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Volume: II, Issue I, January-June 2011


CRAFT QUARTERS AT THE EDGE OF A SETTLEMENT: INDOR KHERA 200 BCE-300 CE







Abstract

In this article, we will discuss the excavations undertaken during the summer of 2007 in the northwestern part of Indor Khera, a site located in the upper Ganga plains. Here, we will set forth the aims in choosing this particular part of the mound, the methods by which the chronology in this part of the mound was arrived at and the evidence in the form of structures and small finds. What turned out to be particularly significant was the discovery of craft quarters, dated between 200 BCE and 300 CE, at the northwestern edge of this settlement. Given the absence of much work on crafts from the point of view of technological processes, spatial contexts and organization in the early historic period, these excavations assume a certain importance. In the past the focus had largely been on stray artefacts rather than documenting other kinds of evidence such as debirtage or waste, although more contextual information on craft production in the early historic is beginning to emerge from sites excavated more recently. This, however, is still fragmentary in nature, in contrast to the archaeological evidence on bone working, ceramic and terracotta production, that we have been able to retrieve from Indor Khera.



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Introduction
The excavations undertaken in the northwestern part of Indor Khera, Uttar Pradesh, will be discussed in this article. The site, its location, the area excavated and the aims in choosing this particular part of the mound, the chronology and the evidence in the form of structures and small finds will be detailed. The discovery of craft quarters at the northwestern edge of this settlement, in particular a potter’s house, different phases of domestic architecture as well as non-domestic such as the early fortifications comprise illuminating evidence for the period dated between 200 BCE and 300 CE.  Before proceeding further, we would like to explain the use of the term ‘craft quarters’. For us, craft quarters indicate an area where one or more crafts were practised, but which does not necessarily preclude residences.1

The site of Indor Khera (28°14’57”N, 78°12’48”E) is located in Tehsil Debai, District Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh on the right bank of the eastern branch of the Chhoiya Nadi, also called Nim Nadi. Indor Khera lies between the rivers Kali Nadi and Ganges (Figure 1). The site is located 0.5 km off the Aligarh-Anupshahr Road and is about 10 km east of the Ganges River. The mound measures 285 m (north-south) x 428 m (east-west) with a maximum height of 17 m, with the present day village of Indor extending over the entire eastern, northwestern and southeastern portions of the mound and the adjacent area (Figure 2).   

Trial trenches taken at the site of Indor Khera indicated the potential for further excavation. Two of the trial cuttings (Operation 1) gave us tentative dates from the 10th/11th to the 13th/ 14th centuries CE, while the third trench (Operation 2) was dated from 1000 BCE to 100 CE (see Menon et.al. 2008; Menon and Varma in review).  It is important to note that this apparent gap between 100 CE and the 10th century CE was not due to a break in occupation, but because the intervening periods had so far not been investigated. The intention, thus, was to excavate in an area that would enable us to bridge this gap. For this reason, we chose the northwestern area of Indor Khera for Operation 3 where there was a flat exposed ridge halfway down the slope of the mound, at about the 193 m contour line (Figures 3, 4 and 5). This ridge had been created by the cutting away of the mound in this area by local villagers. From the ridge there was a clear vertical section ranging from 3 – 4 m till the next higher portion of the mound. From this ridge to the road that encircles the eastern, southern and western parts of the mound, there is a sharp drop of about 3 m to the road and 1 m from the road to the surrounding fields. Except for the deliberate plantation of a few trees and two ‘bitiyas’ (a structure composed entirely by the heaping of cowdung cakes and plastering the whole with wet cowdung), this ridge was free for horizontal excavation.   

As mentioned in an earlier article (Menon et.al. 2008), exposed fortification walls particularly in the northern, eastern and southern parts of the mound are visible today. The fortification walls were made of baked bricks, with dimensions ranging from 38-43 cm x 22-23 cm x 5.5-6 cm. In the eastern part of the mound, the walls comprised of an inner and an outer wall, with cross-walls. However, in the other parts of the mound, only one wall with cross-walls or revetments has been observed. Just north of this ridge and about 2 m lower, an exposed fortification wall and cross-walls are visible in the house of Dharam Singh Baghel in the extreme northwestern part of the village of Indor. Given the alignment of the exposed walls, we expected these fortification walls to continue southwards, that is, in the area of the ridge. Trenches were, thus, laid in such a way so as to get an idea of the occupation deposits both inside and outside the fortifications.   

The gridding of the site was undertaken to facilitate the laying out of trenches for full-fledged excavations. As the area under the present village was not going to be excavated, only the unoccupied parts of the site were gridded on a 10 x 10 m grid. This was done with the help of total station, by the Department of Civil Engineering of Aligarh Muslim University under the direction of Dr. Shakeel Ahmad and Dr. I H Farooqi. In order to cover the whole area, suitable triangulation stations were chosen along the road and a few points on the elevated ground to be gridded. For gridding, the reference line in the north-south direction was chosen in such a way that it passed through the triangulation station numbered T8. Subsequent points were set out along and parallel to this reference line as well as in the perpendicular direction at every 10 m. At places where space was inadequate, points were set out at accessible distances. All the grid points and triangulation points were suitably marked out on the ground with the help of a permanent marker on the pegs. The layout of trenches followed this grid. As can be seen from Figure 6, the northernmost point on the north-south reference line is G0. This also marked the southern limit of the present day village in this part of the mound. South of G0, each consecutive east-west row of 10 x 10 m squares was labeled as A, B, C, and so forth. In turn, the squares to the west of the north-south reference line were labeled as A1, A2, A3, A4, and so forth. Those squares to the east of the reference line were labeled as ZA1, ZA2 and so forth. Each 10 x 10 m square was sub-divided into four trenches of 5 x 5 m, with a cutting area of 4 x 4 m each. These sub-divisions were in turn labeled. For example, the 10 x 10 m square, B1 had four 5 x 5 m trenches, labeled as B1a, B1b, B1c and B1d with B1a as the northwest sub-square and the others following in a clockwise direction.   

The following trenches and parts of trenches were excavated in this area: A1d, B1a, B1b, B1c, B1d, B2b, B2c, C1a, C2a and C2b (see Figure 6). The reason why parts of trenches were opened was due to the encircling ridge or the edge of the mound. Hence, the cutting areas of A1d, B1b, B1c, B2b, and B2c were 4 x 2 m, while the rest of the trenches had a cutting area of 4 x 4 m. Trenches were dug to varying depths: A1d to 40 cm; B1a, B1c and B1d to 176 cm; B1b to 115 cm; B2b to 52 cm; B2c to 60 cm; C1a to 60 cm; C2a to 50 cm; and C2b to 60 cm.   

One of the reasons we chose to excavate this area was to map activity areas within and outside houses. We found that substantial evidence for domestic architecture came from trenches B1a, B1c and B1d. Since we wanted to excavate and record artefacts within specific contexts, that is, within and outside houses, it was necessary to remove the baulks. Hence, the main focus of the season became this combined trench, labeled B1a-c-d. Fascinating contextual evidence came from this area which will be discussed in detail a little later in this article.   

A 5 x 5 m trench, labeled B4b, was laid at the base of the mound adjacent to the road. The objective was to ascertain whether there were any archaeological deposits. The dig, down to 39 cm, yielded brickbats, rolled pottery, glass bangle fragments, a potsherd disc, an iron nail and a piece of slag, an arecanut shaped terracotta bead, along with plastic bags and cowdung pieces. This clearly represented a secondary deposit, and as a result, two control pits (1 x 1 m) were taken, one each in the northwestern and southwestern corners. The southwestern control pit was dug to 50 cm, while the northwestern one was dug to 67 cm. At both, natural soil was reached at these respective depths. In the southwestern control pit, a potsherd disc and a glazed ware sherd were found. The secondary deposit is a result of present day activities of villagers taking place at several areas at the edges of the mound, particularly those which are unoccupied. These level spaces are also being extended by the villagers by cutting away the edges of the mound. These areas are being used as dumping grounds for cowdung and other vegetable waste which are left to accumulate here for a period of time. The garbage that is being brought in may also incidentally include some archaeological material. Further, monsoon runoff from the higher levels of the mound also gets deposited at the ground level. This organic material is then picked up to be used as manure in the fields, and in the process of being picked up, further cutting at the edge of the mound takes place. This may explain the archaeological material that was found in our 2 x 2 km exploration that was done in the fields around the mound. The analysis of the archaeological material recovered as part of the exploration is ongoing and will be published later.

Chronology

We were able to date the deposits in these trenches on the basis of pottery2 and coins. Stamped potsherds were found from the B1a-c-d trench (Figure 7). Also found from this combined trench were two terracotta stamps used for decorating pottery (Figures 8 and 9) and tiny sherds of wares with a black slip or polish and a red core. Sherds of fine grey ware were largely found from the B1c-d trenches. The bulk of the pottery comprised red wares, including sprinklers from the upper levels.    

Out of a total of seven copper coins recovered, three coins are clearly datable to the Kushana period (Figure 10), three are entirely unreadable while the last is a square punch marked coin.