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Tag Archives | Before 1 CE

India, populated before Europe

Journey of Mankind (The Bradshaw Foundation)

The Bradshaw Foundation and Professor Stephen Oppenheimer have a new theory on the migration of human beings from Africa over 160,000 years. Based on DNA analysis, the conclusion by Oppenheimer is that about 85,000 years ago, humans migrated from Africa to the mouth of the Red Sea. From there they reached India, traveling through Yemen, Oman, Iran and Pakistan.

74,000 years back, there was an eruption of Mt. Toba in Sumatra and the volcanic ash covered India and Pakistan and causing population crash. Following that incident, the Indian peninsula was re-populated. One of the statements by Stephen Oppenheimer is that all non-African people in the world are descended from this group which migrated to India and India was populated much before Europe, Americas and Australia.

While Oppenheimer’s study was based on DNA evidence, there is another archaeological study which confirms this theory. University of Cambridge researchers Michael Petraglia and Hannah James by analyzing fossils, artifacts, and genetic data.

According to them, a human ancestor Homo heidelbergensis, arrived in India about 250,000 years ago from Africa. Modern humans arrived in India about 70,000 years ago and wiped out the Homo heidelbergensis.

The new theory posits that as much as 70,000 years ago, a group of these modern humans migrated east, arriving in India with technology comparable to that developed by Homo heidelbergensis.

“The tools were not so different,” Petraglia says. “The technology that the moderns had wasn’t of a great advantage over what [Homo heidelbergensis] were using.”

But modern humans outcompeted the natives, slowly but inexorably driving them to extinction, Petraglia says. “It’s just like the story in Western Europe, where [modern humans] drove Neandertals to extinction,” he says.

The modern humans who colonized India may also have been responsible for the disappearance of the so-called Hobbits, whose fossilized bones were discovered recently on the Indonesian island of Flores. [Early Humans Settled India Before Europe, Study Suggests]

Like Oppenheimer’s research, Petraglia and James’ research too concludes that modern humans arrived in India tens of thousands of years before their arrival in Europe. So next time someone tries to pull the Aryan Invasion/Migration/Tourist theory on you, ask them, in which direction the migration happened?

Related Links: Indian History Timeline

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First Harappan burrial site in UP

“An ancient riddle will be solved and historical chronology will change.â??â??

Few months back we reported on a Harappan burrial site in Baghpat, in Uttar Pradesh. There was a mummified body wearing copper bracelets and the site had pottery and other artefacts dating back to the Indus Valley civilisation. Here is another report with some more details.

â??â??It is the first Harappan burial site to be found in Uttar Pradesh,â??â?? says Sharma. Previously Harappan cemetries have been unearthed at Kalibanga and Lothal. Says Upinder Singh, reader in the department of history at St Stephenâ??s College, Delhi: â??â??This is just the tip of the iceberg. Thereâ??s so much new evidence coming in that archaeologists may have to re-think on many counts.â??â??

The burial ground could shed new light on the funeral practices of the Harappans. â??â??It could also point to a larger habitation. Also the pots found here are all unpainted. These should be co-related to the pots found in other burial sites. That exercise is yet to be done,â??â?? says Singh.

At Sinauli, the skeletons lie with their arms crossed and feet close to each other, head facing north-west. The burial site has many layers. â??â??In archaelogical terms it means it was in constant use,â??â?? says Sharma. Evidences of the Harappan civilisation have earlier been found in UP in Saharanpur and Alamgirpur but Sinauliâ??s haul is much richer.

Sinauli has also marked another first. Says Sharma: â??â??There is a copper hoard culture that is presumed to be late Harappan or said to follow it. But no one is sure of its authorship. Now two antenna swords belonging to this culture have been found next to a corpse. This could mean that the copper hoard was a contemporary or belonged to the mature Harappan period. An ancient riddle will be solved and historical chronology will change.â??â??

â??â??What is also interesting is that the soil found here shows that this site was on the banks of the Yamuna. The river now flows 8 km away,â??â?? says Sharma. It will take a while to tie up all these threads blown astray by time. At present, a team from Kolkataâ??s Anthropological Survey of India is conducting DNA and other tests on the ancient bodies.[UP village offers a fresh clue to solve a Harappan puzzle]

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600,000 year old skull

Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak and David Frawley have a book called In search of the cradle of civilization[2], which goes on to establish that the real cradle of civilization was India not Sumer. According to the findings of an Oxford University scholar Stephen Oppenheimer, India was the cradle for all non-African people. While Oppenheimer’s theory deals with human migration which happened about 85,000 years back, there is something exciting which could prove India’s connection with the homo erectus, homo sapiens, and evolution that happened 600,000 years ago.

In 1982 a skull, not belonging to a homo sapien was found in Narmada Valley. It was only recently that a CT scan was done.

Former GSI (Nagpur) director Arun Sonakia told TOI on Thursday that the scan report might reveal something extremely exciting. â??We need some time to interpret the results. However, what we can say now is that it can reveal something very exciting… It can prove that India was also a cradle of civilisation,â? Sonakia said. According to the modern theory of evolution, the evolutionary lines of apes and early humans diverged around seven million years ago.

Some two million years ago, Homo erectus expanded out of Africa into Europe and Asia. Over the next 1.5 million years the populations of these three continents followed different evolutionary courses and became distinct species. Europeâ??s became the Neanderthals, Asiaâ??s remained Homo erectus, but Africaâ??s evolved into Homo sapiens, from where it spread again to the rest of the world.

Sonakia said the skull was not of a Homo sapiens. Although a morphological study of the skull had been done soon after its discovery, there was no internal study. â??Any internal study needed a CTscan. There are some sedimentations inside the skull. Once we remove the skull, it will crumble,â? Sonakia said. The geologist added that a study of the skullâ??s lobe structure, as revealed by the scan, can show which faculty of man was more developed at the time. [India could have been cradle of civilisation]

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Recreating an ancient trade route

According to Romila Thapar[3], the trade via the maritime route between the west coast of India and west Asia go back to the third millennium B.C. At that time the Egyptian civilization was in existence and Indus Valley was in its early stages. Once the trade route was established, there was continuous Indian presence in west Asia. This was the predecessor of the trade relations with Rome in the first millennium B.C and Africa in the first millennium A.D.

Georg Feuerstein et al[2] writes about cuneiform texts mentioning historical a historical place called Magan (or Makan) which according to some scholars could be Sudan or Ethiopia. But majority of the scholars think that Magan is present day Oman. Copper was found there as early as the fifth millennium B.C and and Omanis were wealthy from copper export. Copper attracted the merchants from the Indus valley and an inscription in Harappan script was found at Ras al-Junayz.

Now some researchers are traveling along that bronze age trade route, on a boat, similar to the one used by people four millennia back.

The 40-foot Magan, named after an ancient name for Oman, is made of reeds formed into bundles, lashed together with rope made from date palm fibers and covered with a woven mat coated with black bitumen or tar to make it waterproof. The vessel will be powered by a square-rigged sail made of tightly woven wool and maneuvered using two teak steering oars.

The plan is to leave Sur in Oman on Wednesday, taking advantage of the last of the southwest monsoon winds and favorable currents, and sail east 590 miles to the historic port of Mandvi in Gujarat, India, a journey that could take up to three weeks.[Bronze Age-style reed boat to sail from Oman to India]

This is going to be one hell of a trip since the boat is not covered and the sails have to be adjusted constantly. The crazy people who are doing this, all eight of them want to know how life was back then, how boats were built and ancient navigation techniques. To add authenticity, they have cargo similar to the ancient ones and the menu consists of a typical bronze age meal.

Even maneuvering aboard will be hard, since crew members will be walking on cargo piled up in the bottom. The cargo is meant to be representative of trade goods of the period: copper ingots for making the bronze that gave the age its name, blocks of fine black diorite stone for carving, turtle and marine shells, pearls, frankincense, carved soapstone vessels, dates and date products, fish oil and sharkskin – an ancient sandpaper.

The crew consists of Vosmer and the navigator, both Americans; a sailing master from Australia; two Omani seamen; two Italian graduate students; and an Indian archaeologist. They will have a Bronze Age diet of dates, honey, legumes, dried fish, bread and water, but there will also be some modern munchies.

But unlike the bronze age travellers, Magan will have a GPS, navigation lights, emergence beacon and life jackets, and also an Indian naval vessel will be following it.

Update (Sept 8, 2005): The boat sinks

Update 2(Sept 11, 2005): There is going to be another boat (via Secular-Right India)

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When did Mauryas rule?

When it comes to building a chronology of events in India’s history, a student is confused by the wide variation in dates of certain events. For example, when did Mahabharata war happen? Was it 1924 B.C or 3137 B.C? When did Adi Shankara live? Was it 8th century CE or 5th century B.C? Partly such confusion exists due to the existence of multiple methodologies that exist (Puranic genealogies, archaeological evidence etc), and they often contradict each other. Partly the confusion is due to the fact even now people don’t understand that when something is 3000 years old, it does not date to 3500 B.C.

While most of us learned that Chandragupta Maurya lived around the 3rd century B.C, there is a set of people (via DesiPundit) who believe that he lived in 1534 B.C. This means that if we choose 1924 B.C as the date for Mahabharata war, then the Mauryan empire was established just 300 later. Then what happened to Buddha? Oh well he lived just 100 years after Mahabharata.

What can help in solving this mystery is some archaeology. Specifically if we can find out when humans settled in the areas where the Mauryan empire was located, then some of these dates can be ridiculed and there is some effort in this direction in West Bengal.

The state archaeology department recently found the site, on the banks of Piyali riyal in South 24 Parganas district. “We would begin excavation in winter at Tilpi near Joynagar in South 24 Parganas which could be an early historic site of pre-Mauryan period,” West Bengal Archaeology and Museums Department director Gautam Sengupta told IANS.

“This could prove that human habitation existed in the area between 3rd century BC and 3rd century AD,” Sengupta said. The Maurya dynasty ruled India between 321 and about 240 BC. “We discovered the site recently and came across some terracotta articles, copper coins, stone beads and other artefacts. Excavation is likely to reveal more artefacts and those can be compared with our previous findings to ascertain the occupational history of the area,” he added.

“This new site is on the banks of Piyali, which is again a part of the river system of Vidyadhari, on the banks of which Chandraketugarh was discovered in the early years of last century,” he said. Chandraketugarh is located in North 24 Parganas district and its history dates back to almost 3rd century BC, even before the Maurya dynasty came up.

The archaeological significance of the Chandraketugarh area came to light in the early years of the last century when road-building activities exposed a brick structure and artefacts.From all indications Chandraketugarh was an important urban centre, most probably a port city. The new site at Tilpi could be linked to Chandraketugarh, Sengupta said.[Excavation near Kolkata to unearth pre-Mauryan history via IndiaArchaeology]

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