Many ancient tools and human skeletons believed to have been taken from Kashmir during the 1970s are set to return from the National Museum, New Delhi. The artefacts including stone and bone tools, skeletons, and pottery items with their exquisite shape and carvings date back to the late third millennium BC and had been under the possession of the National Museum.
They are expected to return to Srinagar and will be put on display at the SPS Museum.
Deputy Director at the Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, J&K, Mushtaq Ahmad Beigh said the artefacts from the Neolithic period were treasure findings from Kashmir and show many influences and habitation patterns in Kashmir.
“These artefacts found at Burzahom are the missing link of SPS museum and I think our museum will be complete once we put these items for display," he said.
These were found during the excavation started by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) from 1960 to 1970 and later taken to the National Museum for study.
In March, the officials of the department had already identified and selected the items to be repatriated from the National Museum. Now, they are waiting for the other formalities to be completed for a safe return.
These antiquities hold great importance in terms of history, archaeology, and culture to J&K as the Burzahom is a protected site by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The repatriation comes after years of the chase by the Department of Archives, Archaeology, and Museums and several official communications with ASI.
The SPS museum officials also insisted it had long planned for the return of these artefacts.
“We are very pleased that the treasure will return to their place of origin,” said Rabia Qureshi, the museum curator.
“We have already kept a dedicated section for these artefacts in our Archaeology Gallery. More space can be created once the items reach here,” she said.
The Burzahom is a Neolithic site situated in the district of Srinagar which brings to light transitions in human habitation patterns from the Neolithic Period to the Megalithic period to the Early Historic period. From transition in architecture to development in tool-making techniques to introduction and diffusion of lentils in north-western India, the site of Burzahom is a unique comprehensive storyteller of life between 3000 BCE to 1000 BCE.
As per the UNESCO report, the remains of the site document the gradual change in the nature of dwelling spaces among early societies. “From subterranean dwelling pits, the evidence in the site shows the emergence of mud-structures, thereon mud-bricks constructions on level ground. The range of tools recovered from the site shows the evolution in tool making Neolithic men skilled hunters and their knowledge in applying the implements for cultivation.”
“Several pottery shards of steel grey, dull red, brown, or buff have been recovered from the pits as one of the material remains. Crude in the finish, the continuity of these types of crude pottery can be seen in today's Kashmir,” the report said.
Apart from pottery, bones and stone tools like harpoons, needles with or without eyes, awls used probably for stitching skins, spear-points, arrow-heads and daggers for hunting game, scrapers for treating skins, stone axes, chisels, adzes, pounders, mace-heads, points and picks were used by the Neolithic settlers in this period. Apart from the stone, antlers were also used for tool production. This layer is marked by the absence of any burial system as well as cultivation.
The ASI has also written a detailed account of the excavation at Burzahom and the items recovered from the site. The details have been compiled in a 464-page report by a leading archaeologist of India and Additional Director General ASI RS Fonia.