Research Highlights

Iron-Age human settlement unearthed in Thar desert

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.155 Published online 20 November 2019

Remains of an Iron Age settlement have been unearthed in the Rann of Kutch, a salt marsh in northwest India's Thar desert1. The researchers estimate that almost three millennia ago, settlers might have inhabited this area, which till now had not reported any sign of continued human settlement.

The site of the find marked with a blue arrow.

© Sarkar, A. et al.

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, teaming up with scientists from the Deccan College in Pune and the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, dated the pottery and charcoal remains found from the region using optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon methods.

The dating revealed an active human settlement, which flourished from early Iron Age (between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C) to early historic period (600 B. C. to 400 B. C.) in the Karim Shahi region of the Rann to the south of the desert. They also found evidence of historic to medieval settlement at a place called Vigakot in the Thar desert.

Pottery shards and shells unearthed from the site.

© Sarkar, A. et al.

Analysis of sediments, pollen and oxygen isotopes in fossil molluscan shells indicate the presence of an active river system and some rainfall  that probably sustained humans from the early Iron Age to medieval times.

Apart from artefacts like pitcher, jars and bull figurines, numerous animal remains like bones and teeth were found at Karim Shahi and Vigakot, which may have acted as trade centres. Old Chinese Qingbai porcelain and potteries of Persia found at Vigakot bear testimony to this fact.  The researchers say this suggests that Vigakot was a part of a long distance trade route between West Asia and China.


References

1. Sarkar, A. et al. New evidence of early Iron Age to Medieval settlements from the southern fringe of Thar Desert (western Great Rann of Kachchh), India: implications to climate-culture co-evolution. Archaeological Res. Asia. 21, 100163 (2020)