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IIT Kanpur - HIST 2004


Note: No detailed references are being given in this brief report. For further information, authors may be contacted on the email IDs given

Abstract 1

Harappan Architecture and Civil Engineering

-Jagat Pati Joshi

Email: rajesh_samuel@yahoo.com

I propose to present the evidence of the Harappan architecture under the following scheme of chapters.

Chapter I: At the outset, in the introductory, he dealt in short the main Harappan contributions for e. g., town planning drainage system, standardisation of bricks, weight and measures, geometrical instruments, granaries and hydraulic architecture. While dealing with the title of the book, it was said that the ‘Civil Engineering' is a broad field of engineering that deals with planning, construction, maintenance of fixed structures as related to earth water and civilization and their processes has been chosen as an ‘umbrella term' to denote all types of structures of Harappans.

The history of discovery of Harappan civilization from 1856 to the recent years was surveyed in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent along with its various nomenclatures e.g., Indus civilization and Indus-Saraswati civilization and its extent from Sutkagendor to Hulas and Manda to Daimabad covering an area of 2.5 millions sq. kms. It flourished from 2600 BC to 1750 BC.

Chapter II and III: There are about 20 sites in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent which provide a backdrop to the genesis of this greaty civilization in different ecological zones. These sites are Kiligul Mohammad, Dambsaddat, ranaghundai, Amri, Nal-Nundara, Nindovari, Edith Shahar complex in Lasbela, Balakot, Kotdiji, Mehargarh, Nausharo, Rehmandheri, Gumla, Ghazishah, Harappa, Kalibangan, Banawali, Dhalewan, Rakhigarhi, Kunal, Mithathal, Siswal and Padri. These sites have provided architectural genesis to urban revolution of the Harappans in the 3rd millennium BC.

Chapter IV: The Harappan settlement patterns are distributed in different ecological zones and two river flood plains e. g, Indus and Saraswati. Lothal and Sutkagendor in coastal areas and Surkotda and Dholavira in rocky hilly areas of Kutch. These are conditioned by navigability of rivers, trade routes and accessibility to natural resources. Sizes of various Harappan settlements were discussed.

The principle settlement type and their cardinal culture traits were spelt out. Amongst the important sites Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Chanudaro, Ropar, Alamgirpur, kalibangan, Banawali, Balakot, Lothal, Rangpur, Rojdi, Prabhas Patan, Desalpur, Surkotada, Dholavira and Padri were taken up detailed description.

Chapter V: The various aspects of town planning at the above sites were discussed systematically: 1. Fortification and gateways 2. Planning of the township 3. Streets 4. Drains 5. Bathing platforms 6. Platforms 7. Houses.

Some outstanding buildings of the Harappan Civilization- (a) Granaries at Mohenjodaro and Harappa (b) The Great Bath of Mohenjodaro (c) Dockyard and warehouse at Lothal (d) the College Building at Mohenjodaro.

Chapter VI: The Harappans were geat hydraulic engineers. They were known for well and canal irrigation. Walls at various sites, construction of check dams at Dholavira, storm water and City drainage system. The dockyard at Lothal, great Bath complex at Mohenjodaro.

Chapter VII: Earlier no temples were found at Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Now at Edith Shahar complex, a ziggurat type of structure having atop a platform with drains, Dambsaddat evidence of a stone platform with drains and stone and stone cairn with a skull, Kalibangan fire altars and a sacrificial cistern with animal bones, fire altars and bathing platforms at Lothal, fire altars and apisidal temple like structures at Banawali lead to the emergence of religious architecture of Harappans.

Chapter VIII: Various types of burials architectural though simple are available. Extended burials in coffins at Harappa, brick lined graves at Harappa and Lothal, Bhumigriha type burial at Kalibangan, simple memorial burials at Surkotda and Dholavira with a cairn or stone slab at the top.

Chapter IX: Geometrical instruments like scales, plumb-bob, and right angles of the Harappans are remarkable, which they used for town planning. Knowledge of geometry was known. They followed decimal system. Weights and measures have binary systems. House building technology, building materials and foundation of structures as practised by Harappans was discussed besides Mortar, bonding, plaster, pavements, doors and windows and various types of kilns used by Harappans were also mentioned with details.

Chapter X: Finally, deurbanized Harappans and their architecture are briefly dealt with in Sind, Punjab and western U.P. The architectural remains at Hulas, Bhagwanpura and Daimabad are dealt with.

Abstract 2

Scientific ideas and elements during First Millennium B.C and later

M.C Joshi

Email: anajajoshi@rediffmail.com


            In the context of Indian antiquity, particularly around first millennium B.C, it is not easy to locate scientific ideas or scientific development in precise terms.  No doubt, even in the early stages of cultural evolution, scientific nature of ideas could be located in the Vedic texts and ancient copper age remains but the growth of the scientific systems cannot be analyzed methodologically.  It appears that largely scientific knowledge evolved out of the requirements of the people viz., construction techniques, metal technology, need of weighing and measuring, etc.  Sometimes religious beliefs and rituals also helped the growth of a specific kind of experience pertaining to a scientific idea.  

Early Sources

 In the Vedic scheme of learning which survived in post-Vedic age too, we observe the traditional approach to education, comprising the following subjects: Siksha (phonetics), Kalpa (ritualistic knowledge), Vyankarana(grammer), Nirukta (etymology), Channdas (metrics) and Jyotisha (astronomy even astrology).  An assessment of this scheme indicates the presence of certain scientific elements suggesting some sort of an objective view about the subjects.  In the middle of the first millennium a significant development was the compilation of Sulba Sutras containing valuable information on the formulas of geometry and their application.  Simultaneously, copper, iron and associated metal technology also progressed well.

                  It appears that sometimes around fifth century B.C or before anti-religious ideas denying the existence of god, gods, rituals, sacredness of the Vedas, rebirths, etc., were propounded by a section of thinkers of the Charavaka or Lokayata school which might have helped growth of scientific ideas in the course of time.  Gradually the science called Ayurveda also developed in the course of time and encouraged the analysis of human diseases with the socio- cultural growth and urban economy.  Early Buddhist literature refers to Ayurvedic specialists like Jivaka who possessed knowledge about the properties of plants and trees and their use in a developed medicinal system. 

            By about the middle of first millenium BC there was considerable advancement in iron technology as can be inferred from the objects of iron obtained from some of the Megaliths, particularly of Vidarbha and elsewhere.  Perhaps there was improvement in the technique of manufacture of iron especially with the introduction of bhastra (bellow), referred to by Panini the grammarian (circa fifth century BC), in Ashtadhyayi.  The use of bhastra kept the fire burning whenever required by blacksmith.   Due to such improvements and other reasons iron objects seem to have been produced in abundance in comparison to other metals as can be inferred from a reference in Kautiliya's Arthasastra pertaining to the theft of objects of iron and other material.  The author writes that a person found stealing articles made iron, rope or wood should be fined an amount ranging from 24 to 48 panas whereas in regard to the theft of objects made of copper, brass, bronze, glass or ivory the fine should range from 48 panas to 96 panas which shows that even glass was costlier than iron in the Mauryan period.  It is cheapness of the iron that Buddha permitted his disciples (monks) to have their begging bowls either of made of baked earth or iron.  Possibly around fifth/fourth brass also appears to have been introduced or at least more systematically produced in India with some refinement.  Kautilya calls it Karakuta and Vritti which might respectively, stand for impure and purified or refined brass.

Scientific ideas

   What is more important in the Arthasastra of Kautilya as its author's scientific approach reflected in certain chapters; for instance he says in connection with the protection royal harem that its walls are to be plastered with a combination of mud and ashes out of a tree burnt by lightening and wetted in hail-water which cannot be destroyed by fire.  Similarly, for keeping away poisonous snakes from a building he records that if it has around it plants like Jivanti ( Faederia Foetsda) Sveta (Aconitum Ferox), Mushka pushpa and Vandaka ( epidendrum Tesselatum) surrounded by branches of Pipal and Pejata trees, serpents and other poisonous insects do not enter within.  He also notes that as soon as parrots, Sarikas (Mynas) or bhrinjraja ( Malabar birds) have slightest feeling of the presence of a snake nearby, they shriek aloud.

                  Kautilya has also given certain formulae through which it is possible to detect the presence of poison in the food for the king.  He writes that king should offer before consuming his food to fire and to birds perhaps as a formal ritual.  If the flames and smoke turn blue or if the vapour arising out of cooked food looks like the colour of peacock's neck, the presence of poison in it could be inferred; if the vegetables cooked for the king are watery and hardened and contain irregular layers of black foam and devoid of natural smell, touch and taste there could be poisonous elements in the prepared cooked meal.

 The same might be concluded in case the cooking utensils reflect unusual light externally and their edges bear a layer of foam; or the liquid preparation possesses different coloured streaks on the surface.  The presence of poison in cooked dishes is also indicated when there are circular patches of black colour on the carpets and curtains (in the kitchen) or if metallic vessel studded with gems appear tarnished.

            In the context of locating old copper and other mines Kautilya says that experts in minerals while examining the old mining sites should see, if any kind of mineral excrement (Kitta), crucibles, charcoal and ashes are available there.   He further writes that if liquids if oozing out of pits, caves of mountains and deep excavations, having various types of colours, are greasy and weighty in contents or bear some sort of smell that might indicate the presence of silver, copper or gold at the site.

             Regarding ores obtained from plains or mountains slopes which are red or yellow in colour and marked with blue lines or have the colour of black or green beans with white spots and bear a sandy layer which on heating up do not split and emit some quantity of foam and smoke possibly of availability of the ores of gold could be there which would also be used to form amalgams with coppers and silver.  The Arthasastra also briefly suggests the methods by which it is possible to purify the metals.  Kautilya terms metal extracted from mines as dhatu and for any kind of alloy he employs the term Lauha.

          His most interesting observation is about examination the body of a suddenly dead person: as could be observed below:

        In cases of sudden death, the corpse should be smeared over oil and examined.

          Any person whose corpse is tainted with mucus and urine with organs inflated with wind, bearing swollen hands and legs, with eyes open, and with neck marked with ligatures, he may be regarded as having been killed by suffocation and suppression of breathing.

           Any person with contracted arms and thighs may be regarded as having been killed by hanging.

         Any dead person with stiffened rectum and eyes, with tongue bitten between the teeth, and with belly swollen, may be considered as having been killed by drowning.

                  Any dead person, wetted with blood and with limbs wounded and broken, may be regarded as having been killed with sticks or ropes.

            Any dead person with fractures and broken limbs may be regarded as having been thrown down.

             Any dead person with dark coloured hands, legs, teeth, and nails with loose skin, hair fallen, flesh reduced, and with face bedaubed with foam and saliva, may be regarded as having been poisoned.

                 Any dead person of similar description with marks of a bleeding bite, may be considered as having been bitten by serpents and other poisonous creatures.  Any dead person, with body spread and dress thrown out after excessive vomiting and purging, may be considered as having been killed by the administration of the juice of the madana plant.

             In case of death due to poison, the undigested portion of meal may be (chemically) examined in milk (or in water).  Or the same ( undigested food) extracted from the belly is thrown into fire and, if it makes ‘ chitchita' sound and assumes the rainbow colour, then he may be declared as poisoned.  Or when the heart (hrydaya) of the dead remains unburnt (after cremation), despite the rest of the body being reduced to ashes, the dead man's servants and relatives may be examined as if any violent and cruel treatments they may have received at the hands the dead to ascertain the cause of death. 

             These logical inferences illustrate regarding unnatural death of a person's that Kautiliya had personal experience and knowledge on various aspect of the issue, which he thought essential as a part of training for officers engaged in the administration of the state.

Scientific elements

 Kautilya in Arthasastra gives us idea of measurement of space and time which also been adopted by later authors with modifications.  In Kautilya scheme the time measurement is divided from smallest unit to highest one.  As indicated below:

Paramanu, liksha, yuka, yava, angula, dhanusmushti, vitasti, aratni, kamsa, hasta, danda, rajju, etc.  The details are as follows :

8 paramanus (atoms)= 1 dust particle

8 dust particles= 1 liksha

8 likshas= 1 yuka of medium size

8 yukas= 1 yava of middle size

8 yavas=1 angula

8 angulas= I dhanurmushti

4 angulas= 1 dhanurgraha

12 angulas-=1 vitasti or 1 Chhayapurusha

42 angulas=1 kishku

54 angulus= 1 hasta

2 Vistastis-=1 aratni

4 aratnis=1 danda (dhanru)

10 dandas= 1 rajju

2 rajju= 1 paridesa

3 rajjus= 1 nivartana

100 dandas( or Dhanushu) = 1 goruta (sound of cow)

4 gorutas-=1 yojana

          Another term for measuring distances found in early Pali literature is gavyuti, which is stated to be equal to 2 ½ Yojana.  According D.C Sircar a Yojana was equal to four Krosas (9 miles) a term referred to in Asoka's inscriptions also.

  The measurement of hasta (cubic) varied from material to material in the classification given by Kautiliya.

Reckoning of the year

         During first millenium B.C three systems of reckoning the year prevailed based on the counting of the days which varied from each other; viz, lunar (Chandra-mana) year having about 354 days, Savana year (of Vedic origin) comprising 360 days, each month being of 30 days and Solar (Sauramana) year of about 365days.  For financial purposes Kautilya prescribes the use of lunar year with each month ending on full moon day (Paurnamasi) referred to by both Panini, and Kautilya; yet it can be surmised that in some part of ancient India, as even now, each lunar month ended in Amavasya (last day of the dark half i.e. krishna paksha).

       However, with a view to maintaining the seasonal occurrence of specific festivals, as prescribed by the archaic religious tradition associated with popular beliefs, people followed the luni-solar calendar with the introduction of an additional month every third year.  Lunar zodiac or the Nakshatra system was being commonly followed by people along with tithis (days coinciding with waning and waxing of the moon) and names of the months as well as full-moon day ( Paurnamasi )  were named after certain specific nakhshastra.  The lunar zodiac commenced in pre-Christian era with Krittika and not Asvini nakshatra.  Each day including night i.e. Ahoratra consisted of 15 muhurtas or of 60 Nalikas (later styled as ghatis).  The lowest unit for measuring times was a truti.  Details are as under:

2 trutis= 1 lava

2 lavas=1 nimesha

5 nimishas= 1 kashtha

30 kashtas=1 kala

40 kalas= 1 Nalika (of 24 minutes duration)

12 Nalikas= I muhurta

15 muhurta=1 Ahoratra (=24 hours)

         A Nalika was being measured by emptying one adhaka (about two kilograms) water kept in a holed pot, which passed out through a pipe

(4 angulas) attached to it in duration of about 24 minutes i.e. one Nalikas.

.  The time was also being calculated in Kautilya's period on the basis of fluctuation in a shadow of the human body or sanku(upright fixed on the ground). 

     Significant data on weights are available both in Panini's and Kautilya's works.  The evolution of the system of the weights is possibly an urban phenomenon.  Initially, perhaps from developed neolithic times onwards, for the purpose of exchange of articles of daily need loan of grains, etc., baskets or pots of different sizes might have been use which were subsequently standardized for the sake of utility.   Balance (tula) was introduced first in India only during the Harappan period and was revived with the historical urbanization.  The very idea of weighing seems to have begun with seeds of gunja ( Abrus Precatorius) i.e. wild berry and masha ( bean or urad in Hindi) as smallest units.  The following details are given by Kautilya in his Arthasastra:

10 seeds of masha ( Phraseolus Radiatus) = 5 gunjas (Abrus Precatorius)

 5 seeds of gunjas = 1 Suvurna (gold) mashaka

 16 Survarna mashakas= 1 survarna or karsha

 4 Karshas= 1 Palas

 88 White mustard seeds= 1 silver- mashaka

16 silver mashakas or 10 saibya seeds= 1 dharana

20 grains of rice= 1 dharana of a diamond (piece)

        These weights show diversity in respect of gold, silver and diamond and probably these could not be very minutely standardized by Kautilya who also furnishes details about specific varieties of tulas or balances with marks above.  He suggests having weights only of stone and iron.  According to Kautilya heavier weights weighed differently, e.g., 16 drona being equal to one khari, 20 dronas to 1 kumbha and 10 kumbhas to 1 vaha.

          Further, both Panini and Kautilya refer to coinage which around their times was of the punch marked variety and had different weights and sizes during pre- Mauryan and Mauryan periods.  The latter details them as below;

 1 Silver pana= 16 mashas (with ¼ copper or iron)

Ardhapana- 8 mashas =1 kakinis

Ashtapadapana= 2 mashas

       He also writes about the composition of different coins in silver and copper, which if examined practically on the basis of archaeological fieldwork would indicate the correct position, on comparison with Kautilya's data.

Other Developments

          Most notable, however, is the contribution of ancients in the field of astronomy after the beginning of Christian era as result of India's contact with the Hellenistic people especially the Roman world.  Two principal astronomical elements were introduced from the Occidental world into India under the influence of Yavana acharyas  (Hellisnisic scholars on astronomy) included the idea of week-days based on planetary system and Solar zodiac represented in twelve Rasis, each with a separate constellation, which was not basically much different from Nakshatra (lunar zodiac) system divided into twenty-seventy or twenty-eight signs in accordance with the movement of the moon. In the Solar zodiac, the nakshatrsas were divided into twelve signs (Rasis) in relation to their motion around the Sun.  David Pongree, a well-known American scholar says that Indian also adapted several other feature of Yavana-Jyotisha connected with Babylonian, Egyptian and Greeko-Roman traditions.  As a sequel Indian astronomy as also astrology with a blend of eastern and western system assumed a unique character, which was helpful in developing a new kind of, Hindu calendar called Panchanga or almanac with five main elements.   This had an astronomical base and astrological use and continues even now throughout the country.

      In the present context we would like mention four great Indian astronomer's of the Gupta period, (circa fifth and sixth century AD) viz., Aryabhatta I, Brahmagupta, Lalla and Varahamihara.  Aryabhatta's main contribution was his theory propounding that it is the earth which moves round the sun and not otherwise as most ancient Indian scholars even a later astronomer like Bhaskaracharya continued to believe. Aryabhatta's calculated the circumference of the earth as the 4967 yojanas.  He also explained scientific reasons for the occurrence of eclipses and introduced the system of assigning each Sanskrit alphabet a numerical value.

  Brahmagupta was a follower of old Paitamaha school of astronomy and was the author of Brahmasuphta  Siddhanta and a Karana(astronomical) text called Khandana-Khanda- Khadya.  His work on algebra is regarded as very important in the annals of Indian mathematics.

   The third master of astronomy was Lalla, a pupil of Aryabhatta and was known for his astronomical text called Sishyadhivriddhi following the theories and system of his teacher to a great extent.

        Most popular astronomer as well as astrologer was Varahemihara who is most well known for his Panchasiddhantika containing different theories propounded by five school of Indian astronomy, viz., Paitamaha, Vasishta, Romaka, Paulisa and Surya- Siddhanta .  The first one represented the traditional Vedanga Jyotisha system, Vasishta was an improvement on Paitamaha school and others are mostly influenced by foreign traditions of astronomy with some kind of improvements.

      Equally interesting development can be noticed in ancient Indian medical and surgical treatises like Charaka and Susruta Samhitas and later text dealing with rasadi prescriptions including use of mercury which helped the growth of alchemy amongst Indian physicians along with the Siddha system of medicine.  With such development a belief became common that base metals can be turned into gold with the employment of mercury and youth can be regained once it is lost.  It is likely that mercury was brought to India by some people known as Paradas whom Prof B.N. Mukerjee thinks of Greek origin and who are bracketted with degraded Kshatriyas by Manu.  It is stated that Buddhist monk Siddha Nagarjuna (second-third century or even later AD) was an outstanding expert in alchemy.

   Lastly we may like to refer to certain mechanical contrivances used for raising the water for tanks, wells etc.  Kautilya makes a reference to water-lift ( Srota yantra pravartiman ) which appears like Pur (in Hindi) or Charas operated on a slope through bullocks.   Kautilya also thinks in terms of measuring the rain fall on the basis of water collected at a place.  The other device for raising water from a plain surface like that of tank, river, or canal by circulating there a huge wheel vertically with pots tied to its spokes was called araghatta.  However significant, was the ghati-yantra which operated inside a well through a chain of pots by converting horizontal force vertically for the movement of potted chain which is described as Mundamala in motion within a well, discharging nectar like water in a fifth century inscriptions.  The Amarkosa, the Sanskrit lexicon of the sixth century AD, makes a reference to both of them. It is likely that both their devices might have been imported from outside of India

     Some scientific elements can also be traced in Brihatsamhita of Varahamihara, in connection with the assessment of gems, features for water divining and treatment of

animals and trees.  In the later history there are many more points connected with scientific developments, which we do not want to touch at this stage.

Abstract 3

Zinc Production in Ancient India

J.S. Kharakwal, Research Center for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan


There has been considerable confusion about the beginning and regular production of metallic zinc and brass. Stray examples of brasses containing appreciable amount of zinc are claimed to have occurred for several centuries before irrefutable evidence of use of metallic zinc appeared on the scene around 300 BC from Asia Miner and Taxila. 

The Indians were the first in the world to produce zinc at commercial scale at Zawar between 12th and 18th century. Zinc ores are profusely found in several parts of the world often with lead, but being very reactive the metal is not found in the native or virgin form. Its boiling point (907°C) is lower than at the temperature it could be smelted; hence it is a difficult metal. Unlike most other metals it doesn't descend in the form of molten metal and can not be collected as ingots from furnaces. It comes out in vapour form and gets reoxidised or adheres in small amount in the cooler areas of the furnace, which has been recorded in several ancient literary works. The vapour of zinc or white clouds dissolves into copper, in case it is not allowed to reoxidise. Due to its volatility it could not be obtained through direct smelting in simple furnaces as used for copper, iron, lead or silver. Therefore the regular production of this notorious metal begun very late as far as the history of metals is concerned. To obtain metallic zinc a special technique i.e. called distillation/ condensation was also required, besides constant control over temperature. With long experience of pyrotechnologies and distillation processes, use of metals in medicines the Indians were able to condense the vapour of zinc at least from 8th century onwards. China started producing metallic zinc on commercial scale in 16th century, almost three hundred years later than India. The Indian technology was perhaps first transmitted to China in 16th century and later on to England in 18th century. Hence India contributed the idea of high temperature pyrotechnology as well as technique of metallic zinc to the world of science. Therefore this book is focused on zinc production in ancient India.

The first chapter of my book deals with confusion about the early examples of zinc. The second chapter deals with beginning of zinc and brass in different parts of the world with special reference to India. Zinc ores are found across the country and in several parts of the world but it was only at Zawar we have solid evidence of their mining. Therefore chapter 3 and 4 have been devoted to distribution of ores and mining respectively. Chapter 5 deals with metallurgy of zinc, ancient smelting technique, development of zinc production on industrial scale and possible diffusion of idea of high temperature distillation to other parts of the world. Chapter 6 deals with the conclusion of zinc production in the old world. 

Abstract 4

Traditional Technology in Himalayan Architecture (A Case study of Gaddi Domestic Architecture)

O. C. Handa

Email: oc_handa@hotmail.com

The Gaddis are the most interesting and enchanting, but equally rustic, people of the western Himalayan interiors. Their enchanting homeland, deep in the Ravi Valley of Chamba, is known as the Gadderan. The traditional Gaddi house is literally a primitive and rustic type of structures, which truly reflects their transhumant psychology. The one-room multipurpose dwelling unit for each household, having an independent cooking place, on each floor in a multi-storey house (a Gaddi house in normally of three or more storey) clearly reflects the casual manner in which a house is built. Ironically, against such residential structures, the wooden and stone temples of Gadderan area are some of the finest and the ancient-most examples of the classical architecture in the entire Himalayan region.

Under the constraints of mountainous topography, most of the residential houses are built in the linear formation on terraces. Such houses normally face the valley. The houses of higher caste people are generally clustered apart from the houses of lower castes. Each house in the Gadderan has a slate-paved open thrashing yard, called khalyan, defined by a parapet wall. One of the significant features of house construction in the Gadderan area is that no skilled or unskilled labor is employed from outside the community. Entire building construction work, including most of the woodwork, is accomplished through the customary community participation.

The foundation of a house rarely goes beyond 30 centimeters in the ground even for a multi-storey house, despite the fact that it has to withstand high wind pressure, heavy snowstorms and tremors. Large and heavy stone slabs are packed together in the foundation. This time-tested but casual style of preparing foundation is typical to the Gadderan territory. Over such foundation, rough wooden box-like pillars are raised. These pillars are known as the thatharas. For making them, thick and roughly hewn wooden planks (thathars) of about 45 centimeters length, 40 centimeters width and 4 centimeters thickness are placed on edge on the two sides with a gap of about 40 centimeters, which defines the thickness of wall. The intervening space is packed with dry irregular stone pieces. At times, the gaps between the thatharas are covered with the thick and roughly hewn wooden planks. Such wall is called as the farque wall. Sometimes, dhajji wall, made of the framework of wooden battens and stone fillings, is also provided between the thatharas.

The flooring of obra, (the ground floor used as byre and store) is made of rough flat stones. At times, gaps between the stones are filled with mud and cow-dung mixture. On one corner of the obra, stepladder, called manjhi, paran or sanari is provided to reach the upper floor through a trapdoor, called the chobu. On the upper floors, which are generally residential, wooden plank flooring is provided. The first floor is called obri, the second floor is the bhor and the third floor is the mandeh. The roofing is of the thick slates, placed over the thick wooden roofing-planks.

The traditional Gaddi house has no window, but only a small entrance door (dwari) on the ground floor (obra). Thus, the multi-storied Gaddi house looks more a mini-castle than a dwelling house. The traditional Gaddi house is not an impressive structure, but it is very functional and structurally sound.

Abstract 5

Harappan Hydraulic structures

RS Bisht

Email: contact@vs-india.com

The most remarkable thing about the Harappan was their water management.  In most of the town the sewage water flowed separately, and out of sight. For potable water they used both water harvesting devices and wells. Mohenjodaro alone had 700 wells.  

The Harappans took care so that sewage and drainage water did not mix up with the potable water. Every house had a privy and a bathroom. The Great Bath of Mohenjodaro was a marvel of water engineering; the floor was made of bricks set on edge in gypsum mortar and behind the facing brick was an inch thick damp proof bitumen held by a further wall of bricks which was in turn retained by mud bricks packed between on outer brick wall.

Most elaborate water harvesting system was that of Dholavira where 16 water reservoirs covered about 17 hectares area. There was a huge drain take away surplus rain water. Bisht calculates that the reservoirs stored not less than 250,000 cubic meters inside the city.


Harappan Technology and its Legacy

D P Agrawal

I  present here an overview of the Harappan technology covering architecture, hydraulics, transport, lapidary crafts, ceramic technology, metallurgy, pyrotechnolgy etc.

I think that though there was a town plan, they did not have the same uniform plan, for example while Mohenjodaro and Kalibangan and to some extent Nausharo had similar town plans, most others differ from each other. There was extensive use of burnt bricks at Mohenjodaro but at other sites burnt bricks were used where there was wear and tear due to water or heavy use. The use of mud bricks was more extensive.

Mohenjodaro is located on the floodplain of the tremendously powerful, violent Indus river. To safeguard the town and its structures from flood they raised massive platforms, which could have required about 400 days of labour of 10,000 men which is thus a massive effort. The only advantage of it was that it was located on the intersection of land and marine routes. There were double storied or triple storied houses with additional floors below the roof. The lanes and streets followed the ratio of 1:2:3:4. The narrowest of it was 1.8 m in width. It is remarkable to note that despite 700 years of occupation the streets did not have a single encroachment structure. Generally there was an open courtyard with rooms surrounding it.  The entrance was enough to lead in a bullock cart. The open shaft in the centre sets up an air circulation which allows cold air to sink and hot air to escape.

At Banawali the whole complex was fortified and surrounded by a moat.

Hydraulic structures

The Harappan water management was unprecedented in the whole world.  In most of the town the sewage water flowed separately. For potable water they used both water harvesting devices and wells. Mohenjodaro alone had 700 wells.  

The Harappans took care so that  sewage and drainage water did not mix up with the potable water. Every house had a privy and a bathroom. The Great Bath of Mohenjodaro was a marvel of water engineering where the floor was made of bricks set on edge in gypsum mortar and behind the facing bricks was an inch thick damp proof bitumen held by a further wall of bricks which was in turn retained by mud bricks packed between an outer brick wall.

Most elaborate water harvesting system was that of Dholavira where 16 water reservoirs covered about 17 hectares area. There was huge storm water drain. Bisht calculates that the reservoir stored not less than 250,000 cubic meters of water inside the city.


A civilization requires an efficient use of energy in the form of cattle power or wind power or sailing boats. There are clay models of boats recorded at Lothal and Mohenjodaro has boats depicted on stone seals.

Lapidary Crafts

The Indus people began bead making on artificial materials such as talc paste, steatite, faience and siliceous faience. Bead workshops have been found in Chanhudaro and Lothal. They etched beads by making patterns in alkali paste. They used a variety of stones for making beads. Shell was used both for masking bangles though it is very hard material to cut. Bead making and shell making industry still thrive in Gujarat.


The Harappans made wheel thrown red slipped pottery with motifs in black. Especially in Gujarat, they also made black & red pottery by controlling the supply of oxygen.

The Harappans believed in planning and in standardisation There  streets had widths in multiples of one unit. The brick sizes follow a ratio of 1:2:4. They have used two units of length, a short foot of 35 cm and a cubit of 52 cm. Their smallest division was of 1.7 mm which is ten times smaller than the angula of Arthasastra. The weights followed binary system. The smallest unit is equivalent to 13.6 gm. The higher weights follow the decimal system. In the older system of chattack and seers we still followed the binary system.


The Harappans were great innovators. They developed circular saws, true saws, fine tubular drills and needles with holes at the pointed ends. They invented tools for survey; even the concept of town planning was a Harappan contribution. They probably also invented rotary mills.


The Harappans could smelt even sulphide ores. They could use cire perdue techniques of casting. They used cold and hot working of metal forging. The use of lathe is doubtful, probably the drew wire also. They perhaps joined metal by using rivets. There are very few examples of hot joining and soldering.  For hardening copper, yet retaining its malleability, they used tin alloying in the range of 1-12 %; arsenic alloying 1-5%. Nickel was used for making shining surfaces and lead for improving casting. It appears that though they could make good furnaces, the Harappans melted early ingots; smelting was perhaps done by tribal people of Rajasthan.

Though Harappan architecture can also be called monumental in many ways, their structures and artefacts do not exhibit the megalomania of the Egyptians, Mesopotamians and the Chinese. The Harappan monumental architecture was more like public works for water harvesting, water rituals raised platforms etc.  

Abstract 7

Marvels of Indian Iron through Ages

R. Balasubramaniam

Email: Bala@iitk.ac.in

The glorious tradition of iron making in India has been well researched in the recent past and Professor Vibha Tripathi has detailed a comprehensive history of iron technology in the Indian sub-continent. The presentation will highlight the marvels of Indian iron through ages, with specific reference to large objects that still exist in different part of the subcontinent. There are several notable examples of large iron objects and the talk with highlight these metallurgical marvels. The well-known example of the Delhi iron pillar will be briefly mentioned. Special attention will be drawn on other large iron pillars like the ones that exist at Dhar, Konarak, Mandu and Kodachadri hills. The engineering features of these objects have been described in detail including their history. Another class of large iron objects that demand critical attention are the large forge-welded canons. The forge-welded canons are indigenous to the Indian sub-continent unlike the cast iron canons, which were introduced in India by the European colonial powers. The wonderful forge-welded iron canons at Thanjavur, Bishnupur, Jhansi fort, Golkonda fort and Bijapur fort have been described with respect to their design and possible method of construction. The talk will finally touch upon the third example of the marvel of Indian iron metallurgy, namely wootz steel and swords manufactured out of them. Salient features of wootz steel have been described and the thermomechanical processing of the wootz cakes into tough swords have been highlighted from a metallurgical viewpoint bringing out the skill and workmanship of the Indian blacksmiths. The issues discussed in the talk will form the basis of the book that is currently in the final stages of preparation.

Abstract 8

A Comprehensive History of Iron in India

Vibha Tripathi

Email: vibha_aihc@yahoo.co.in

The history of metal technology is a success story of human endeavour to control, manipulate and transform materials into new forms, Some of the highlights of these ventures into the field of metallurgy are: the mastery in metal casting technique including the complex cire perdue process in the 3rd millennium BCE is perceptible in the Harappan dancing girl, the Daimabad bronzes, the heavy tools and implements of the Copper Hoards in the Gangetic Plains in circa 2000-1500 BCE. In the subsequent centuries, iron and zinc exhibit an unparalleled expertise in metal extraction and forging. Zinc could not be extracted in Europe even upto the 19th century, while its antiquity in India can be traced back 4th -3rd century BCE. In the subsequent period, by the 12th-13th century AD, it was produced through distillation at an industrial level as indicated by the heaps of retorts found in the Zawar region of Rajasthan. This was a practice that continued well up to the 19th century. Thus India may be given the credit of being the first country to master the complex technique to extract metallic zinc on an industrial scale. The ingenuity and the innovative spirit of the metal workers is well evidenced in the techniques of manufacturing iron and steel at early date. This is fully borne out by the records of foreign travellers and historians who visited country from time to time. For example, Herodotus mentions iron arrowheads being used by the fighting army in the battle of Thermopylae in 5th century BCE. Almost simultaneously Ktesias gratefully acknowledged the gift of swords of Indian steel made to him by the king and his at the Persian court mother. Quintus Curtis records that in northwestern India Alexander was presented as a tribute100 talents (30 pounds) of Indian steel in the form of ingots along with gold dust and other precious items in 326 BC as a tribute. Arrian mentions about import of Indian steel to Abyssinian ports. These Greek and Roman records, thus bear a testimony to the importance of iron and steel in India and importantly enough also to the fact that it was very much in demand in the ancient world. It was being exported to various parts of the world. Iron indeed appears to be a prized commodity in the ancient times. Thus Indian iron was a commodity worth presenting to a monarch way back in the 5th -4th century BC!

In the following centuries the mastery of the craft exhibits itself in the form of colossal structures like the seven ton iron pillar at Delhi (4th - 5th century AD). It has withstood the ravages of time for centuries. The technique adopted by them was such that either it slowed down the rusting significantly or it almost stopped it once the oxide layer was formed. This property has earned it the title of the Rustless Wonder by T. R. Ananthraman, an eminent metallurgist of modern India. Equally intriguing are the large beams at the Sun temple at Konark which dates back to the 9th -10th century, as also the iron pillar at Dhar in central India. Besides the quality of iron, these are examples testify to the large scale of iron production and forging which in turn is testmony of presence of a well organised systems capable of turning out tones of iron as early as begining of the Chritian era. No wonder that the skill and the expertise could easily be exploited by the state machinery during the medieval times for manufacturing cannons that adorn several important buildings today. It may be interesting to state that the British rated Indian iron much higher and considered it more appropriate than the iron produced by their own units for manufacturing bridges etc. An important example in the case is the famous 'tubular bridge' built in the early parts of the 19th century across the Menai Straits in U.K. It is categorically stated "...Its (iron's) superiority is so marked, that at the time when the Britannia tubular bridge across the Menai Straits was under construction preference was given to the use of iron produced in India" (T.H.D. La Touché, 1918). It has been recorded that 50tonnes of Indian steel have been used in construction of the famous London bridge. This proves beyond doubt that iron was being imported from India by the 19th century Britain for crucially important purposes as Indian steel was considered to be superior; this is a fact that has rarely been brought to the notice in the publications on the subject. It is high time that a comprehensive history of iron technology in India is written covering all its aspects.

Wootz, a very special kind of crucible steel, generally known as Damascus steel was originally produced in India at around the beginning of the Christian era or may be even earlier. The forging technique of this steel is still an enigma to the modern metallurgists. Several efforts have been made to reproduce it without much success. Wootz was being exported to the outside world through important ports of the ancient times. Presence of damascened swords and daggers in so many important collections in different parts of the world is sufficient to prove both its importance as well as the scale of its production and its extensive distribution at a fairly early date. However, one wonders about the inadequate researches about Indian iron and steel. Despite such a glorious past of iron technology in India, several volumes dealing with history of iron metallurgy do not have even a word about ancient Inida's crucial contribution to this technology.

The history of iron technology of Mesopotamia, Greaco-Roman world, Africa, China etc. are fairly well documented and thereby better known to the students of history of technology. But the Indian contribution to this technology needs to be explored and given its due place. The task is a difficult one indeed, because of a general lack of systematic practice of documentation. The oral tradition of knowledge transmission and the frequent destructions of manuscripts at educational centres by invaders in the early centuries of the medieval period have led to this vacuum. Centres of knowledge such as at Taxila, Nalanda, and Vikramshila housed thousands of books as also the private collections were vandalized leading to an irreversible and permanent loss of scientific knowledge in India. There is very little knowledge available on the scientific basis of Indian metallurgy. There could be two reasons for it – firstly, metallurgy was a practical skill in the hands of a group of craftsman living in the remote areas rich in ores and forests for charcoal – the source of energy; and these craftsmen had little contact with the elite class of scholars. Secondly, there must have been a theoretical basis for the craft but the formulation has got lost in due course of time. The mastery displayed by the examples mentioned above, makes it improbable that such high standards of metal technology could have been achieved without a scientific basis behind it. Stray references to texts on iron metallurgy prove this point beyond doubt. This also dispels the notion these skills were confined to a class or a caste based reservation and other restrictions associated with it. At least this was so in the initial stages. It is quite another matter that metallurgy as a very specialised skill came to be associated with a group of people and who got identified with trade subsequently. It became the vocation of the groups who were forest dwellers for practical reasons like proximity to the raw material. Later on at a subsequent stage such social groups got identified with iron working. They developed a social and cultural system of their own. It is this distant ethnic group that possesses this knowledge till date and they carry the legacy of the past practice of iron working. Whatever little remains with them today, needs to be preserved and documented lest it gets lost forever.

The present volume of History of Science and Technology in India proposes to undertake the examination of various dimensions of iron technology in India- right from its beginning through the stages of its development to the stage of its highest achievement and to its eventual decline. It also proposes to look into the causes of its decline. Through a critical evaluation of sources, many of them not tapped so far, it may be possible to bring out several hitherto unknown or half known facets of history of iron technology in India. The book proposes to cover a long period of history spanning over several millennia – from emergence of iron in the second millennium BCE to the present day survival of the tradition. Though an effort is made to take care to collect as much information as possible up to the British period, but at times the treatment of the subject may not be as comprehensive, as would be desirable because of unavailability of necessary archival  material.

The recent archaeological discoveries attribute the first emergence of iron to the copper using societies in different parts of the subcontinent. The earlier contention of diffusion of iron has been questioned in light of new discoveries. We are faced with several questions that need attention, like: how and under what circumstances the metallurgy was discovered? Whether technology of iron was obtained through outside contacts or whether it evolved out of the existing knowledge of metal craft - is an issue that is still debated. It needs to be thoroughly investigated. In which part of the subcontinent did iron first appear? How did the metallurgy of iron develop? What are the various stages of its development? Why despite several attempts has it not been possible for the modern metallurgists to unravel the mystery of technique of wootz steel forging? When was the impact of iron felt and why was it so slow to reflect itself in the socio-economic milieu? What was the pattern of adaptation of iron technology in the early society? The interface of technology and society is yet to be examined and evaluated in all its dimensions. The causes responsible for the decline of a flourishing iron industry in India have to be looked into. The present study proposes to address such unresolved issues related to early Indian iron technology.

With new researches in the field of archaeometallurgy, and radiocarbon dating of recently excavated sites in India one needs to take a fresh look at the issue of origin of iron in India The other important issue that one needs to focus upon is the role of iron in cultural changes. We need to review and interface the productivity, and the technology- advancement, and its pattern of adaptation. The status of metallurgy at various stages of development has to be defined and the adaptation pattern has to be studied in its proper cultural context. This has to be attempted at several stages of cultural growth. Iron metallurgy had a prolonged incubation period. Its impact on society was indeed slow. All this should be examined in detail to be able to answer questions that still tend to crop up. By the 4th-5th century AD iron production was sufficiently developed. It was organized enough to produce colossal structures like the Delhi iron pillar. Wootz steel became an important and a prized commodity all over the world. Metallurgy in India during this period attained an unparalleled status. It is important to delve deep into its production and distribution mechanism. The developments and innovations through the medieval and the British periods are recorded in the contemporary writings and they may provide valuable insights into the subject. All this has to be examined at various nodal points of cultural development right up to the early-medieval and medieval times and even beyond, up to pre-modern age. As the iron technology attains maturity, it manifests unparalleled mastery. One wonders as to how did it find its way in to the world market. The dynamics of distribution and dispersal of commodities, especially, a prized commodity like the Indian steel is a subject that needs to be enquired into. Right from the ancient times India carried out overland and sea trade with west Asia, China, South-East Asia and also Africa. The gulf trade has been frequently mentioned in various texts. A large number of port towns from Sind (Bambhore) in present day Pakistan through those in central – western parts of India (Gulf of Cambay, Broach) right up to the peninsular India (Coromandel, Coachin, Kaveripattanam etc.) were busy ports. Puranas make frequent references to sea – faring traders. Agnipurana mentions that Soppora (Shurpârak), Vanga (Bengal), Anga (Bhagalpur in Bihar) were centres of steel making. The historian of medieval times, Idrisi makes a specific reference to purchase of Indian steel swords. Even the Chinese Chau Ju Kua (8th century AD) talks of import of steel rods (ingots?) from India through sea during the early medieval period. Indian ships brought back horses and exported copper, tin, lead and solid steel (ingots?), spices, drugs, cotton cloth, precious stones, timber and leather goods and other luxury items. In the early medieval ages India carried out trade with Iran, Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia), Indonesia, and as mentioned above, with China. There are references of rich Indian traders living in Mesopotamia. India received gold in return. Such a well-established trade in this region must have provided incentive to the iron and steel industry of India. There were well-established port towns in ancient India that find mention in literature from time to time. Banbhore or Bambhore was a busy ancient port on the river Indus in Sind. It was located 40 km. east of Karachi - the Periplus refers to it as Barbaricum and Ptolemy as Barbari. This was an active and busy port at least from the 1st to 13th century AD. Ancient ceramics from Syria, Susa and Iran have been found there. Likewise, the Gulf of Cambay has been rated as a beautiful and the safest sea-port by Al Idrisi. The writings of Istakhari and Ibn Haukal in 951 AD describe it as an important port. The latter has praised the swords made at Debal in Sind. (HIED, I p.37) Al Masudi, also of the 10th century AD, and Al Beruni have mentioned Broach as an important port. It is the place where River Narmada meets the sea. Upto the 11th - 12th century AD, the Chinese and Arabs frequentaly visited the Indians ports. Although it has not been possible to get a detailed inventory of the commodities that were being traded, but the fact that Sind, Gujarat, Kachch, Bengal and Bihar and the Peninsular India were famous for their steel, especially for the highly acclaimed sword that they produced. There is every likelihood that steel must have been an important export item. In the subsequent times, as late as the British period the indigenous industry was in a flourishing state. It has been studied, appreciated and criticized by the British engineers for its strengths and weaknesses. The sword of Tipu Sultan was an enigma and is almost like a legend today. However, in the subsequent times the reasons of a virtual disappearance at and a general decline of iron working need to be investigated. 

The British engineers and geologists have taken pains to study Indian iron metallurgy. Any history of technology should incorporate such observations made by the experts in the field dealing with the strength and weakness of the indigenous system of iron working. The present volume attempts to undertake a rather difficult task of surveying a long span of time of history of iron technology in India. It scans through the issue of emergence of iron in the Indian subcontinent sometime in the 2nd millennium BCE and the process of metallurgical development through the centuries. At the same time there is also an attempt to take a look at the status of iron technology during the early medieval period. The history of iron technology has many facets within the period ranging from the Imperial Guptas to the mighty Moghuls. There were changes in the socio-political milieu during different cultural stages. Whether the technological processes were influenced and affected by such upheavals of history is an issue that is proposed to be examined here.

It may be worth underlining here this interesting fact that King Bhoja of Dhar composed a treatise on iron manufacturing in the 10th –11th Century AD. He even mentioned a couple of other texts, which had been composed earlier. It is significant indeed in view of the fact that it has always been believed that metallurgy in India was only a craft being practiced by the artisans. But presence of three-four treatises on such a complex technology, firstly, highlights the great importance attributed to iron technology and secondly, it clearly demonstrates that iron had acquired the status of a full-fledged science by the 10th –11th Century AD or may be even earlier. It is unfortunate that these texts have not been recovered so far.

The medieval period was an age of expansion and consolidation of power on the one hand and of deconstruction of the basic structure of the Indian society on the other. The Mohammdan invasions in the 12th –13th centuries AD had far-reaching consequences on Indian social system. They were not only devastating, but brutal to the extent that entire populations were captured and made slaves. Qutubuddin Aibak's invasion of Gujarat (1195 AD) netted him 20,000 slaves. Seven years later (1202 AD) he raided Kalinjar and '50,000 slaves were brought under chain' (Nizami, quoted by Habib 1984, 90). Firuz Tughluq enslaved 12,000 artisans (1351-88). Under the Muslim law slaves are saleable. Barni describes slave market in Delhi. This practice must have hit the Indian socio-economic set up, having a large repercussion adversely affecting the production force of the society. However, Habib speaks of a decline in the slavery after 14th century due to "availability of cheaper free labour in such crafts and professions..." created for the nobility. It was under such circumstances that villagers started fleeing their homes, en masse leaving their professions and belongings behind. No doubt the exodus included artisan class also. The atrocities on hapless common men turned them into hopeless poor wretches fleeing for their lives. It is futile to talk of innovation creativity, knowledge, and incentives in such a milieu.

It was a period when several monumental edifices of the ancient times were demolished, including the iron pillar at Dhar, perhaps the tallest of its kind in the world. At the same time it was an age of reorganization of techno-cultural forces. The values seem to be redefined as evidenced in the production of such monumental structures. Instead of victory pillars and tributes to the deities and shrines, arms and armours assumed greater importance. The artisans were commissioned to produce these to their utmost capacity. It was needed to assist the military to equip the forces for incessant wars that were being raged. During the Moghul period, the Shahi Karkhanas were established, employing large number of the artisans. To strengthen the Moghul arsenal, experts in firearms were invited even from West Asian Countries, especially to cast cannons. The bronze cannons of the earlier times were replaced by iron ones. In course of time, the unchecked power invested in the officials of the period, led to exploitation and misery of the artisan class, which was already a demoralised lot. The creative urges of the general artisan class gave way to a harassed, subdued and pathetic social group working under stress and fear. Such observations have been made by several foreign travellers of the medieval period. But in those parts where a better organizational set up was created, the industry did flourish. The Dutch, the Portuguese, the Persians continued to flock the port-towns for the prized steel of India right up to the 16th –17th Century AD. It is at this point of time that the British stepped in.

The Indian iron and steel industry almost immediately caught the attention of the British. The rich records left behind by them bear testimony to it. The initial appreciation and import led to efforts towards innovations. A failure of mass production units resulted in experimentations with coke in some of the British establishments. But surprisingly such efforts to establish manufactories to produce iron on a mass scale in those factories fell apart. All the production centres had to be closed down within a few decades of their inception. What could be the possible reasons of such failures? Was it due to the technical reasons at early stages of coke-based industry? Or was there something in the dynamics of the raw material availability and utilization scheme that could not be grasped? Alternatively, was the appropriate technology of India more suited to the local techno-cultural environment? These questions need to be examined closely here. Eventually an export of ore and import of finished pig iron from Britain was considered to be more viable and economically advantageous venture by the British government in India. This, however, dealt the final below to the staggering indigenous iron technology.

Many scholars have deliberated upon the causes of decline of once flourishing iron working in recent years. Was it due to a colonial design? Was it the consequence of a lack of innovation and will? Were the caste barriers and indifference of social hierarchy responsible for alienation of the ironworkers?

 We propose to examine these issues in some detail in an independent chapter in the present volume. An effort has also been made to locate the surviving strands of once flourishing indigenous iron industry. It will also be explored if there is a possibility of revival of the surviving tradition and if there is any hope of resurgence of its glorious past.

The study is divided into eight chapters including the present one. Chapter II 'Incidence of Iron in Bronze Age' makes a brief survey of the emergence of iron in ancient world civilizations. It will deal with the circumstances and date of the first recognition of iron as a metal and pattern of its utilization at the early stage of occurrence of iron. The incidental production of iron as an outcome of earlier metallurgies of copper and lead has been discussed. It also identifies the earliest appearance of iron in India. Chapter III is 'Origin and Dispersal of Iron in India'. How and under what conditions iron was first recognized in India? Was it brought in through diffusion or did it have an independent origin or was it chance discovery arrived at while working with other metals. This has been discussed on the basis of literary, archaeological and technological evidence. The recent archaeological discoveries and new 14C dates throw fresh light on origin of iron in India. The early iron using cultures have been classified under several zones because of their cultural and geographical affinities.

Chapter IV is 'Iron in Ancient India: From Wrought Iron to Steel'. It focuses on development of iron metallurgy, viz. from crude slag-rich wrought iron to rich steely iron. Stages of development of metallurgy are perceptible in archaeological data that has been identified as early, middle and late phases of Iron Age in India. The status of metallurgy can be reconstructed on the basis of literary accounts belonging to different cultural periods as well as analytical studies of archaeological samples. The process of metallurgical developments continued right upto the early medieval times as will be demonstrated by the present study.

The next chapter is entitled 'From the Imperial Guptas to Mighty Moghuls: Status of Iron upto the Medieval Period'. Once metallurgy came of age, not only did the quality of iron and steel improve, its production increase manifold. The bloomery furnaces of the 4th – 5th centurie AD could produce iron of uniform quality to build seven-ton iron pillar that adorns the Qutub Minar complex at Delhi even today. Later on several such massive structures came to be used in the monumental structures like temples or making victory pillars. The Islamic invasions plundered many of these edifices and changed the direction of iron production suited only for the production of arms and armaments. Cannons and firearms came to be produced on a large scale. The artisans contributed to meet the growing demand of steel during this phase. However, the condition of artisans themselves started deteriorating under an unsympathetic state. Thus has been amply borne out by the medieval records by Muslim and European scholars of that age.

Chapter VI is 'Iron in the British India'. The indigenous iron worker could produce excellent quality steel that caught attention of the British. They made a thorough study of indigenous iron and industries functioning in different parts of India. They even tried to establish their own factories, especially to meet the growing need for the railways. Both the types of production centres have been studied and their strengths and weaknesses have been assessed in the course of our examination. Gradually, however this decline set in at this juncture of Indian history. The causes of decline, the condition of the artisan and their craft has been dealt with in detail.

Chapter VII is 'Survival and Revival of Indigenous Iron Industry'. The ethnographic evidence throws a welcome light on a continued tradition of iron smelting, forging in remote areas of the country. The Agaria and Asur tribes have operated small sized clay furnaces. To them iron working is not only a profession; it is more of a religion to them. It was a household industry prevalent among these ethnic societies for generations. What is the status of the art today? It is a question that needs to be examined. Their non-Aryan affiliations have also been underlined by scholars. From the Himalayan region to peninsular India one may come across numerous tribal iron working communities, especially near the iron ore deposits. This has a far-reaching significance. The related issues have been looked into in this chapter.

The last chapter summarizes and critically evaluates the significant findings of the study.        

Abstract 9

Traditional Hydraulic Technology of Central – Western Himalayas

Pankaj Goyal

Email: pglokvigyankendra@rediffmail.com

There is quite a bit of literature on temple architecture and iconography of the Central Himalayas, but very little on secular architecture and water related structures. I am aware of the valuable efforts of the Indian Science Academy, the Infinity Foundation and the Centre for Civilisational Studies, Delhi towards the reconstruction of India's History of Science and Technology. It is however sad to note that even the historians of technology have somehow ignored this valuable scientific heritage of the Central Himalayas. This traditional hydraulic technology therefore needs urgently addressed to.

Our preliminary explorations clearly show that such hydraulic structures are examples of great ingenuity of the ancient people and are intricate models of architecture. In the course of millennia, the hilly people learnt and devised techniques to locate sources of perennial springs with the help of some diagnostic plants; they made use of particular types of clay to purify and retain water; they also used various techniques like copper plates to purify water. With the increase in population, on one hand the demand for water is increasing, and on the other, such old water structures are in a state of negligence. Even if we want to revive them, we need to study their architecture and original technology. Today's real need is to preserve our traditional water harvesting structures.

Through this study, I propose to survey, document and study such ancient hydraulic structures and their technology. We found that both domestic and hydraulic architecture attained great heights in traditional technology, yet this type of architecture has not yet received the attention it deserves. We therefore propose to document and unravel the technology used in such secular architecture. Such a study when completed will have considerable relevance not only to the history of traditional technology but also to environmental conservation.

Abstract 10


Pranab K. Chattopadhyay

Email: chattopadhyaypranab@rediffmail.com

            Archaeometallurgy is a rapidly growing discipline worldwide. This discipline has been developed jointly by archaeologists and metallurgists. In a wider sense this multi-disciplinary branch of science is developing fast with the application of sophisticated instrumentation and techniques. In Indian subcontinent a number of research works dealing with metal technology or cultural metallurgy have been published in last five decades. To mention a few, N. R. Banerjee's work on Iron Age in India (1965), K. T. M. Hegde's Technical studies on Chalcolithic Copper Metallurgy (1968), D. P. Agrawal's Copper-Bronze Age in India (1971) and Ancient Metal Technology of South Asia (2000), H. C. Bhardwaj's work on various Aspects of Ancient Indian Technology (1979), A. K. Biswas' Minerals and Metals of Ancient India (1996), S. Srinivasan's studies on South Indian Metal Icons (1999, 2004), B. Prakash's Ferrous Metallurgy in Ancient India (2001), R. Balasubramaniam's Studies on Delhi Iron Pillar: New insights (2002) and V. Tripathi's studies on The Age of Iron in South Asia (2001) are  significant.

The present study highlights an outline of less known areas in Eastern part of India.

Till now no clear picture has been visualised in respect of the development of metallurgy in those five states. It may not be possible to pinpoint the origin of metallurgy in this part of the country, but with the support of recent archaeological findings, an in-depth study may be made to acquire a better knowledge of our metallurgical heritage.

Physico-cultural characteristics of Eastern India

The physico-cultural characteristics of Eastern India are based on the river system, the Gangetic plain and the plateau of this region. The Chotanagpur plateau is the central region of Eastern India.  The master stream, the Ganga, is the major recipient of all waterlines in this region. West to east of this geographical location includes eastern portion of the Middle Ganga plain and the whole of Lower Ganga Plain down to the active delta of Sundarbans. The two different watersheds that feed the states of Bihar and West Bengal are from the Himalayas and the Chotanagpur plateau. The rivers in North Bihar, which have originated from the glaciers of Himalayas, are named as the Ghaghar, the Gandak, the Buri Gandak, the Bagmati, the Kosi and the Mahananda.

Eastern India has witnessed the gradual developments in lithic technology. The typologies of initial metal objects clearly indicate the developmental stages of their lithic counterparts. The mineral resources in this part of the subcontinent are extremely rich. The existence of ore-minerals such as copper, iron, tin, lead, zinc, silver and gold are important. The gold nuggets were found from the streambeds of the rivers such as the Sona, the Jonk, the Kansai, the Bamni, and the Kumari etc. Gold flakes mixed with sand were found from the upper course of the former rivers. The separations of these gold flakes are done by the local tribal people, who did two sessions of panning in a year, after rainy season and winter. The washing was carried out in rectangular vats in which gold particles were separated from heavier minerals.   There is every possibility of existence of native copper in the gossans of the copper mines.  The existence of these minerals also coincides with prehistoric habitat zone.  The environment in the wooded plateaus of Chotanagpur and its fringe areas in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal, perhaps, led to an independent origin of metallurgy. Some meaningful studies have been initiated to reveal the origin and development of metal technology.

I propose to discuss the available evidence in a state wise format.


            The archaeological sites of this state may be classified into four groups viz. (a) Neolithic and Neolithic- Chalcolithic sites, (b) Chalcolithic or B.R.W. sites, (c) Iron Age or pre N.B.P. sites and  (d) Early historic or N.B.P. sites.

            The Neolithic-Chalcolithic sites are only few in numbers. Chirand (22o45', 84o50') period IA was metal free, whereas period IB indicated some copper objects including point, fishhook, rod, bangle etc. At Maner (25o38', 84o52'), no metal objects were found from period I. The earliest habitation at Senuwar (24o56', 83o56') in period IA began with fully developed stage of Neolithic culture. In period IB presence of copper is noted along with a solitary fragmentary piece of lead rod. The copper objects of this period include a fishhook, three points, three bangles, etc. The period I of Taradih (24o42', 85o00') is devoid of metal along with black-and-red ware.

            (b) Amongst the Chalcolithic sites, period I of Champa  (26o14', 86o51') although metal free but it include black-and-red ware. Period II of Chirand was important, which indicate bangle, beads, wire etc. along with black-and-red ware and microliths. From period II of Maner, only black-and-red ware was noticed. Period I of Manjhi (25o23', 83o51') was free from iron but witness the presence of black-and-red ware. Period I of Oriup was also noted as Chalcolithic, along with the presence of black-and-red ware, copper bangle and microliths. Period I of Panda (Dist. Samastipur) belongs to Chalcolithic that yielded copper hook

            The initial habitation of Sonpur (24o56'29”, 84o50'), period IA is found with a solitary piece of copper along with black-and-red ware. From period IB of Sonpur iron slag, iron ore with copper bell and copper flattened bar were witnessed. The period II of Senuwar is Chalcolithic, where amongst other copper objects two bangles, probably a needle and a point, a few other objects were revealed. The period II of Taradih is associated with black-and-red ware and copper fishhook, arrowheads, bangles, earring, finger rings etc.

            (c) At Chirand, a solitary piece of iron blade was recovered along with black-and-red ware fragments. At Hajipur (25o41', 85o14') a copper ring was discovered along with black-and-red ware. Period III of Maner yields large number of iron objects including a spearhead, daggers, knives, chisels, nails along with iron slag. Copper bronze objects from this site include bangles and antimony rods. Period II of Manjhi witnessed iron objects including arrowheads, nails, dagger, knife blades etc. Small copper bronze objects were also found. Period II of Panda, which is of NBPW phase, iron objects such as knife, sickle, dagger, spearheads etc. were found. A thick variety of copper punch marked coins was also found from the site. Period III of Senuwar revealed two copper bangles, and iron objects including two sickles, four spearheads, three arrowheads and two-slag lump. Period III of Taradih was introduced with iron technology, as indicated through presence of iron slag. The period I of Vaisali (25o58'20”, 85o11'30”) belongs to N.B.P. phase; period II belongs to post N.B.P. phase- iron dagger, razor, knife etc were excavated.

            (d) In N.B.P. period II of Champa witnessed number of iron objects including a dagger, copper objects, such as utensils, nose ring, copper cast and punch marked coins with N.B.P. wares. Period IV of Chirand found a number of iron objects like nails, daggers, hoes etc. and copper objects include antimony rods, few objects made of copper alloy and cast copper coin. At Hajipur, implements like iron axe were found. Period III of Maner yielded a large number of iron objects such as spearheads, daggers, knives, chisels, nail and slag; copper bronze objects like bangle and antimony rods. Cast copper coins were recovered from Manjhi in late phase of N.B.P. Period II of Oriup yielded iron spearheads and nails etc. along with N.B.P. ceramics. Period III of Panda witnessed the age of Kushana, which reveals copper ornaments and iron objects, such as knives.   

            Senuwar IV, revealed a large inventory of copper objects including six antimony rods, three bangles, a nail etc. The iron objects from this period include seven arrowheads, eight pieces of rods, three sickles etc. N.B.P. wares characterized period II of Sonpur where copper objects in plenty were revealed including that of a twisted wire ornament, barbed and socketed arrowhead, antimony rod, bangle, miniature pot etc. This site also witnessed iron objects including arrowheads, ring, axe, spear etc. along with cast copper and punch marked silver and copper coins. In post N.B.P. levels of Sonpur copper and iron objects were found in plenty. Crucibles, large amount of slag etc. revealed from the site indicate that it was an early metallurgical center. Sonpur smiths knew Gold and silver-plating too. Period IV of Taradih witnessed large amount of iron implements such as arrowheads, spearheads, sickles, razors, chisels, rings, knives, rods, nails and other objects. Period III of Vaisali was contemporary to Kushana period. Apart from the evidence of gold, copper-bronze objects such as antimony rod, etc. iron objects as dagger, arrowhead, sickle etc. and silver punched marked coins were recovered from this site. 

The iron objects from Chirand, Taradih  and also from Senuwar  have been analysed. R. N. Singh incorporates detailed analyses of copper and iron objects. The most important discovery was that of an earliest brass bangle of Kushana period with 36.2% of zinc.


            The archaeological sites of this state may be classified into four different groups viz. (a) Neolithic and Neolithic- Chalcolithic sites, (b) Chalcolithic sites, (c) Iron Age sites, or Megalithic sites, and (d) Early historic sites. The most important excavated sites however, belong to the megalithic category. No Neolithic-Chalcolithic and Chalcolithic sites had been so far discovered which could reveal metallic objects.


            The archaeological sites of this state may be classified into four different groups namely  (a) Neolithic- Chalcolithic, (b) Megalithic- Iron Age or Asura, (c) Early historic, and (d) Copper hoard sites. Only one excavated site of Neolithic-Chalcolithic group is Barudih  (23o38', 87o46'). The period I (Neolithic) is free from metal.  In period II an iron thrashing tool and a small hook of iron were found, revealing Iron Age habitation.

            (b) An Asur burial site, reported by Caldwell (1920), shows the presence of high tin bronze bowl contained 22.87% tin. Saradkel, (23o5', 85o21') excavated by Ray (I.A.R.1964-65: 6) indicates the earliest evidence of iron smelting activities in period I. In period II, a building structure was noted. A large number of arrowheads, axes with single and double cutting edges, chisels, nails, caltrops, door hinge, rings, ploughshares and knives made of iron, were reported along with few copper objects and coins. At Khuntitoli (23o4', 85o17') excavation revealed a megalithic post-cremation burial, associated with copper bronze objects.  From this site a copper bangle was also discovered.

            (c) A good number of copper hoard sites are known from Jharkhand. Few sites Baragunda, Borodanga, Hami, etc. may be cited.


Like all other Eastern Indian states, Orissa too witnessed similar stages in metallurgy. There is no trace of metal in the Neolithic period. The earliest stage of metallurgy is associated with Chalcolithic culture. Excavation at Sankerjang (20o52', 84o59') witnessed the presence of late Neolithic and early Chalcolithic burial. Nearby areas around Sankerjang provide evidence of Iron Age settlements, such as, at Basudevpur copper and iron objects were found in-situ as well as surface finds, and at Salbani indigenous iron smelting was also noted.

Just like West Bengal, in Orissa too the Chalcolithic cultural elements are related to pottery. At Golbai Sasan (20o01', 83o33'), first discovered Chalcolithic site of Orissa, period I was Neolithic, period IIA Chalcolithic, period IIB Ferro-chalcolithic and period III was equated with Early Iron Age.  The recent discovery of a number of early historic settlements enriched the archaeological treasures in Orissa. Some of those sites are antecedent to the culture of the middle Mahanadi valley. The excavated sites of Orissa yield metallic objects - both iron and copper, known from Asurgarh, Budhigarh, Golabai Sasan, Gopalpur, Jaugada, Lalitagiri, Khameswaripali, Manamunda, Kurumpadar, Sisupalgarh, Sankerjang, Udaigiri and few others.

The archaeological sites of Orissa may be classified into five groups, namely                    a) Chalcolithic sites, b) Early Historic or Iron age sites c) Early Medieval sites, d) Pre-industrial sites, and e) Copper hoard sites.

The essential characteristics of Chalcolithic sites of Orissa are identified with of black-and-red ware and black-slipped ware. At times copper artifacts are also noted. Period IIA of Golbai Sasan yielded a skeleton with a copper bangle in its wrist. Other copper antiquities include a chisel, few rings and a fishhook. Sinha (1992-93) possibly considered ceramic remnants as crucible for smelting copper. Subsequent excavation (Sinha, et al 2000) revealed the knowledge of metallurgy amongst the people of Golbai Sasan. Remains of furnace with good number of crucibles, chisel, fishhook and three rings and a bangle of copper were discovered.   Tentative dating from this area might be 1400-900 BC. The period I of Kurumpadar (20o51'10”, 84o07'04”) yielded ceramic assemblages of black-and- red and red-slipped ware. No evidence of metal was known in Chalcolithic period (Behera 2002-2003).

From period IIB of Golbai Sasan, Ferro-chalcolithic phase after the Chalcolithic contexts are noticed.  A very primitive iron tool, a celt, resembling polished stone one had been identified in Chalcolithic period. Sinha rightly described its manufacturing from iron ore through crude method of extraction. About 1000-800 BC is the tentative date suggested by the excavator.  The period IA of Kumarsingha (20o51'54”, 84o05'00”), excavated by Behera (2002-2003), witnessed black-and-red ware and black-slipped-ware along with an iron object (nail?). Earliest settler of Kumarsingha was acquainted with the use of iron. Period IB witnessed a chisel and a flat bar-celt type axe made of iron. 

Early Historic or Iron Age sites are found more in Orissa. From Asurgarh, Sahu (1982) made a limited excavation and obtained iron implements such as axes, hooks etc. along with punch marked silver and copper coins from 3rd century BC to 5th century AD (IAR 1972-73: 27).  From Budhigarh (19o13', 82o20') excavation, iron implements including a spearhead, NBPW knobbed ware and coins were found. Exploration at Gopalpur (20o01'52”, 85o21'19”) by Kar et al (1998) revealed copper and iron implements along with iron slag and tuyers. They also noticed evidence of iron smelting in the surrounding villages. From the excavation of Gudavella in Bolangir district, 23 iron objects, which includes sickle, axes, spades, daggers, knife, nails, latch, chisel etc. were found (Dash 1982). Deuli (20o49', 83o54'), the early historic site, is a part of the cultural complex of Manamunda, reveals iron slag, ore nodules and considerable amounts of iron implements indicating an iron manufacturing area. Jaugada, the then Samapa mentioned in the Dhauli Ashokan inscription, revealed iron implements, copper bead and punch marked coin, pottery knobbed vessel etc.  (IAR 1956-57: 31). At Khameswaripali, period III, witnessed iron nail and rod. Kharligarh was excavated in 1967-68, yields 13 iron implements, which includes sickle, axes, spades, daggers, knife, nails, latch, chisel etc. along with a large variety of pottery, metal bangles, earrings and copper Kushana coins (Dash 1982, Mahanty and Mishra 2002). Kumarsingha, period II, witnessed two nails, one nail parer, one drill bit, one clamp, two chisels and a spearhead- all made of iron. Kurumpadar, period II, witnessed presence of iron slag, charcoal, tuyer, two chisels and one unidentified iron object. Period III witnessed, a silver plated punch marked coin, three iron nails and a fragment of copper bangle. The early historic site Lalitagiri, witnessed Buddhist relics made of gold and silver, along with coins, silver ring and iron objects.  Perhaps, this is the only site in Eastern India, which recovered 200-gram silver slag (Chauley 2000: 450). At Manamunda (20o51', 83o59') a silver punch marked coin, iron nails associated with boat construction, iron slag and ore nodules, and considerable amount of iron implements were obtained, indicating an iron manufacturing area and a trade centre.

The most important early historic site of Orissa is Sisupalgarh (20o13'30”, 85o51'30”), the ancient city of Tosali (Lal 1949). From this site copper, iron, lead objects have been recovered along with copper, silver, gold and lead coins and also coin moulds. The important metallic objects were, miniature blowpipe, pin and the so-called antimony rods made of copper, and ear ornament made of lead. The site witnessed two hundred iron objects including nails, spikes, staples, sickles, arrowheads, spears, caltrops etc. Excavation report at Sisupalgarh published in IAR 1970-71:30, mentions two Puri- Kushana coins and iron objects. The excavation at Udaigiri, by J. S. Nigam (2000) unearthed circular pendant of gold along with iron nails, knives, rings, arrowheads, spearheads. IAR 1961-62:36-37 provides reference about punch marked coins and microliths from this site.

Like Jharkhand, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, Orissa too reveals a number of copper hoards sites.

West Bengal:

            The archaeological sites of this state may be classified into four different groups namely (a) Chalcolithic or B.R.W. sites, (b) Iron Age or pre N.B.P. sites (c) Early historic sites, and  (d) copper hoard sites. The group wise distributions of are as follows:

            (a) The period I of Bahiri (23o38', 87o46') was of later phase of Chalcolithic along with iron slag and bronze wire.  Baneswardanga (23o24', 87o50'), period I was of black-and-red ware without metal. In period II, use of copper ring was noted. Dihar (23o7', 87o21'), period I, witnessed the presence of copper-bronze objects, comprising of antimony rods, spool of wire in black-and-red ware. Iron objects had also been reported from this level. Period I of Hatikra (23o50', 87o21') witnessed black-and-red ware and two shapeless copper bits. Period I of Mangalkot (23o32', 87o54') witnessed black-and-red ware, bone tools and copper-bronze objects comprising of bangles, ring, beads, fishhooks, needles, stylus; and iron objects, such as iron ingots, arrowheads and mud furnace along with iron slag. From period II (designated by the excavators as transition phase), profuse iron slag and implements like nails, chisels, arrowheads, spearheads and sickles of iron and bronze objects as bangles along with other objects were recovered. Period I of Pakhanna  (23o24'30”, 87o22'30”) revealed a copper ring along with black-and-red ware.

            The pre-Chalcolithic metal free, period I, level was revealed from Pandurajar Dhibi   (23o35', 87o37'). In period IIA, bronze bangle and beads were discovered along with black-and-red ware and microliths

            (b) Period III of Baneswardanga witnessed the first evidence of iron, a spearhead and iron slag along with the presences of copper beads, pellets, ear ornaments and bangles. Period II of Dihar, (early historic phase) witnessed iron nails, dagger, sword and slag along with antimony rods and cast copper coins. Period II of Hatikra yield iron objects- a dagger, bar, sickle and slag. The early historic level, period III of Mangolkot, yield cast copper coins, copper locket etc. Period II of Pakhanna witnessed iron nails, sickle, arrowhead and fragments of copper including needle, bead etc. Period IIB of Pandurajar Dhibi has been identified as Ferro-chalcolithic, revealing a number of iron objects with remnants of furnace activities. A saucer shaped iron was also discovered in this site.

            (c) Early historic level of West Bengal includes from Mauryan to Kushana period. Though regular excavation at Chandraketugarh (22o42', 88o41') are quite scanty yet metallic objects are countless. Hundreds of iron objects, like sickle, spears, fishhooks, chisels along with high tin bronze mirrors, spacer beads, ornaments etc. have been preserved in the State Archaeological Museum, West Bengal. Thousands of cast copper coins and punch marked silver, copper and billon coins are known from surface findings. Period IV of Mangolkot comes under this span which yielded copper-bronze rings, snake shaped bangle, finger rings, earrings, antimony rods, bowls and needles (Ray and Mukherjee 1992). Period III of Pakhanna revealed beads, needle and fragments of copper along with slag and iron objects. A smithy has also been discovered from this site. Period III of Pandurajar Dhibi has been accepted as Iron Age, where iron reached supremacy in the society. Lot of iron objects were found from the site, which includes knife, nails, point, sickle, ploughshares etc. 

            (d) Copper hoard sites also existed in West Bengal. Such as Parihati, Bhaktaband, Kharagpur etc. Most of the hoard objects are basically identified as copper ingots.  

Chronology of developmental stages of copper and iron metallurgy

            Bihar: The earliest evidence of copper is known from Senuwar. This is supported by two C14 dates of 1770+ 120 BC and 1500+110 BC. It has been inferred that the copper smiths of Senuwar had definitely started smelting copper ores since 1950 BC. This is the earliest date for metal objects of Eastern India. This may be equated with late phase of Harappan culture. But the trace element study on the copper objects clearly established that it was not imported from the Aravallis of Rajasthan or Harappan sites, on the other hand it has closer similarities with those of Singhbhum mines. No alloying element was detected in copper objects, which is of purest form. In late phase of Chalcolithic, perhaps, the alloying element mostly used has been found to be tin. During post Chalcolithic besides tin, smiths also used zinc. An antimony-rod of Kushana period was made of brass with 36.2% zinc.   

Copper-bronze age of Sankerjang, Orissa,  gives the first C14 date from Orissa to be 795 BC (KN 3755).  Ray et al (1997) had worked on the brass objects of Kanjipani area of Orissa and also studied the lost wax processes practiced in the area. Ray et al (2000) studied a copper alloy from a site near Karanjia. It was perhaps, the earliest example of brass in Orissa. The study reveals the alloy of brass containing of 33% zinc and 8.5% tin in copper based 9 bangles and 2 rings. According to the authors the analysed materials were obtained from Chalcolithic context. The iron celt of Golbai Sasan, from Ferrochalcolithic level, was highly primitive where crude method of iron extraction from ore as carried out (Sinha 1992-93).

           West Bengal: The important metallurgical activities related to copper metallurgy from West Bengal might be reviewed. Earliest C14 date in copper bearing level of this site was 1090+110 BC (PRL-1184). The earliest evidence of bronze casting of eastern India is known from Pandurajar Dhibi. From trench 7A, iron tools double axe, terracotta mother goddess, hammered gold piece bearing minute parallel scratches and a bronze fish containing about 95.5% copper was found (Biswas 1996: 173). Low amount of tin about 10.0% was noticed in ornaments and other objects, which might be due to the presence of tin in copper minerals or low tin bronze making technology.  

            Earliest evidence of iron is noted from period IIB, (Ferrochalcolithic level) of Pandurajar Dhibi. Iron smelting activities was noted from the site where tuyers entrapped with slag was discovered. One C14 date was obtained from iron bearing level of this site as 1090+110 BC (KN 3755). From Pakhanna, furnace remains along with entrapped paddy husks were revealed. The remains of a smithy were recovered from the excavation of 2002-03. At the lowest level a terracotta basin for water storage has also been found attached with hearth, charcoal, ash, iron implements etc. The excavations conducted in the state clearly indicate that iron manufacturing was practiced at those sites.


            Archaeology has always been a neglected discipline in Eastern India. The studies on archaeometallurgy in Indian context have been started since last four decades. Some metallurgical analyses have been made with the excavated specimens from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal (Chattopadhyay 2004). Chalcolithic and Iron Age metal objects are gradually coming up. The iron objects along with a few copper, silver and gold objects were witnessed from the Megalithic burials of Chhattisgarh. Almost no study has been initiated to reveal the metal technology of Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

Abstract 11


VS Shinde & Shweta Deshpande

Email: shindevs@rediffmail.com

Technology forms the most important aspect of any culture, as it is the gauge for assessing economic and social developments within human society during its various phases of history. It is the systematic study of techniques (craft) for making and doing things; and is concerned with the fabrication and use of artefacts. It has been defined as the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or can also be described as the change and manipulation of the human environment and thus is a social phenomenon that cannot be disassociated from the society in which it exists. It has been suggested that ‘necessity is the mother of all inventions' and to some extent this has been projected through the various phases of history as it becomes more and more complex with growing populations and rates of development that vary according to the levels of mobilization of technological know-how between various cultures and societies. To some extend technology is also responsible for social development and complexity as the improvement in technology and its know-how leads to the availability of sophisticated goods and the resulting differentiation amongst various groups of people including those who produce (craftsman) and buyers depending on the demand and the capacity to acquire the specific goods.

There cannot be a precise date for the origin of technology, as the capacity for constructing artefacts is a determining characteristic of our species. He can thus innovate and consciously modify his environment in a way no other species has achieved, hence by virtue of his nature as a toolmaker, man is a technologist from the beginning, and the history of technology encompasses the entire evolution of man. Many hundreds of millennia passed during the course of man's evolution before he arrived at the stage of standardizing his simple stone choppers and pounders and of manufacturing more advanced tools, requiring assemblage of head and haft.  The application of mechanical principles was first achieved by pottery-making Neolithic people (6000 BC) and then during the Chalcolithic (about 4500 BC) the first step was taken towards the innovation of most modern techniques.

The rate of technological change that took place until the Chalcolithic was slow and spread over a long period of time and was in response to only the most basic social needs; the search for food and shelter, as few social resources were available for any activity other than the fulfilment of these needs. By  5,000 years ago however, during the Chalcolithic period, a momentous cultural transition began which generated new needs and resources and was accompanied by a significant increase in technological innovation. It began with the invention of the city. In the context of South Asia, till the beginning of the twentieth century when the systematic research on the Protohistoric cultures began, most historians were of the opinion that settled life began in the Early Historic period around the 6th or 5th century BC with the period between the Stone Age and the Early Historic period considered to be a “Dark Age”. However, the discovery of the Harappan Civilization in the 1920's and Chalcolithic in the 1950's pushed back the antiquity of settled life in the sub-continent by two thousand years at one stroke and was considered the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century. The development and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in South Asia are complex phenomena that have taken place over the course of more than 9000 years with the technological breakthroughs in pottery, metalworking, bead manufacturing, monumental architecture, etc. During the last 5000 years these crafts have evolved as new techniques have been invented and have become an important part of our modern life to such an extant that a world without them is difficult to envision and therefore an effort must be made to develop an insight into their beginnings, which takes us into the Chalcolithic period. To study the technological evolution and development during the Chalcolithic period it is important to study the cultural processes for the beginning, evolution and development of villages and cities, as it is the progress in technology that introduces social and economic complexities within simple societies.


The Indian subcontinent has all the favourable ecological conditions necessary to give birth to the early farming communities, which, with growing technological complexities, evolve into the first cities. The region witnessed two independent streams of origin of village economies with the associated technologies, which evolve and develop through the early phases of village societies into the developed and mature complex villages and the early cities hence it is important to trace the ongoing cultural process in the region. On the basis of material culture and technologies in use, the Chalcolithic of South Asia has been sub-divided into Early, Mature and Late phases. The earlier (7000 BC) beginnings are seen in the northwest regions of Afghanistan and Baluchistan while the later (4500 BC) but independent of the former is seen in the southeast Rajasthan on the Banas River. In the rest of India the development of village-based culture started in the later part of the Mesolithic phase and continued into the Neolithic and Chalcolithic between 3500 and 1000 BC. In the Ganga valley, though the site of  Koldihwa has produced an early date (6000 BC) there is a lack of other corroborative C14 dates, hence this date cannot be used for generalisation. The declined phase of the Chalcolithic has been properly studied at the site of Inamgaon in the Bhima basin of the lower Deccan region. Of the early farming communities that came into existence in different parts of South Asia, the Chalcolithic phases in Central India, the Deccan and the South India have been systematically studied, thanks to the pioneering work by Deccan College under the leadership of H.D. Sankalia. Unfortunately, the eastern and northeastern part has not been subjected to systematic archaeological research and therefore very little is known about these regions.

We will now summarise the technologies used by the large numbers of Chalcolithic cultures identified in the subcontinent which have been classified into ten regional traditions:

  1. Baluchistan and adjoining regions (beginning from 5th millennium BC)
  2. Padri and Prabhas Patan traditions of Saurashtra (4th millennium BC)
  3. Anarta tradition of North Gujarat (4th millennium BC)
  4. Ganeshwar-Jodhpura of Northwest and western Rajasthan (4th millennium BC)
  5. Ahar tradition of Mewar (4th millennium BC)
  6. Kayatha and Malwa traditions of the Malwa Plateau (3rd millennium BC)
  7. Savalda and Jorwe traditions of the northern Deccan (3rd millennium BC)
  8. Neolithic/Chalcolithic traditions of eastern India (3rd millennium BC)
  9. Ochre Colour Pottery/Copper Hoard tradition of North India (3rd millennium BC)
  10. Narahan culture of eastern Uttar Pradesh (towards the end of 2nd millennium BC)

Each of these is characterised by similar features with agro-pastoral economy, trade, social, political and economic stratification with minute differences in style of pottery manufacture and the level of technological development and the origin and evolution of these techniques which will be discussed briefly in this talk.

Front row sitting (left to right): V. Shinde, Munish Joshi, Vibha Tripathi, D.P Agrawal, J.P. Joshi, R.S. Bisht, and R. Balasubramaniam

Back row standing (left to right): M. Surender (volunteer), A.V. Vajpeyi, Pranab Chattopadhyay, Jeewan Kharakwal, O.C. Handa, Dinesh Sharma, Pankaj Goel, Ashish Srivastava (volunteer), Ajit Mishra (volunteer), R. Karpagavalli (volunteer) and Sahoo Gadadhar (volunteer)

HIST IIT Kanpur Meeting Program

14-17 January 2005

The following presentations were made at the annual meeting of History of Science and Technology Project, held at IIT-Kanpur in January 2005, sponsored by Infinity Foundation:

  1. JP Joshi (Former Director General Archaeological Survey): Harappan Architecture & Civil Engineering (Abstract 1)
  2. Munish Joshi (Former Director General Archaeological Survey): Science & Technology during c. 1000 BCE – 500 AD.(Abstract 2. It was an invited talk, not a book project yet)
  3. JS Kharakwal (Visting Professor, Research Center for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto,Kyoto): History of Zinc Technology.(Absract 3)
  4. OC Handa (Former Director Archeology & Monuments, Himachal):  Traditional Technology of Himalayan Architecture .(Absract 4)
  5. RS  Bisht (Former Joint- Director General Archaeological Survey): Harappan Hydraulics.(Absract 5. It was an invited talk, not a book project yet)
  6. DP Agrawal (Director Lok Vigyan Kendra, Almora:  Harappan Technology and Its Legacy .(Abstract 6)
  7. R Balasubramaniam (Professor of Metallurgy, IIT Kanpur):  Marvels of Indian Iron through Ages (.(Abstract 7)
  8. Vibha Tripathi (Professor of Archaeology, Banaras University):  A Comprehensive History of Iron in India .(Abstract 8)
  9. Pankaj Goyal Lala Bazar, Almora presented on: Traditional Himalayan Hydraulic Technology .(Abstract 9. A research proposal, not a book project)

10.  Pranab Chattopdhyaya (Fellow, Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training, Kolkata): Archaeometallurgy of Eastern India (Abstract 10. It was an invited talk, not a book project yet).

  1. VS Shinde (Professor, Deccan College, Poona):  Chalcolithic South Asia: Aspects of Crafts And Technologies