The dictionary definition of the term Archaeology is that “it is the scientific study of material remains such as fossil relics, artifacts, and monuments of past human life and activities.” It is a part of Anthropology which studies the evolution of the human race, not so much of the physical evolution that has resulted in the human being as is found now but the cultural and social changes and behavior that the human race has undergone over millions of years of its existence on earth through the relics, fossils and artifacts that have been left behind and have endured the vagaries of nature and time.
Many sites have been discovered where there is evidence of civilization that could be scientifically dated to thousands and sometimes millions of years. These sites uncover the story of how human beings developed and behaved socially, what were geographical and environmental issues that were prevalent there and how human beings coped with them and developed culturally and socially.
In Rajasthan the archaeological sites found at two places; Kalibanga and Akal Wood Fossil Park are of interest to study the evolution of man and prehistoric societies that he lived in dating back to millions of years ago.
Kalibanga in Rajasthan
The first place where archaeological eveidence is found is a town called Kalibanga in the Hanumangarh district on the banks of River Ghaggar just 205 km. from the city of Bikaner. Archeologists have enough evidence that the Indus Valley civilization extended to the Thar Desert as relics and artifacts that have pre-Harappan and Harappan bearing have been found here. The archaeological findings at Kalibanga clearly point out to the fact that this area in Rajasthan was once a place where pottery and ceramics were manufactured on a large scale. The pieces of ceramic pots and the art found on them show a keen similarity to the pottery of Harappa. The present day handicrafts, pottery in Rajasthan are also a continuum to the ancient art and still display similarities to the pottery found in the excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in the Indus Valley.
History of Kalibanga in Rajasthan
Immense geographical changes in the area that is now called Rajasthan have caused the Thar Desert as has been proved by geologists and archaeologists who have studied the region. There is evidence of a rich and developed civilization that flourished on the banks of a river called Saraswati that flowed there. There was cultivation, commerce and industries such as pottery, ironmongery etc. Agriculture was done by the use of agricultural implements and animals. Then because of some geographic event, the river changed course or dried up and the land became arid; the Thar Desert was born burying under it the evidence of a great city and civilization that existed there.
The renowned Italian Archaeologist and Indologist Luigi Tessitori was the first to discover and identify the existence of the buried city and proved its relation to the Indus Valley Civilization.
Tourist Attraction of Kalibanga in Rajasthan
While Harappa in Pakistan is a major excavation site that has been carefully conserved and is a big tourist attraction, Kalibanga also created a brouhaha in the Archaeological circles in India as it evidenced the history of man in prehistoric times and also its presence in the Indus Valley Civilization. However, not much has been done after the discovery and the careful excavations and analysis and there is no conservation of the excavations and the elements have taken their toll and now there is only rubble left. This is really unfortunate as after thirty years of the discovery all the effort of the excavations have been lost. The complete report of the findings has not been published and so is not available to the public. For the nation this is a sad loss as the site is now ruined and also forgotten which means that the glorious history of man and his evolution is lost for future generations. Kalibanga is located near Bikaner at a distance of 205 kms and about 600 kms from Delhi, the capital of India.
Akal Wood Fossil Park in Rajasthan
Aakal Wood Fossil Park is an archaeological park that is only 17 kms from Jaisalmer city on the Jaisalmer-Barmer Road and has fossils of tree trunks that have been dated to about 180 million years. These fossils have a long and almost unbelievable story to tell about the area around. Geological evidence indicates that the Thar desert was under the sea which retreated around only 36 million years before. There are sea shells and other oceanic remains that prove these suppositions. Archeologists and geologists who have worked at this site have reasons to believe that this area was under the sea four times and different geographical events caused the sea to retreat. Even the Indian epic Ramayana indicates that this area was a sea and not a desert.
Preserved now as a natural wonder, the park covers an area of about 10 sq kms in which lies the fossilized treasure of 25 petrified tree trunks. The existence of these fossils leads us to believe that this place was a thick, green forest with large trees of the non-flowering kind like the Cheir, Red wood and the Deodar. There is also enough geological proof to believe that the climate of this place was suitable for large trees to grow here. The 25 petrified tree trunks that can be seen here are small and large the longest among them being 13 mts. The logs of trees are lying around randomly, some are exposed and some are partially exposed. The largest among them which is fully exposed log is 7 mtrs. long and 1.5 mtrs. wide. There is a great possibility that many more tree fossils could be lying beneath the surface even now. Such fossils are being discovered in other areas around Jaisalmer region.
The fossils of trees at Akaal are believed to be 180 million years old and have been preserved in this petrified form because the petrification took place before the matter of these large trees disintegrated. This could be because of some geological event which took place 180 million years ago. Another geological event or a series of them could have caused an upheaval and brought these trunks to the surface.
For tourists, visitors and students of geology this area is an interesting place to visit. This is a reserved and protected area which carries a nominal entrance fee.
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