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Mitathal is situated on the alluvial plain near a channel between the Chautang and the Yamuna rivers and is in close proximity (25 to 30 km) to the hilly outcrops of Kaliana and Tosham, which are rich in quartzite and meta-volcanic rocks respectively. The site is approximately 120 km west-northwest of New Delhi, 10 km northeast of Bhiwani – the headquarters of the district of the same name, and 1.5 km northwest of Mitathal village
Mitathal, in the Bhiwani district of southwest Haryana, is an important site for scholars investigating what Possehl (1992) has called the “Eastern Domain” of the Indus Valley or Harappan Civilization. A brief surface reconnaissance was undertaken during a visit to the site by the authors of this paper on 11 March 2007. The geologic provenance of several artefact types, including the first and only steatite seal yet recovered at Mitathal, was also assessed. These new studies have provided a fresh glimpse into this ancient settlement and the surrounding region during the later part of what is commonly termed the Mature Harappan period (ca. 2600- 1900 B.C) of the Indus Civilization.
Site Location and Past Research
Period I -c. 2000-1900 B.C.
Period II- c. 1900-1500 B.C.
Prior to excavation conducted by Kurukshetra University in 1968, under the direction of Suraj Bhan (Bhan 1969, 1975), copper artefacts, Indus-style pottery, beads and faience bangles were discovered at Mitathal. Bhan’s excavations, although small in scale, revealed much about the site and the region. Firstly, a pre-Mature Harappan phase related to the Kalibangan I and ‘pre-defense’ (Kot Diji Phase) at the site of Harappa, which in Haryana has been called the Late Siswal culture, was identified. This was followed by a continuous sequence through a Late Harappan phase. Bhan defined a Period I and Period II – c. 2000-1900 B.C. and c. 1900-1500 B.C., respectively. The classical phase of the Indus Civilization (Mature Harappan) was indicated at the site by the presence of well-planned mud-brick structures, beads of carnelian, faience, steatite and terracotta, toy-cart wheels, wheeled toys, sling balls, discs with tapering ends, marbles and triangular cakes of terracotta as well as stone objects such as balls, hammer stones, saddle querns and mullers, and cubical stone weights. The uppermost level (IIB) was designated the “Mitathal” culture (Late Harappan). Some Siswal/ Kalibangan ceramic traditions survived and important finds from this phase include a celt, a parasu or axe, copper harpoon and a copper ring, which are known as Copper Hoards. Bhan suggested that Indus culture transformed into the OCP and hinted that the possible genesis of the OCP lay in the Siswal phase (Bhan 1975: 3). Mitathal’s twin mounds were christened as 1 and 2 by Suraj Bhan. He recorded Mound 1 as being 150 x 130 m in area and 5 m in height, while Mound 2 was 300 x 175 m in area and 3 m above the agricultural fields. The two mounds whose northern periphery was demarcated by a modern irrigation canal (the Dang Minor) were 10 m apart.
A Brief Surface Reconnaissance
It was evident, both from visits to Mitathal and from an examination of recent Google Earth satellite imagery (ca. December 2005), that large portions of the mounds have been destroyed since the time of Bhan’s excavation due to agricultural activities. Mound 1 has been reduced greatly on its south and to a little extent on its north.
On the south, the mound was levelled for nearly 40 m and a section of nearly 1 m is exposed. Mound 2 has likewise suffered extensive damage. A huge chunk measuring roughly 50 x 50 m has been lost on its eastern side just in the past few years. Although this ongoing destruction is lamentable, it has provided a wealth of fresh archaeological materials for surface investigation. When walking across Mitathal one is struck by the large number of blue-green faience bangle fragments visible on the site’s surface. Most are so fragmentary that their complete forms are difficult to judge. Nine examples worthy of shape determination are documented in Figure 2. Bangle 1 has a triangular section and is without any decoration, while Bangles 2 and 4 are incised with diagonal lines with triangular and ovular sections respectively. Bangles 5 and 6 have spiked triangular sections and small pinched spike motifs. Bangles 3, 7, 8 and 9 have broadly similar horizontal banding and rectangular sections.
If we take these surface decorations into account, parallels are found for Bangle types 2 and 4 in the Harappa Phase (Period 3) levels at Harappa (Kenoyer 1992: 87, Fig. 3), while Bangle 5 and 6 have parallels in some terracotta bangles from the same site and period. The horizontal incised designs are not described among the major faience bangle styles from Harappa. Further analysis of faience bangles from Harappa and other Indus Civilization settlements like Mitathal may reveal evolutionary patterns and regional variations, if any. Ash pits and kilns of considerable size were observed on the northwestern and eastern peripheries of the site. One among these was a feature that is suspected to be a series of faience kilns. The surface evidence indicates an elliptical spread of furnaces in an east-west direction. The furnace walls exhibit vitrification indicative of extremely high temperature craft activities. In his discussion of Indus faience production Kenoyer mentions (1994: 37) the discovery of white rocky quartz at the site of Harappa,which might have been the raw material crushed to make the silica powder. Our exploration of Mitathal also yielded examples of white rocky quartz. Its presence along with the kilns and the unusually large numbers of faience antiquities (both from the past excavation and from this surface reconnaissance) suggests that Mitathal might have been a major faience production centre. Other common surface finds were non-diagnostic bits of copper and identifiable copper-alloy objects such as bangle fragments (Fig. 4). Likewise abundant were non-diagnostic fragments (Fig. 5), broken pieces and a few complete examples (see Shinde et al. 2008, Fig. 87) of stone querns and mullers. The large majority of these stone artefacts were composed of a reddish-coloured quartzite with distinctive thin black seams.
The most significant find by our team was of a broken steatite seal. It was found on the southern slope of Mound 2 not far from the canal. Suraj Bhan’s excavation report makes note of a seal (Bhan 1975: 82, Fig. 16) collected from the surface of Rakhi Shahpur (Rakhigarhi), but no seal or sealing had previously been reported from Mitathal itself. The seal recovered is rectangular in shape, trapezoidal in section and inscribed on one side. The surviving portion measures 15.50 x 14.51 mm. The section of the top and bottom suggests that it was, when complete, convex backed with a perforated hole through the width. Seals of this type were used at the site of Harappa only during Period 3C (Meadow and Kenoyer 2001: 27) and this surface is dated to ca. 2100-1900 BC or the later part of what is commonly called the Mature Harappan Phase of the Indus Valley Civilization composed of seven vertical strokes/bars – having four strokes in the first row and three in the second. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of the first sign was performed at the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering, IIT, Kanpur and suggested that the seal’s deeply incised characters were created with a sharp-edged metal tool.
The Ancient Indus Valley : New Perspectrives, by Jane McIntosh (2008).ABC-CLIO,Santa Barbara, California. ISBN 978-1576079072
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