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Mahisdal


Mahisdal a black-and-red ware site. It is located on the left bank of the Kopai river, about a quarter km northwest of the modern village of the same name in Birbhum district, West Bengal, India. It is situated in the lateritic zone of West Bengal, which covers the western part of the district. The site was excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1963-64.

According to the report published in the IAR the original area of the site was 230m ' 135m, much of which is now disturbed and destroyed by bridge construction. The excavation revealed a two fold cultural sequence. Period I is represented by microliths, ceramics of black-and-red ware (both plain and painted) and a painted red ware, a limited supply of copper, beads of steatite and semi-precious stones, bone tools/bangles, terracotta gamesmen, and decorated combs. Of the pottery types the most distinctive are a channel spouted bowl, a cremated bowl with flared rim and a convex-sided bowl. Two structural phases have been identified from the presence of two levels of earthen floors beaten with terracotta nodules. The most impressive find was a pit granary destroyed by fire. A bulk of carbonized rice grains was recovered from here. Among other finds, the discovery of a terracotta phallus throws light on the religious activity of the people. The earliest calibrated date range for this period is 1619-1415 BC. A large-scale conflagration brought about the end of this period.

Period II, dated to 750 BC, commenced without any break. Iron objects like arrowheads, spearheads, chisels and nails as well as large quantities of iron ore have been found with a few samples of copper represented by a fishhook, bangle pieces and rings. The ceramic tradition of the earlier period continues although the fabric becomes coarser. Grey ware is a new addition while the rest of the cultural repertoire shows a continuation from the previous period. An unburnt clay seal has been found, with indeterminate symbols on the obverse and impression of cross strings on the reverse. Clay daubs testify to the continued mode of house building. This period also came to an end through fire.

Mahisdal needs to be seen in relation to other black-and-red ware sites found in the same geographical region. The distribution of black-and-red ware sites in Bengal covers the lateritic belt and the older alluvium. These sites could be grouped according to certain natural divisions within these belts and studied from a holistic perspective, something that has been lacking so far in Bengal proto-history. [Bishnupriya Basak]