Field Trips from Ashoka
In the third week of March, the Department of History and the Center for Interdisciplinary Archaeological Research, in association with the History Society, organized day trips on two subsequent days to the Harappan city of Rakhigarhi, led by faculty members, Dr Kalyan Sekhar Chakraborty and Dr. Sanjukta Datta. A total of 62 students from the university (undergraduate students enrolled in the History department’s courses, History of India I, Archaeology of Complex Societies and Ancient States; undergraduate students from other departments; and Young India Fellows) went on this field trip to get a first-hand experience of an archaeological excavation.
The students left Ashoka between 7 and 7.30 AM and reached the site between 10 and 10.30 AM. They were first given a brief overview of the Harappan civilization, which was followed by a visit to Mound no. 3, where they observed exposed Harappan structures, streets, drainage systems and remnants of public architecture. They not only witnessed the process of excavation but also got a chance to directly interact with the excavators, including the lead excavator Dr Manjul, who helped students identify mud bricks, baked bricks, drainage channels, hearths etc. The students were then taken to Mound no. 1 where he showed them some of the notable antiquities that had been unearthed, such as terracotta animal figurines, beads made of gold and semi-precious stones such as carnelian, stone artifacts like polishers and blades, and talked about the role of interpretation in identifying the probable uses of artefacts. Here, the students also got a glimpse of camp life at an archaeological site.
At Mound no.1 the group saw a Harappan street, a drainage system, an 8 m deep index trench as well as a post-Harappan animal burial.
After a lunch break under a neem tree at Mound no. 1 (where some Harappans might have also had their lunch approximately 5000 years ago), Dr Chakraborty gave a detailed rundown of Harappan pottery, and some animal remains at the pottery yard. He also spent some minutes on a modern animal burial, explaining how later (including modern) intrusions can alter archaeological stratigraphic sequences and therefore, how it is crucial to be able to identify them.
Students then had a tour of the Rakhigarhi village, which is located on Mound nos. 4 and 5, and which, interestingly continues to display many characteristic Harappan traits, such as the orientation of streets and the layout of drainage channels. The Harappan trail concluded with a visit to one of Indian archaeology’s largest known exposed sections, associated with the approximately 8 m high Mound no. 4, which reveals the long settlement history of the Mature Harappan period. On its way back, the group had a look at some of the medieval havelis in the village organized by Mr Balram Yadav, associated with Astitva, a heritage resort that has sought to replicate a Harappan ambience, located a few minutes away from the excavation site.
Astitva was the last stop on the itinerary, where Mr Yadav generously provided refreshments and showed some Harappan artifacts which had been collected from the villagers of Rakhigarhi. The students were back on campus by 9 PM, rejuvenated after their memorable field trip to a Harappan site.