|Location||Baraut tehsil, Baghpat district, Uttar Pradesh|
|Cultures||Late Harappan, Bara-OCP cultural complex|
|Excavation dates||2005-06 |
|Archaeologists||D. V. Sharma |
S. K. Manjul
|Management||Archaeological Survey of India|
Sinauli (Devanagari: सिनौली, also translated as Sanauli) is an archaeological site located in Baraut tehsil, Baghpat district, western Uttar Pradesh, India, at the Ganga-Yamuna Doab.[web 1][web 2] The site gained attention for its Bronze Age solid-disk wheel carts, found in 2018, which were interpreted by some as horse-pulled "chariots", predating the arrival of the horse-centered Indo-Aryans.[web 3][web 4][note 1][note 2]
The excavations in Sinauli were conducted by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2005-06 and in mid-2018.[web 5] The remains found in 2005-06 season, the "Sanauli cemetery", belong to the Late Bronze Age, and were ascribed by excavation director Sharma to the Harappan Civilisation,[web 5] though a Late Harappan Phase or post-Harappan identification is more likely.[web 6]
Major findings from 2018 trial excavations are ascribed to the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture (OCP)/Copper Hoard Culture, which was contemporaneous with the Late Harappan culture.[web 1][web 5][note 3] They include several wooden coffin burials, copper swords, helmets, and wooden carts, with solid disk wheels and protected by copper sheets.[web 5] The carts were presented by Sanjay Manjul, director of the excavations, as chariots,[web 5][web 3][note 4] and he further notes that "the rituals relating to the Sanauli burials showed close affinity with Vedic rituals."[web 5]
Some see the suggestion of identification as "chariots" as a challenge to the Indo-Aryan migration theory, indicating the presence of horses before the arrival of the Indo-Aryans.[web 3][web 7] Others object, noting that solid wheels belong to carts, not chariots.[note 1] According to Asko Parpola these finds were ox-pulled carts, indicating that these burials are related to an early Aryan migration of Proto-Indo-Iranian speaking people into the Indian subcontinent, "forming then the ruling elite of a major Late Harappan settlement."
In December 2018 ASI approved a new phase of digging at Sinauli. The official communication from ASI was sent to an amateur archaeologist in Baraut.
The site at Sinauli was accidentally discovered by people levelling agricultural land. The farmers came across human skeleton and ancient pottery. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavations at the site in September 2005.[web 8]
The 2005-06 excavation headed by D. V. Sharma, ASI found more than a hundred burials (no coffins) tentatively dated c. 2200–1800 BCE.[web 5] Sharma associated the finding with the Harappan (Indus) civilisation,[web 5] which has been contested, as a Late Harappan or post-Harappan identification is more likely.[web 5][web 9][note 5] Carbon dating has now confirmed that the burials date back to 1900 BC, based on "two C-14 (carbon dating) dates -- 3815 and 3500, with a margin of error of 130 years."[web 10]
The burials are all oriented in a NW-SE direction and most are identified as primary burials. Some of the burials are identified as secondary, multiple and symbolic burials. The age of the buried starts from 1–2 years and includes all age groups and both male and female. Grave goods generally consisted of odd number of vases/bowls (3, 5, 7, 9, 11 etc.) placed near the head, with dish-on-stand usually placed below the hip area as well as flask-shaped vessels, terracotta figurines, gold bracelets and copper bangles, beads of semi-precious stones (two necklaces of long barrel shape), steatite, faience, and glass.[web 8]
The two antennae swords from Sinauli, one found in situ in a grave with a copper sheath, has similarities to the Copper Hoard Type in a Late Harappan context. A dish-on-stand and a violin-shaped flat copper container (having nearly 35 arrowhead shaped copper pieces placed in a row) are included in other important grave goods from Sinauli. The survey found that a dish-on-stand was usually placed below the hip area, but in some cases was placed near the head or feet. The stand is holding the head of a goat in one case.
Remains of a burnt brick wall with a finished inner surface ran along the eastern side of the burial.[web 8]
— S. K. Manjul, ASI director (excavations)
Trial excavations conducted at Sinauli in March–May 2018 (about 100 m from the 2005-06 site) have yielded the remains of several coffin burials and three full-sized carts.[web 5] According to ASI director (excavations) Sanjay Manjul the burials may belong to the period c. 2000 - 1800 BCE, contemporaneous with the Late Harappan culture but belonging to the Ochre-coloured pottery (OCP)/Copper Hoard Culture.[web 1][web 5] Other discoveries include copper helmets, copper antenna swords, copper swords, a ladle made of copper, grey-ware pottery, large terracotta pots, red vases with flaring rims, copper nails and beads.[web 5][web 9] Wooden coffins were first discovered at Harappa in Punjab and then from Dholavira in Gujarat.[web 11] Local youths, after being given a basic training, were also enlisted into the excavation activities by the ASI.[web 7]
Coffin Burial finds
Seven human burials - including three coffin burials - have been excavated by the ASI at Sinauli in 2018.[web 5] In all burials the head was found to be on the northern side, with pottery beyond the head and on the south after the feet. The copper objects are kept below the "sarcophagi."[web 5]
Coffin Burial I: Primary burial (2.4 m long and 40 cm high). Alongside two full-sized carts. No remains of a draught animal(s) - horse or bull - is found. The wooden parts of the coffin are decomposed.[web 5]
The wooden coffin stands on four wooden legs. The entire coffin, including legs, is covered with copper sheets (3mm thickness) on all sides.[web 5] The sides of the coffin have running floral motifs. The copper sheet on the legs also has intricate carvings.[web 5] The coffin lid has eight motifs carved (high relief) on it. It depicts either a person with a headgear (made of two bull horns and a pipal leaf in the centre) or a bull head.[web 5]
Body of an adult man inside the coffin: oriented in NW-SE direction (head facing NW).[web 5]
Carts: carts have two solid wheels (not spoked).[note 1] The wheels rotated on a fixed axle linked by a shaft to the yoke. The chassis of the two cart are made of wood and covered with thick copper sheets.[web 5] The wheels are decorated with triangles made of copper (fastened on the wheel with copper nails). The triangles are distributed in three concentric circles from the hub flange of the wheel. The seat seemed to semi-circular. The frame of the seat is made of copper pipes. A pipe for the attachment of the umbrella is also visible.[web 5]
Coffin Burial II: The third cart was found with another wood coffin burial. The pit also included a shield (decorated with geometrical patterns in copper), a torch, an antenna sword, a digger, hundreds of beads and a variety of pots.[web 5] The cart, unlike the ones found in the other two, has (copper triangle) decorations on the pole and yoke.[web 5]
Coffin Burial III: Skeleton of a woman (primary burial, coffin burial with no copper lid): wearing an armlet (made of banded agate beads around the elbow). Burial goods: 10 red vases with flared rims, four bowls, two basins, and a thin antenna sword.[web 5]
Interpretation of the Coffin Burial finds
The carts[note 1] were presented by Sanjay Kumar Manjul, director of the excavations and of ASI, as chariots used in war, similar to Indo-Aryan technology.[web 5][web 3][note 4] According to Manjul, "For the first time in the Indian subcontinent, chariots have been recovered from any excavation," coming from a royal burial from the Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP)/Copper Hoard Culture.[web 5] Manjul further noted that "the rituals relating to the Sanauli burials showed close affinity with Vedic rituals,"[web 5] and stated that "the dating of the Mahabharata is around 1750 BCE."[web 12]
Suggesting the presence of horses in India before the arrival of the Indo-Aryans, some see this as a challenge to the Indo-Aryan migration theory.[web 3][web 4][note 2] Yet, the identification as "chariot" is problematic, since the wheels were solid, not spoked as in chariots.[web 3][web 4] This would require oxes to pull the heavy carts, which were unfit for use in battle, in contrast to the horse-pulled chariots introduced by the Indo-Aryans.[web 3][web 4][note 6] According to Michael Witzel, rejecting the identification as chariots, "[t]his find may point to the survival of an extra-Harappan organized society." According to Asko Parpola, the carts must have been ox-pulled, and are indications of an early Aryan migration of Proto-Indo-Iranian speaking people into the Indian subcontinent, "forming then the ruling elite of a major Late Harappan settlement,"[note 3] predating the migrations of pre- and proto-Rig Vedic people. Parpola:
It seems, then, that the earliest Aryan-speaking immigrants to South Asia, the Copper Hoard people, came with bull-drawn carts (Sanauli and Daimabad) via the BMAC and had Proto-Indo-Iranian as their language. They were, however, soon followed (and probably at least partially absorbed) by early Indo-Aryans [...] The dramatic new discovery of cart burials dated to c. 1900 at Sanauli [...] support my proposal of a pre-Ṛgvedic wave (now set of waves) of Aryan speakers arriving in South Asia and their making contact with the Late Harappans.
The finds have also been popularly associated with the Hindu Epics, as the carts evoke similarities with chariots in the Epic narratives,[web 3] and local legends tell that Sinauli is one of the five villages that god Krishna unsuccessfully negotiated with the Kaurava princes to avoid the War at Kurukshetra.[web 7]
The village also has a Jain temple which is believed to be around 200 years old. There is only one vedi and the moolnayak pratima (main idol) is of Bhagwan Chandraprabhu Swami, the eighth Teerthankara. The temple also has many handwritten manuscripts preserved since long. A grand pooja is held in the temple on 2 October every year.
- These carts dubbed as "chariots" does not however have any spokes on the wheels like the chariots(Sanskrit: Ratha) mentioned in Vedic literature.
- Recently, in the documentary "Secrets of Sinauli" by Neeraj Pandey, aired exclusively in India since 9 February 2021 by Discovery Plus, it's claimed[by whom?] that there are "evidences (such as, size of the wheel, space in the chariot, chassis, pole, etc.) that show these were advanced and sophisticated light-weight chariots, with a D shaped chassis built for warfare, to be pulled forth by horses: again saved because of the extensive use of copper on them".[web 13]
- According to archaeologist Akinori Uesugi (2018, p. 6)
Ochre Coloured Pottery culture (c. 1900-1300 BCE), to which Sinauli's burials belong, was a Late Harappan expansion of the previous Bara style (c. 2300-1900), a regional culture of the Harappan Civilization from the Ghaggar valley, calling it the Bara-OCP cultural complex:
"During the early second millennium BCE, the Bara-OCP (Ochre-Coloured pottery) cultural complex expanded from the Ghaggar valley to the western part of the Ganga valley. This cultural complex [...] has its origin rooted in the Indus Civilization in the preceding period, its eastward expansion indicates the colonization of the western Ganga valley probably giving great impetus to the Neolithic-Chalcolithic communities in the Ganga valley to transform into a more complex society."
- "On being asked whether bull or horse was used in chariots, Manjul said, “This is debatable, it could be a bull or a horse, but having said that the preliminary understanding points to the horse. The chariot is a lookalike of the ones found in its contemporary cultures like Mesopotamia. It is a solid wheel with no spokes."[web 14]
- Eram Agha: "The horse driven chariots are known in the Vedic period, said historian DN Jha. “However, iron makes appearance in the post Vedic or not earlier than the late Vedic period. This find cannot be dated to the pre-Vedic/Harappa phase,” said Jha."[web 6]
- There is a strong scholarly consensus that horses were "brought to India," and the claim that horses were present in India before the arrival of the Indo-Aryans is "widely disbelieved" by scholars.[web 3]
- Printed sources
- Friese, Kai (2019), "The Complications of Genetics", Which Of Us Are Aryans, ALEPH
- Parpola, Asko (2020). "ROYAL "CHARIOT" BURIALS OF SANAULI NEAR DELHI AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CORRELATES OF PREHISTORIC INDO-IRANIAN LANGUAGES". Studia Orientalia Electronica. 8: 176.
- Singh, Upinder (2008), A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Delhi: Pearson Education India
- Uesugi, Akinori (2018), "An Overview on the Iron Age in South Asia", Abstracts for the International Symposium on the Iron Age in South Asia, June 2 and 3, 2018, at Kansai University, Osaka
- Witzel, Michael (2019), "Early ' Aryans' and their neighbors outside and inside India", J Biosci (2019) 44:58, doi:10.1007/s12038-019-9881-7
- Rai, Sandeep (6 June 2018). ""ASI unearths 'first-ever' physical evidence of chariots in Copper Bronze Age". The Times of India.
- Sethi, Atul (1 July 2006). "Grave Secrets of Sinauli". The Times of India.
- Shoaib Daniyal (2018), Putting the horse before the cart: What the discovery of 4,000-year-old ‘chariot’ in UP signifies, Scroll.in
- Devdutt Pattanaik (2020), Who is a Hindu? The missing horse of Baghpat, MumbaiMirror
- Subramanian, T. S. (28 September 2018). "Royal burial in Sanauli". Frontline.
- Eram Agha (june 05, 2018), In a First, Chariot From Pre-Iron Age Found During Excavation in UP's Sanauli, news18.com
- Narayanan, P. M. (11 June 2018). "ASI-Excavated Sanauli Chariots Have Potential To Challenge Aryan Invasion Theory". Outlook.
- "Excavations - 2006-2007". Archaeological Survey of India. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
- ASI Claims to Have Found Harappan-Era 'Chariots' at Excavation Site in UP, The Wire, 8 June 2018
- "India's largest known burial site is 3,800 yrs old, confirms carbon dating - Times of India". The Times of India. The Times of India. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
- Subramanian, T. S. "From the Bara culture: R.S. Bisht". Frontline. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
- Vasudha Venugopal ET bureau, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/mahabharata-much-older-say-asi-archaeologists/articleshow/71658119.cms Mahabharata much older, say ASI Archaeologists , The Economic Times
- Financial Express, (17 February 2021). "Secrets of Sinauli: Manoj Bajpayee, Neeraj Pandey’s Discovery Plus show is must watch for Indian history buffs".
- Archana Jyoti (Tuesday, 05 June 2018), 2000BC chariots set to redefine Mahabharata age