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Article

Gregory L. Possehl

[Ahicchatra; Adhicchatrā]

Fortified site in Bareilly District, Uttar Pradesh, India. It flourished from c. 500 bc to ad 1100, and it was identified by Alexander Cunningham as the capital of North Panchala, an early kingdom mentioned in the Mahābhārata epic of the 1st millennium bc. The fortifications of the site measure 5.6 km in circuit, and the mounds within stand 23 m above the surrounding plain. Early visitors such as the 7th-century Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang noted a number of Buddhist stupas; although these can no longer be located, Cunningham’s excavations of 1862–5 produced a reliquary casket at one stupa site. Some years later A. Führer undertook the excavation of a temple without much result. However, the principal excavation of Ahichchhatra was carried out between 1940 and 1944 by the Archaeological Survey of India under the direction of Rao Bahadur K. N. Dikshit, assisted by Amalananda Ghosh. This yielded evidence of nine successive periods of occupation in the western sector of the city dating from ...

Article

Ayodhya  

B. B. Lal

[Ayodhyā]

City in Faizabad District, Uttar Pradesh, India. Located on the right bank of the River Sarayu, it was the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom, one of whose kings, Rama, is regarded by Hindus as an incarnation of Vishnu.

Excavations in 17 different parts of the ancient mounds have revealed that the first occupation at Ayodhya commenced c. 700 bc, as is indicated by the occurrence of the earliest variety of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) and a few sherds assignable to a late stage in the production of Painted Grey Ware (PGW). The NBPW is very well fired, thin-sectioned, with a shining surface and showing a variety of colours: steel grey, coal black, indigo, silver, even gold. In the earliest levels the houses were of wattle and daub, but later they began to be constructed of kiln-fired bricks. Terracotta ringwells were used for disposing of sullage water. Concomitantly, systems of coinage (punch-marked and uninscribed cast coins) and weights (cylindrical pieces of jasper, chert etc) also came into being, laying the foundation of urbanization in the Ganga Valley around the middle of the 1st millennium ...

Article

Joyce C. White

Site in north-east Thailand, c. 50 km east of Udon Thani. Excavations in 1974 and 1975 by Chester Gorman (1938–81) and Pisit Charoenwongsa (b 1938) uncovered a distinctive ceramic tradition, revealed chiefly through artefacts recovered from graves. Ceramics from even the earliest levels exhibit an elegance, sophistication and attention to decorative detail that far exceeds mere utilitarian needs. The funerary wares clearly served as an art medium for this village-based society. Although the ceramics are highly diverse, they share certain decorative treatments that characterize the tradition as a whole, in particular the free-hand application of abstract designs. Representational forms are rare. Many wares of the Early Period (3600–1000 bc) are decorated with intricate, curvilinear motifs, which are generally incised. The curvilinear or geometric painted and incised motifs of the Middle Period (1000–300 bc) are relatively simple, but vessel forms are unusually graceful and statuesque, with concave surfaces that are difficult to shape. The thin vessel walls (sometimes 1–2 mm thick) and delicate hue of the white carinated (ridged or heeled) vessels make this one of the most elegant and distinctive of all prehistoric ceramic styles, but it is the red-on-buff ware of the Late Period (...

Article

I. Kruglikova

[Dal’verzin; Dil’berdz̆in.]

Site in northern Afghanistan, 40 km north-west of Balkh, which flourished from the Achaemenid period (c. 6th century bc) to the Hephthalite invasion (c. 5th century ad). It was excavated by a Soviet-Afghan team in 1970–77; all finds are in the Kabul Museum.

The fortified town (383×393 m) is enclosed by mud-brick walls with rectangular bastions. There was a circular citadel in the centre, and at the north-east corner of the town a 2nd-century bc temple, perhaps to the Dioscuri, was excavated, which shows several phases of rebuilding. Only a fragment of a wall painting from the earliest period is extant, depicting two nude youths painted red leading white horses by the bridle. Above this are the fragmentary red legs of athletes. To the latest period belongs a polychrome wall painting depicting Shiva and Parvarti on a bull, flanked by two men with four worshippers below. In the main part of the temple a throne ornamented with sculpture was found....

Article

John Villiers

[Dongson.]

Site in northern Vietnam on the south bank of the Ma River in Thanh Hoa Province, first excavated by Pajot in 1924. There are traces of very early settlement, but the chief importance of this site and of several other related sites in the Red River delta lies in the large number of bronze objects, some of them dating from c. 600 bc, found in burial sites on the riverbank. These burials are simple ditches in which the dead were placed in a stretched-out position, in marked contrast to the contemporary Chinese brick-vaulted tombs found in Tonkin and Thanh Hoa. Besides bronze objects, the burials contain arms and other implements made of iron, as well as jade ornaments, polished stone axes and schist tools, indicating that a pre-Bronze Age culture also existed in the region. The bronzes include arms, body plaques, ploughshares and other agricultural implements, receptacles of various kinds and, most important, a number of the decorated kettledrums that are the best known and most characteristic products of the Dong Son culture, as well as objects of Chinese origin. The bronze is composed of 55% copper, 15–16% tin and 17–19% lead. The decoration consists of geometric motifs, birds and animals and human figues, including warriors in plumed headdresses in pirogues, and musicians....

Article

B. B. Lal

[Hastināpura]

Site of an ancient city, once capital of the Kauravas of Mahābhārata epic fame, on the right bank of the Ganga River in Meerut District, Uttar Pradesh, India. Excavation (1950–52) of the ancient mound yielded evidence of five cultural periods. Period I (pre-1200 bc), the earliest occupation, was characterized by Ochre Colour Ware and the absence of iron. Period II (c. 1100–800 bc) was distinguished by Painted Grey Ware (PGW), the first use of iron and evidence of the horse. Other objects included beads of cornelian, agate, jasper and bone, bangles of glass (the earliest so far in India) and terracotta figurines of animals. The PGW occupation was destroyed by heavy flooding of the Ganga River. Not only was there ample evidence of river erosion at the foot of the riverside face of the mound, but washed-away material was also encountered in borings in the riverbed, some 15 m below water-level. A late stage of PGW has also been found in the earliest levels at Kausambi. These two pieces of archaeological evidence provide circumstantial evidence for the Puranic statement that during the reign of Nichakshu, fifth king after the war related in the ...

Article

Mantai  

John Carswell

Port, occupied from the 2nd millennium bc to c. ad 1000, near modern Mannar in north-west Sri Lanka. Mantai was the port for the inland capital at Anuradhapura and an important link in the maritime network between the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and East Asia; during its final phase, it was one of Asia’s most important trading emporia. Its growth must have been dependent on the surplus capital generated by the agricultural development of the northern dry zone, with its sophisticated irrigation system of canals and tanks (reservoirs). The primary reason for Mantai’s development as an emporium was its location at the end of a narrow channel transversing the chain of reefs, known as Adam’s Bridge, that prevent the passage of large-scale shipping. Ships from the Near East and East Asia were able to meet at Mantai and exchange goods via the channel. Evidence of the Sasanian and Islamic presence was found in excavations in ...

Article

Dominique Collon

Hoard of some 180 items of jewellery and precious objects, mostly dating from c. 550 to c. 330 bc, found in the banks of the River Oxus (Amu Darya) in Bactria in 1877; most are now in the British Museum in London. The exact find-spot is uncertain but was possibly Takht-i Kubad in south-west Tajikistan. The treasure, thought to have been part of a temple hoard, possibly from the Temple of Anahita in Bactra (now Balkh), may have been buried during disturbances in the late 4th century, or perhaps as late as the early 2nd century bc. This discrepancy is due to doubts as to whether some 1500 coins, ranging in origin from Athens to Bactria and in date from c. 500 to c. 180 bc, were part of the original hoard. After its discovery the treasure was taken by merchants to Afghanistan, where they were robbed. Most of it was rescued by a British officer, Capt. ...

Article

Rajgir  

Frederick M. Asher

[Rājgir, Rājagṛha]

Ancient capital of the kingdom of Magadha in Nalanda District, Bihar, India. Rajgir was a frequent resort of the Buddha and of Mahavira, the Jaina teacher (c. 5th century bc), and it is sacred to both religions. Its outer fortifications (c. 6th century bc) run for about 40 km over hilly terrain; this wide rubble rampart with projecting bastions is probably the earliest surviving stone monument in India. Within the walls is a citadel with earthen ramparts. Beyond the outer walls, to the north, are the remains of new Rajgir, laid out in an irregular square, possibly by King Ajatashatru (c. 491–459 bc).

While archaeological excavations have revealed much material, few ancient monuments have survived. The earliest are the two rock-cut Sonbhandar caves. These are similar in plan and elevation to the rock-cut sanctuaries in the Barabar Hills (3rd century bc; see Barabar and Nagarjuni...

Article

H. V. Trivedi

[Śiśunāga]

Two dynasties that ruled Magadha in northern India from the 6th to the 4th century bc. Of all the principalities that flourished in the region at the time, Magadha was the most important. Its first ruler, Bimbisara, was succeeded by Ajatashatru (reg c. 491–c. 459 bc), whose successor, Udayi, moved the capital of Magadha from Rajagriha (now Rajgir) to Pataliputra (now Patna). Udayi was followed by three kings in succession, all parricides. Taking matters into their own hands, the subjects called upon the minister Saisunaga to occupy the throne, which he did c. 430 bc. Saisunaga made his state the most important in the north, destroying the Pradyotas of Avanti, who were hostile to Magadha. Saisunaga was succeeded by his son Kalashoka, also called Kakavarni, during whose reign the second Great Buddhist Council was held (see Buddhism §III 1., (i)). Kalashoka met a tragic death according to Bana’s ...

Article

Sanghol  

Gregory L. Possehl

Site adjacent to an ancient, now dry, course of the Sutlej River in Ludhiana District, Punjab, India. It is almost entirely covered by a modern village but was subjected to eight seasons of excavations between 1968 and 1985 that revealed a stratified sequence of eight periods. The earliest level (Period I) contained Bronze Age mud structures associated with copper tools, faience bangles and cornelian inlays. The ceramic finds comprised Bara Ware and pottery of Cemetery H type (c. 2000–1750 bc) that included the survival of some pre-Harappan designs. Period II was characterized by Painted Grey Ware (1000–450 bc), with an overlap of Northern Black Polished Ware (600–200 bc), which was primarily found in the levels of Period III. Period IV was distinguished by typical figurines of the Shunga dynasty dated c. 2nd–1st century bc. Period V contained a terracotta coin mould of the Indo-Parthian...

Article

B. B. Lal

Site on the River Ganga in Allahabad District, Uttar Pradesh, India. It dates to the last quarter of the first millennium bc, when a distinctive pottery known as Ochre Ware was in use. After a short break, it was reoccupied in the 10th century bc, when black-slipped, black-and-red and burnished grey wares constituted the characteristic ceramics. Around the 7th century bc Northern Black Polished Ware (see Indian subcontinent §VIII 5., (i)) came into use; a little later, a system of coinage was introduced, and burnt-brick structures began to be constructed. Thereafter, the site was continuously occupied to the 18th century ad.

The principal monument is a brick tank measuring over 250 m long and ascribable to the beginning of the Christian era. A unique example of early Indian hydraulic engineering, it was filled by diverting the waters of the Ganga through a series of channels and a silting chamber to the main storage tank, then into a smaller, circular tank. Both tanks were provided with staircases leading down to water level. An elaborate waste weir carried excess water back into the river. In order to ensure that the tank did not run dry during the hot summer months, wells in its bed provided ground water to supplement the stored water....

Article

Frederick M. Asher

[Vaiśālī; Vesāli]

Ancient Indian city that flourished from c. 6th century bc to c. 5th century ad. The site, in Muzaffarpur District, Bihar, spans several villages, including Basarh and Kolhua. By the 6th century bc Vaishali was the capital of the Vrjis (Lichchavis). It is important in Jainism as the birthplace of Mahavira, the last Jaina saviour, and in Buddhism (see Buddhism §I) as a place where the Buddha visited and taught. Its most important monumental remain is a pillar with a lion capital dating to the 3rd century bc. The shaft has no inscription, but the design is similar to the pillars erected by the Maurya dynasty at Lauriya Nandangarh and elsewhere. An adjacent mound, the likely location of a stupa, has yielded an image of the Buddha, shown crowned and seated (Vaishali Mus.). Excavations at Vaishali have uncovered numerous terracotta sculptures from the Kushana and Gupta periods (all Vaishali Mus.), among them a superbly rendered mother goddess image (...