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Shushunia


Shushunia an important stone age archaeological site in Bankura district, West Bengal, India. Practically all the westerly districts of West Bengal - Burdwan, Bankura, Purulia and Midnapur - have yielded stone age tools. The district of Bankura forms the southwestern limits of the Chhotanagpur plateau. Stone tools have mostly been recovered from the northwestern and southwestern parts of this district. Its northwestern part consists of variegated geological features stretching from hilly zones to alluvial plains with undulating lands and rocky patches in the middle.

Two major hills stand out in this part - Biharinath (447.8m) and Shushunia (439.5m). There are four major rivers in the district, viz the Damodara, the Dvarakeshvara, the Kansavati and the Shilavati. During its journey through the district, the Dvarakesvara receives many tributaries like the Gandheshvari, the Kukra, the Bira and the Dhankora in the north, which have rocky beds. Of them the largest is the Gandhesvari, which flowing to the southwest of Shushunia and north of Bankura town joins the Dvarakesvara near Bhutsahar.

Of all the Stone Age sites of Bankura, the most important one is Shushunia, situated to the north of the Gandhesvari. The region of Shushunia is rich in pure quartz, granular quartzite, decomposed hornblend and pinkish felspar. Tools of early stone age, consisting of handaxes, ovates, cleavers and scrapers and those of the succeeding ages, viz middle, late and new stone ages, have been collected mainly by the State Department of Archaeology of West Bengal from Shushunia foothills and the neighbouring regions, flanked by the Gandhesvari, Dhankora and Bankajore streams and other 'jores' and 'nullahs'. A great majority of early stone age tools are of Acheulian type - they are light, beautiful and symmetrical.

The reason for the abundance of stone tools of various ages (collected from nearly 30 sites in and around Shushunia) becomes clear when a survey is made of the Shushunia foothills, littered with numerous pebbles and chunks of quartzite etc. The prehistoric people of the area found enough materials for tool-making, besides water and food (raw meat, wild roots etc). The once-thick forest then teemed with both harbivorus and carnivoral animals. All these facilities made Shushunia one of earliest abodes of the Stone Age people in Bengal.

Early stone age tools like hand axes of triangular cordate and lanceolate types have been recovered from the following sites: Shushunia foothills, Dhankora and Bankajor, Bagdiha, Jamthol, Shiulibona, Suabasa, Gidhuria, Parulia, Ramnathpur, Paharghata, Kusbona, Chandra and Bharatpur. The length of the hand axes ranged from 10.4cm to 19cm. The ovates, made from flakes of quartz and quartzite by following the Levalloisian technique, have been collected from Bagdiha, Bankajor, Bharatpur, Gidhuria, Kushbona and Metala. These tools generally varied from 7.5 x 6.4cm to 8 x 7.3cm in size. Besides these tools, cleavers of both U-shaped and square-shaped butts and scrapers have been recovered from places near Shushunia.

The middle Stone Age tools were mostly made from pebbles, chert and chalcedony. There were coretools and un-retouched flakes. Small tools like points, arrowheads, scrapers, diggers (3-4cm) were made. The users of these tools were probably newcomers. They have been recovered from the following sites: Shushunia foothills, Bamundiha, Babladanga, Dhankora, Biribadi, Suabasa, Metala, Jamthol, Paharghata, Siulibona and Kurkuta. Then came the upper palaeolithic stage, which consisted of burins or gravers. A few tools of this stage have been recovered from a few sites near Shushunia.

The region was also rich in small 'pygmy' tools or microliths of late stone age. Types like blade (single and double straight-sided), point, penknife burin, scraper (side and hollow) besides cores and flakes have been collected from the following sites: Shushunia foothills, Paharghata, Jaljalia, Bharatpur, Shimulberia, Jamthol, Dhankora, Bankajor, Biribadi, Hapania and Metala. Made from agate, chalcedony, jasper etc, these tools were non-geometrical in character.

Tools of new Stone age (neoliths), made from basalt, dolerite and epidiorite, have also been found from Shushunia region. Celts or axes (ground and polished), roughly triangular in form, small and long, and adzes have been recovered from the following sites: Babkajor, Bishinda, Chandra, Dhankora. Adzes of varying sizes have been recovered from Chandra, Bishinda, Biribadi and Dhandora. Basides these, ringstones (intact or mutilated) have been collected from a few places near Shushunia.

In a cave in the Shushunia hills, an inscription (in 4th century script) of Puskaranadhipa Maharaja Shri chandravarman, son of Shri Singhavarman, has been discovered. Scholars think that the village Pokharna, about 40 km to the northeast of Shushunia on the Damodar river represents ancient Puskarana and Chandravarman is identified with the king of the same name mentioned in the Allahabad prashasti. [Shyam Chand Mukherjee]

Bibliography DK Chakraborty, 'Prehistory of West Bengal' in PC Dasgupta (ed), Exploring Bengal's Past, Calcutta, 1966; AH Dani, Prehistory and Protohistory of Eastern India, Calcutta, 1981; M Bhattacharyya, 'Stages of Prehistoric Culture in Rarh Bengal' in BM Pande and BD Chattopadhyay (ed), Archaeology and History, New Delhi, 1987; HC Chakladar, 'Prehistoric Culture in Bengal', Man In India, 21-22 and 32.