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A preliminary report on the archaeological exploration of Pethpuran, a Neolithic settlement in Ganderbal district, Jammu and Kashmir

Pethpuran is a Neolithic settlement located in the Drungteng area of the Ganderbal District in Jammu and Kashmir. It can be found at coordinates 34° 17′ 06.27” N and 074° 51′ 59.99” E, with an elevation of 1693 metres above sea level (Fig. 1 Map). Situated in the eastern part of the Kashmir Valley, Pethpuran is positioned on the lower reaches of the Sindh River. The site covers a spacious hilltop area that features terraced agriculture and horticulture trees (Fig. 2 &2b).



The site was first reported by Yatoo et. al. in 20201, where they focused on the palaeobotanical importance of the site yielding broomcorn millets dated ca. 4500-4400 BP which suggests that the Kashmir Valley was connected with Central or East Asia through networks of exchange close to 1000 years earlier than previously understood. In the published research paper none of the antiquities from the site are reported. Intrigued by the palaeobotanical finds at the site a preliminary survey was done at the site in May 2023. 

During the initial field survey conducted by the author, the objective was to establish the initial timeline and scale of the site. However, the agricultural practices in the area have significantly affected the archaeological deposit, and the complete extent of the site could not be determined due to limited visibility caused by maize fields. It was observed that the settlement was situated at the summit of the karewa plateau, providing a vantage point overlooking the terraced fields below. In close proximity to this peak, there is another area with abundant scattered pottery and a contemporary graveyard, which holds potential for further exploration in terms of the settlement pattern in this region.

Despite the majority of the site being covered by orchards and dense vegetation, we were fortunate enough to gather and document a selection of typical Neolithic pottery fragments from the field. These findings included coarse grayware sherds with thick profiles (see Figure 3). Notably, we discovered the base of a bowl exhibiting characteristic mat impressions on its underside (see Figure 4), a distinctive feature observed in Neolithic pottery found during excavations and explorations at sites such as Burzahom and Gufkral.

Additionally, we collected another type of ceramics, specifically red ware with thin sections and a red slip. These ceramics consisted of open-mouthed bowls with inwardly curved rims, along with a potentially fragmented piece of a bowl lid (see Figure 5). These ceramics appear to bear some resemblances to pottery traditions observed during the early historic period of Kashmir, as encountered at sites like Harwan and Semthan.

It is worth to take note that while the site’s surface was predominantly obscured by vegetation, our collection of these Neolithic and early historic pottery fragments provides significant evidence regarding the presence and cultural context of the site. Further analysis and excavation will be necessary to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the site’s chronology and cultural significance.

We also discovered several fascinating stone artifacts during our exploration at the site, particularly tools dating back to the Neolithic period. One notable find was an unfinished handaxe that exhibited distinct signs of wear and tear (see Figure 6). Additionally, we collected a fragment of a large ring stone (see Figure 7) and an incomplete, broken celt (see Figure 8), both of which represented important stone tools from the Neolithic era.

However, the most significant discovery, and the only tool ever found at any Neolithic settlement in Kashmir, including sites like Burzahom and Gufkral, is a grinding/anvil? stone. This tool was perhaps utilized by Neolithic humans to grind and polish their celts, adzes, and other tools. It takes the form of a black Panjal trap stone, resembling a stone ball, and displays distinct sharpening marks on both of its flattened sides (see Figure 9).

The presence of these stone artifacts provides valuable insights into the technological advancements and craftsmanship of Neolithic communities in the region. The unfinished handaxe and broken celt indicate the tool production process, while the anvil stone sheds light on the tool maintenance and sharpening practices employed by Neolithic inhabitants.

Further analysis and comparative studies of these stone artifacts will undoubtedly contribute to our understanding of the Neolithic culture and technological advancements in the Kashmir region. The significance of the anvil stone, in particular, cannot be overstated, as it represents a unique find and offers new perspectives on the skills and techniques employed by Neolithic communities in shaping and maintaining their tools.

Based on the primary field analysis and the collected materials, we can propose the following interpretation of the site. It is likely that Pethpuran was occupied during the Neolithic period, as evidenced by the discovery of potential Neolithic pottery and tools listed above. A rubble stone wall aligned at the centre of the site seems to the remains of a structure at the site. The settlement was reoccupied during the early historic times.

It is important to emphasize that these initial observations and analyses provide a foundational understanding of the cultural context of the site. However, in order to obtain more comprehensive information and establish a more precise understanding of the site’s historical significance and its specific position within Kashmir’s Neolithic civilization, additional research is necessary.

This further research would entail conducting more extensive ceramic examinations, archaeological surveys, explorations, and excavations, as well as employing advanced dating techniques. These methods will enable us to delve deeper into the site’s archaeological layers, uncover additional artifacts, and refine our understanding of the chronological and cultural aspects of the site.

By undertaking these comprehensive research endeavors, we can gain a more nuanced and detailed understanding of the site’s cultural and historical significance within the broader context of Kashmir’s Neolithic civilization. It is through these future investigations that we can expand our knowledge and develop a more complete picture of the site’s past.

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