Discovery of Ancient Indian Daggers may push back Start of Iron Age by Hundreds of Years
Indian archaeologists say recent dagger discoveries at ancient sites in Hyderabad have pushed the Iron Age in India back to at least 2200 BC—around 1,000 years before the rest of the world. Indian scholars had previously estimated an earlier date for India’s Iron Age than other parts of the world by about 600 years.
The Times of India reports that archaeologists at the University of Hyderabad campus have found small blades and knives that they dated to between 2400 and 1800 BC. They were excavated next to earthen pots, most of which were mangled. About 10 of the pots were in good enough condition for archaeologists to learn somewhat about the art of that time and place.
"The implements that were found were tested at the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) using a method called Optically Simulated Luminescence (OSL). The metal objects were dated to anywhere between 1800 BC and 2,400 BC. So we are assuming they were made during 2200 BC," Professor K.P. Rao told The Times. The OSL method estimates the last time objects were exposed to light.
“In India, it was understood that the Iron Age came into being around 1800 BC in the Lahuradeva site in Uttar Pradesh,” said Professor Rao. “But this latest development shows that the Iron Age started much before that, at least in our country. It only goes to show that our ancestors had a rudimentary yet good knowledge about wielding weapons made of metals. We had estimated that the only metal that was moulded was copper, but due to its scarce nature it was not a feasible option. The idea of using abundant iron ore for tools and weapons is a landmark achievement. We are under the impression that most of the weapons which were made at that time were meant for self-defence, carpentry and agrarian purposes.”
Metallurgy in India has been advanced for many centuries, as witnessed by the nearly rust proof Iron Pillar of Delhi, which is almost 1,700 years old. (Photo source: Wikipedia)
The archaeologists are also excavating burial sites on the university campus and testing the DNA of the deceased. This will tell them the ethnicity of the people who lived there.
Rao said his team is planning more excavations in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The iron tools make them think there may be more settlements of these people across the Deccan Plateau.
Excavations began on the university campus in 2001 when skeletons were discovered under the ground. A dig led to the discovery of weapons and other equipment, Rao told the Times .
Other Iron Age burial sites, including rock cairns and megaliths, have been discovered in the region . Some have been under excavation since the 1930s.
India has a rich history of metalworking that goes back for millennia, including one of the most curious metal objects in the world—the Iron Pillar of Delhi, which does not seem to rust despite being about 1,700 years old. It is 7.2 meters (23 feet 7 inches) tall, of which 1.1 (3 feet 7 inches) meters is underground. The base rests on a grid of iron bars soldered with lead into the upper layer of the dressed stone pavement. The pillar's lower diameter is 420 mm (17 in), and its upper diameter 306 mm (12.0 in). It weighs more than six tons.
The quality of the iron in the Iron Pillar of Delhi used in the pillar is exceptionally pure and the detail at the top of the pillar demonstrates the skill of the craftsmen. (Photo source: Wikipedia)
Several inscriptions are on the pillar, the oldest one six lines of verse in Sanskrit. As the name Chandra is mentioned in the third stanza, scholars have been able to date the pillar to the reign of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375-415 A.D.), a Gupta king. Although it stands in Delhi today, how this pillar got there, and its original location is still a subject of scholarly discussion.
As Ancient Origins reported in March 2014 , the ability of Indian objects to resist corrosion is not unique to the Iron Pillar of Delhi. Research has shown that other large ancient Indian objects have a similar property. These include the iron pillars at Dhar, Mandu, Mount Abu, Kodochadri Hill, and iron cannons. Hence, it may be said that the ancient Indian iron-workers were highly skilled at forging iron objects. In a report published in the journal Current Science , R. Balasubramaniam of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, stated that the pillar is "a living testimony to the skill of metallurgists of ancient India"
Featured image: Indian archaeologists are excavating several Iron Age sites of ancient burial grounds in the vicinity of Hyderabad. This is one of the world's largest dolmens, in Andhra Pradesh (Photo by Adityamahav84/ Wikimedia Commons )
By Mark Miller