Mehrgarh in Balochistan is one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology and evidence show that it was one of earliest human settlements in the world where farming and husbandry started, anthropologist Ayoub Baloch said on Sunday.
“We can only preserve our historical sites when we accept them as our heritage and take responsibility to protect them,” Baloch told the participants of a seminar organised by the Institute of Balochistan Studies.
“We need to launch an awareness campaign for the preservation of these historical sites.”
Provincial Culture and Archive Secretary Zafar Buledi was the chief guest of the event.
Mehrgarh, located near Bolan at a distance of 130 kilometres from Quetta, is even older than Mohenjodaro. It was discovered in 1974 by an archaeological team led by French archaeologist Jean-François Jarrige. The site was excavated continuously between 1974 and 1986. After a ten year hiatus, the team resumed excavations in 1996. The earliest settlement at Mehrgarh, located in the northeast corner of the 495-acre site, was a small farming village dating back around 7000 BC.
The archaeological evidence found during the excavation shows that Mehrgarh had a significant population. The site is buried beneath several layers of earth. Archaeologists believe Mehrgarh was one of the most well-planned and ancient settlements in the Subcontinent.
In April 2006, it was announced in the scientific journal Nature that the oldest evidence for the drilling of human teeth in a living person was found in Mehrgarh.
Archaeologists divide the occupation at the site into several periods. Mehrgarh Period I (7000 BC-5500 BC) was Neolithic and aceramic (without the use of pottery). Semi-nomadic people using plants such as wheat and barley and animals such as sheep, goats and cattle developed the earliest farming in the area. The settlement had been constructed with simple mud buildings with four internal subdivisions. Numerous burials have been found, many with elaborate goods such as baskets, stone and bone tools, beads, bangles, pendants and occasionally animal sacrifices, with more goods left with burials of males. Ornaments of sea shell, limestone, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sandstone, and polished copper have been found, along with simple figurines of women and animals. Seashells from far sea shores and lapis lazuli found far in Badakshan, Afghanistan show the settlement was in contact with those areas. A single ground stone axe had been discovered in a burial, and several more found on the surface. Those ground stone axes represent the earliest to come from a stratified context in the South Asia.
The Mehrgarh Period II (5500 BC.–4800 BC) and Period III (4800 BC–3500 BC) were ceramic Neolithic (pottery was now in use) and later chalcolithic. Much evidence of manufacturing activity has been found and more advanced techniques were used. Glazed faience beads were produced and terracotta figurines became more detailed. Figurines of females were decorated with paint and had diverse hairstyles and ornaments. Two flexed burials were found in Period II with a covering of red ochre on the body. The amount of burial goods decreased over time, becoming limited to ornaments and with more goods left with burials of females. The first button seals were produced from terracotta and bone and had geometric designs. Technologies included stone and copper drills, updraft kilns, large pit kilns and copper melting crucibles.
Between 2600 BC and 2000 BC, at the time the Indus Valley Civilisation was in its middle stages of development, the town seems to have been abandoned. It is believed that its inhabitants migrated to the fertile Indus valley as the Balochistan became more arid with climatic changes.
No evidence of written language exists and little is known about the religious beliefs and practices of the Mehrgarh civilisation.