few sites that can takes us through seven important stages of the civilization right from its inception or origin to development,  maturity to decay and finally its abandonment.
The site can throw light on the origin of Indian civilization and the high level of engineering skill that they possessed. Though this site was discovered in 1968, it was only from 1889 that the archaeologists took up systematic excavation leading to some startling discoveries.       
The thirteen field excavations between 1990 and 2005 have so far brought to light the urban planning and architecture of the people of those ages apart from unearthing a large numbers of antiquities, including seals, beads, animal bones, gold, silver, terracotta ornaments, pottery and bronze vessels.
Though books on history and archaeology have prominently highlighted this site, it is still relatively unknown outside academic circles.
This is Dholavira, an archaeological site in Bachau taluk of Kutch district in Gujarat.
Known locally as Kotada timba,  the site contains ruins of an ancient Indus Valley and Harappan civilization. It is one of the five largest Harappan sites and today is ranked the most prominent archaeological sites in India belonging to the Indus period.
It is also considered as grandest of cities of its time and excavations so far have revealed a high level of urban planning.
Dholavira is located on the Khadir bet island in Kutch Desert Wildlife sanctuary in what is known as the Great Rann of Kutch. The area of the fully excavated site covers more than 100 hectares or 250 acres. Archaeologists date the town to 2650 BCE, declining slowly after about 2100 BCE. It was briefly abandoned and reoccupied until 1450 BCE after which it once again subsided into history.
The site was discovered in 1967-68 by J. P. Joshi and it is the fifth largest of eight major Harappan sites. It has been under excavation since 1990 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the other seven sites are Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Ganeriwala, Rakhigarhi, Kalibangan, Rupnagar and Lothal
The ASI took up excavation of the site in 1989 under the direction of R. S. Bisht. Estimated to be older than the port-city of Lothal, this city had a rectangular shape and is composed to a pre-existing geometrical plan, of three divisions – the citadel, the middle town and the lower town.
The acropolis and the middle town had been further furnished with their own defence-work, gateways, built-up areas, street system, wells and large open spaces. The acropolis is the most carefully guarded as well as complex in the city of which it appropriates the major portion of the southwestern zone. The towering castle stands  a little apart and it is surrounded by double ramparts. Next to this is the  bailey where important officials lived.
The city within the general fortification accounts for 48 hectares or 120 acres. There are extensive structure-bearing areas though outside yet integral to the fortified settlement. Another settlement has been discovered beyond the walls.
The most striking feature of the city is that all of its buildings are built out of stone, whereas most other Harappan sites, including Harappa itself and Mohenjo-daro, are almost exclusively built of brick.
More remarkable is that Dholavira is flanked by two storm water channels; the Mansar in the north and the Manhar in the south.
The Dholavira signboard was discovered in one of the side rooms of the northern gateway of the city.
The Harappans had arranged and set pieces of the mineral gypsum to form ten large symbols or letters on a big wooden board. At some point, the board fell flat on its face. The wood decayed, but the arrangement of the letters survived.
The letters of the signboard are comparable to large bricks that were used in nearby walls. Each sign is about 37 cm (15 in) high and the board on which letters were inscribed was about 3 m (9.8 ft) long.
The inscription is one of the longest in the Indus script, with one symbol appearing four times, and this and its large size and public nature make it a key piece of evidence cited by scholars arguing that the Indus script represents full literacy.
A four sign inscription with big size letters on a sand stone is also found at this site, considered first of such inscription on sand stone at any of Harappan sites.
Ten such large stone inscriptions, carved in Indus Valley script, have been discovered. They are now acknowledged as the world’s earliest signboard but unfortunately they remain tantalizingly undeciphered.
Water works
There is a well-constructed underground drainage system for sanitation. There is also a large stadium with a complex structure and seating arrangement.
Finally, Dholavira has one of the world’s earliest water conservation systems ever excavated. Satellite pictures show a reservoir underground, an expertly constructed rainwater harvesting system extending from the walls of the city, without which the settlement would not have thrived in the sparse rainfall of the desert.
It is one of the two largest Harappan sites in India and fifth largest in the subcontinent. Like Lothal, it passed through all the stages of the Harappan culture from circa 2900 BC to 1500 BC, while most others saw only the early or late stages.
This site revealed the most remarkable water management systems, which are perhaps the earliest systems of their kind in the world, dated to about 5300 years.
The unique water-harnessing system, together with a storm-water drain, is a remarkable piece of engineering. A seven-metre deep rock-cut reservoir with a confirmed length of 79 metres was a significant discovery.
This should rank as the most stupendous feat of engineering of the period as it has been cut through rock, together with a storage tank and 50 stone-steps. Another, equally deep reservoir of fine stone masonry was also found. The reservoirs skirted around the metropolis which was fortified with stone-walls while the citadel and baths were centrally located on raised ground.
A large well was discovered and it was equipped with a stonecut trough to connect the drain meant for conducting water to a storage tank. Circular structures found at the site, conjoining like the figure eight are surmised to be used for bathing.
Another structure is a bathing tank with steps descending inwards.
Water from the nearby streams were harnessed and gathered into a reservoir and further moved to charge the dug wells which
supplied water to parts of the metropolis.
The floor of the tank is water tight due to finely fitted bricks laid on edge with gypsum plaster and the side walls were constructed in a similar manner. To make the tank even more water tight, a thick layer of bitumen (natural tar) was laid along the sides of the tank and presumably also beneath the floor.
Brick colonnades were discovered on the eastern, northern and southern edges. The preserved columns have stepped edges that may have held wooden screens or window frames. Two large doors lead into the complex from the south and other access was from the north and east.
A series of rooms are located along the eastern edge of the building and in one room is a well that may have supplied some of
the water needed to fill the tank.
Dholavira is much different from Lothal and other places. Here, you can take in the surrounding environment which has its own unique flora and fauna.
The journey to Dholavira itself is beautiful, taking you through the saline desert plains of the Great Rann, where you can spot wildlife such as chinkara gazelle, nilgai (blue bull, the largest antelope in Asia), flamingos and other bird life.
Dholavira is 250 km from Bhuj and it can be reached either through Bhachau or Rapar. A bus leaves from Bhuj at  2 p.m., and arrives at Dholavira at 20:30. It leaves Dholavira at 5 a.m.,  the next morning and returns to Bhuj by 11:30 a.m. It is also possible to rent a vehicle from either of the cities.
The nearest airport is Bhuj. There is a guest house in Dholavira. Want to become the first in the world to decipher the Indus script and unravel the mystery of the world’s first signboard. Then head for Dholavira.

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