Purana Qila excavations in Delhi reveal pre-Mauryan era settlement

New excavations have found pottery shards dating to around 1200 BC to 600 BC, the remains of a 2,500 year-old ring well from the Mauryan era, and a four-room complex probably built 2,300 years ago

May 30, 2023 09:08 pm | Updated June 01, 2023 08:02 pm IST - NEW DELHI

ASI excavation site at Purana Quila.

ASI excavation site at Purana Quila. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A fresh round of excavations at the site of Delhi’s Purana Qila or Old Fort has uncovered evidence of the continuous history of the city since the pre-Mauryan era. The findings include shards of Painted Gray Ware pottery which are usually dated to around 1200 BC to 600 BC.

Sources said that the site could host one of the accompanying events during the G-20 leadership summit in September. The Purana Qila, built by Sher Shah Suri and Mughal emperor Humayun, is believed by many to be the site of Indraprastha, as mentioned in the Mahabharat.

The new excavations have also found remains of a 900-year-old Vaikuntha Vishnu from the Rajput period, a terracotta plaque of Goddess Gaja Lakshmi from the Gupta period, the structural remains of a 2,500-year-old terracotta ring well from the Mauryan period, and a well-defined four-room complex from the Sunga-Kushan period dating back to 2,300 years ago, besides beads, seals, copper coins and a bone needle.

Also Read | To unearth an ancient fort, Archaeology Department begins excavation at Porpanaikottai

Trade centre

“More than 136 coins and 35 seals and sealings have been discovered from a small excavated area, indicating the site’s pivotal role as a centre for trade activities,” Culture Minister G. Kishen Reddy, who visited the excavation site on Tuesday, said.

This was the third round of excavations at the site, beginning from January. Earlier excavations had been carried out in 2013-14 and 2017-18. ?Former Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) director general B.B. Lal had earlier carried out excavation work inside the fort itself and its premises in 1954 and 1969-73.

These efforts have revealed nine cultural levels, representing different historical periods, including pre-Mauryan, Mauryan, Sunga, Kushana, Gupta, post-Gupta, Rajput, Sultanate, and Mughal.

Uncovering chronology

“The ongoing excavation, initiated in January 2023, aims to establish a complete chronology of the site. Currently, structures from the early Kushana level have been exposed, with a depth of 5.50 metres reached thus far. This excavation is expected to provide further insights into the ancient city of Indraprastha,” said ASI director Vasant Swarnkar, who is leading the current excavation.

While the excavation reports of earlier seasons have already been submitted, they still await publishing by the ASI director general. The findings of the current excavation will be compiled and submitted this year, Dr. Swarnkar added.

Open air museum

The Culture Minister said that the Purana Qila would soon be reopened and the excavated remains preserved, conserved, and provided with a shed. “The site will be showcased as an open air site museum, allowing visitors to experience the rich historical legacy of Delhi,” Mr. Reddy said.

The excavated remains will also be displayed to the delegates of the G-20 summit, including heads of States, scheduled to be held in Delhi this September, he said.

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