All the tangible or material remain which is found by excavating historical places are archeological sources of history. History cannot tell its own story. So, we use different sources to understand history, including literary sources, foreign accounts, and archeological sources.
In this post, we will discuss the archeological sources of Ancient Indian History.
Archeological sources play an important role while reconstructing history. It improves our knowledge related to our history and presents important evidence for verifying the claims of historians.
Artifacts recovered from excavation helps us to get the accurate dates about the lives of past communities. Famous dating methods are Carbon-14 dating and radiocarbon dating.
Importance of Archeological Sources of History
The use of archaeological sources was crucial in creating or reconstructing a region’s history. Indian history only has an archaeological foundation that dates back roughly 200 years.
The archaeological source improved our understanding of our past and gave us access to crucial resources that we would not have had otherwise.
It sheds light on the cultural histories of many nations and provides answers to a variety of queries concerning the way of life of those who lived there. It has also aided in establishing the prehistoric era’s chronology.
An archaeologist can use chemistry to estimate an artifact’s age when it is discovered from an excavation site, and botany or zoology can tell them about the environment in which it was located. As there are no written documents from this time period, it is a crucial tool in reconstructing prehistoric history.
Various Archeological Sources of Ancient Indian History
Monuments play a vital role in understanding our history. Monuments tell us about the ancient art and culture of the periods. They help us to understand about their rulers and the architecture of various civilizations.
The first person to realize the significance of these sources was Lord Curzon. He founded the Ancient Archeology Department. In this department that many excavations were carried out and valuable information is discovered.
The monuments don’t tell us stories directly but it has a hidden message. Temples (shrines), Stupas, and Monasteries (Viharas) clearly describe the artistic achievements and religious devotion of people and rulers alike.
Shrines, devoted to Siva (Shiva), on the Deiring plateau (Java), and the vast view of bas-reliefs on the walls in the colossal temples at Boro-Bodur, Prambanan (Central Java) and also the remarkable rivers at Angkor Vat and Angkor Thom (Kambuja) show the hands of Indians and show that they had migrated to the Far-East and spread the power and culture there.
The beauty of the Gupta Period was seen by the excavation of the Temples of “Deograh”. Excavation of Harappa and Mohen-Jo-Daro give us a lot of information about Indus Valley Civilization. It showed us that there were civilizations earlier than Aryans. The scriptures found from the excavations of Taxila give us an idea of the Gandhara School of Art.
The knowledge regarding the Mauryas is found from the excavation of the old sites of Pataliputra.
Information about Buddhism and Ashoka the Great is found from the excavation of Sarnath.
The painting tells us about the culture and religious beliefs of the people of ancient India.
The progress of the art and culture can be seen in the Gandhara School of Art and Mathura School of Art. The paintings found in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora highlight the craftsmanship and creative inhabitant of the ancient Indian people.
The study of the remains of dead organisms over a large period of time is called “Paleontology“. To understand hominid evolution, DNA studies and molecular biology is used.
The faunal analysis gives information about the animal’s people hunted and domesticated. It also shows us about features of the environment such as climate, nature, and the season during which a site was occupied.
Archeological sources reveal the features of everyday life. It tells us about the history of human settlements and can give us more precise data including the crop they plant, the tools they used, and the animals they domesticated.
The inscription is the most reliable source of Indian History. They are present documents that are free from changes because it is impossible to make changes later because they were engraved.
The problem with the manuscript was, they are made from soft materials and they became fragile. They are required to be copied on a new page and at the time of copying, changes are made and some errors tend to creep in.
The study of inscriptions is called Epigraphy. An inscription is any writing that is engraved on stone, wood, metal, ivory plaques, bronze statues, bricks, clay, shells, pottery, etc.
In epigraphy, the texts of the inscriptions are translated and data given in these inscriptions are analyzed.
The study of ancient writing is called Paleography. The oldest inscriptions of our Indian Subcontinent is the undeciphered Harappa script and the oldest deciphered inscription is the Ashokan inscriptions which belong to the late 4th century BCE.
Coins as Archeological Sources
The study of coins is called as Numismatic. Coins are the most reliable source of history after inscriptions. Coins found in the systematic excavation are less in number but are more reliable. These are very valuable as their chronology and cultural meaning can be fixed accurately.
Coins give us information about the language and script of history. It shows the levels of the economic prosperity of ancient states.
Coins can be divided into two broad categories- Cast Coins and Punch Marked Coins.
The Punch-marked coins are the most initial coins. They are made of either silver or copper. Gold punch-marked coins are also found but their authenticity is doubtful.
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