Older than Egyptian Pyramids: The earliest village settlement in the Indian subcontinent
Several sites in Baluchistan illustrate the change from a semi-nomadic pastoral life towards settled agriculture. this site is located in the Bolan valley in the northern part of the kachi plain, near the point where the river immerges from the hills through the Bolan pass. the Bolan valley was an important link between the Indus plains and the mountainous valleys of north Baluchistan, and people and animals must have moved along this route from very early times.
Excavations Mehrangarh revealed the remains of ancient settlements scattered over an area of about 200ha on a low mound and the surrounding plain. seven occupational levels were identified, giving striking evidence of continuous occupation and of cultural continuity and change over many millennia. the first six levels, i.e., periods, are relevant for us here.
Periods 1 and 2 at Mehagarh are considered neolithic, even though there is a small amount of copper present. the remains of period 1 were located in an 11m thick deposits at the northern end of the site, on the high bank of Bolan river. the chronology of this phase is somewhat uncertain due to consistent radiocarbon rates.
The majority of the dates fall between 6000 and 5500 BCE. the problem is that although period 1 seems to have lasted for a very long time, most of the radiocarbon dates from the middle level of period 1 also fall with in the range of 5800 and 5530 BCE.
This series of earlier dates have the advantage of providing a coherent chronological framework from the Mehgarh neolithic sequence from the 8th to 6th millennia BCE.
The people of period 1 lived in houses made of handmade mud bricks with a small, rectangular room on of the rooms at the lowest levels of period 1, measuring 2 x 1.8m, had reed impressions on the floor and grinding stone. the bricks used for house walls were of a standardized size, with distinctive rounded ends and fingure impressions on their upper surface some of the structures divided into small units may have been granaries.
The stone tools of period 1 included thousands of microliths, most of them based on blades. a few ground neolithic hand axes were also found. some of the blades were set into wooden handles with a thick layer of bitumen and may have been used as sickles to harvest grain. grinding stones indicate food processing. there were a few stone vessels and objects such as perforated discs spatulae incised with a criss-cross design. bone tools, including needles and awls, were also found, as was a handmade clay female figurine. Mehgarh 1 was basically a ceramic, i.e., it had no pottery; the first few pieces of pottery appeared in period 1.
The people of period 1 buried their dead in the open spaces between their houses. the bodies were placed in an oval pit in a flexed bent position the bone were often covered with red ochre, suggesting some sort of fertility beliefs. in at least two burials.
The occurrence of turquoise and lapis lazuli beds is especially interesting. the lapis lazuli could have come from the chagai hills in north Baluchistan or from Afghanistan. turquoise could have come from eastern Iran or Central Asia.
The nearest source of marine shells is the makran coast, about 500km away. the presence of such items in the graves indicates that the people of Mehgarh were engaged in some amount of long-distance exchange.
In period 1, a graveyard consisting of 150 burials covering over 220 sq.m was unearthed. the burials were more elaborate than before. a small niche was cut into one side of a pit, and body and grave goods were placed inside.
The niche was then sealed with a wall made of mud bricks, after which the pit was filled up. a few copper beds were found in the burials. there are some instances of double burials and also of secondary burials, where the bones of 1 or more people were collected and buried after exposing the body to the elements. the significance of these changes in burial practices is unclear.