The Archaeological Survey of India has stumbled upon the remains of what it said were three “chariots” that date back to the Bronze Age (2000-1800 BC). It is billing the find as the first full-sized physical evidence that such vehicles existed during that period in India.
The remains of the “chariots”, decorated with copper motifs, were found during excavations at Sinauli village in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district. The findings have been traced to the Copper-Bronze Age and will provide new insights into the culture and civilisation of that period, the ASI said.
The ASI team, which has been excavating the archaeologically rich site for the past three months, unveiled its findings yesterday. “The discovery of a chariot puts us on a par with other ancient civilisations like Mesopotamia, Greece, etc, where chariots were extensively used. It seems a warrior class thrived in this region in the past,” said S K Manjul, who is co-director of the excavations and of ASI’s Institute of Archaeology in Delhi.
There was no mention of the remains of any horses being found, leaving open the possibility of the “chariots” having been powered by oxen. Figurines of such “oxen chariots” have been found in the past. The latest finds, however, are full-sized chariots, not miniatures.
The excavations, which began in March, have also unearthed eight burial sites and several artefacts.
The artefacts unearthed so far include three coffins, antenna swords, daggers, combs, and ornaments. The three “chariots” found in burial pits indicate the possibility of “royal burials” while other findings confirm the population of a warrior class here, officials said. Manjul called the findings “path-breaking” also because of the copper-plated anthropomorphic figures—having horns and peepal-leafed crowns—found on the coffins, which indicated the possibility of “royal burials”.
“For the first time in the entire subcontinent, we have found this kind of a coffin. The cover is highly decorated with eight anthropomorphic figures. The sides of the coffins are also decorated with floral motifs,” Manjul said. Coffins have been discovered during past excavations in Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and Dholavira (Gujarat), but never with copper decorations, he added.
The findings also shed light on the noteworthy progress Indian civilisation had made at the time, bringing it at par with 2000 BC Mesopotamia, he claimed. The swords, daggers, shields and a helmet confirmed the existence of a warrior population, and the discovery of earthen and copper pots, semi-precious and steatite beads, combs and a copper mirror from the burial pits point towards “sophisticated” craftsmanship and lifestyle, he said.
The current site lies 120 metres from an earlier one in the village, excavated in 2005, where 116 burials were found along with antenna swords and pottery.
While it was difficult to ascertain the race of the buried people uncovered in the latest excavations, Manjul asserted that the chariots and coffins did not belong to the Harappan civilisation.