Neolithic Settlement of Burzahom

Burzahom, Jammu And Kashmir: Situated 16 kilometres North-east of Srinagar in Jammu And Kashmir State Of India is one of India’s major archaeological sites – Burzahom. It’s geographical coordinates are 34° 10′ 5″ North, 74° 52′ 40″ East and 1800 metres above sea level. It is located off the Naseem – Shalimar Road between the Dal Lake and Zabarvan Hills.

Burzahom – meaning Birch Trees in Kashmiri dialect, gets its name from the burnt Birch Trees’ remains that were found on site.

Burzahom is the first archaeological site in the country which revealed the existence of a Neolithic Settlement in Kashmir region. Radio-carbon dating dated this settlement back to 2375 BC.

The highlight of the Neolithic Era was the invention of Agriculture which grounded nomadic people to a geography; gave them food round the year till the next crop harvest; structured the life and lifestyles of humans around ‘work and rest’; developed calendars to schedule farming of crops; domesticated horses and cows which were used for farming as well as ‘consumable food’ group. With farming, people then stopped their nomadic ways, settled in lands around water bodies like a river or lake to use that water for irrigation.

Subterranean dwelling pit.Subterranean-dwelling-pit

Scientists found seeds of wheat, barley and lentils on site. With structured and seasonal farming, Pottery was invented to store the harvests. So the concept of prolonged storage started here.

The Neolithic Era also developed copper tools and sharpened the previous era’s stone tools to a pointed edge which were used for hunting, farming, and carving living spaces in clay grounds for human dwelling. The tools that were unearthed are harpoons for fishing, needles for sewing, and hunting-oriented tools, such as arrow-heads, spear-heads and daggers. Sewing various hides together was also discovered to have emerged during this period. This Era was marked by the life-changing invention – the Wheel.

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The Surgical practice of human trepanation was discovered on the Neolithic skull which states that during the Neolithic Age, even human surgery had emerged. However, the reasons for this kind of surgery where holes are drilled into human skulls are unknown.


Skull found at Berzahom with evidence of cranial surgery

The excavations revealed that the Neolithic people made underground dwelling places. These were series of circular pits in the clay ground which were dugout by the sharp stone tools to a depth of about 3 metres. The pits are narrow at the opening and broad at the base. Holes were found around the pits where wooden poles were erected in order to support the roof above made of branches of trees. Grinding-stone and clay ovens were discovered in these pits. A pot filled with beads of semi-precious stones was also unearthed in one of these pits.

After the discovery and excavation of Burzahom, archaeologists and scientists explored the entire region of Kashmir and discovered similar such sites at Begagund, Gofkral, Hariparigom, Olchibag, Pampur, Panzgom, Sombur Waztal, and Brah.

This habitation at Burzahom came to an end in 1400 B. C.

The Neolithic period is followed by Megalithic culture associated with the erection of massive stones or menhirs, most probably as commemorative establishments. The material culture recovered constitutes of a gritty red ware pottery, manufactured in potters wheel, metal objects and few tools made of bone and stone continued. Rubble structures associated with the Megalithic men have also been found. The last level of activity at Burzahom is ascribed to the early historical period and is dateable to 3rd-4th century A.D. Mudbrick structures, pottery manufactured in a wheel and a few metal objects have been found from this era.

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