An Archaeological Tour in Gedrosia
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An Archaeological Tour in Gedrosia

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Item Code: NAL460
Author: Sir Aurel Stein
Publisher: Archaeological Survey of India
Language: English
Edition: 1999
Pages: 303 (87 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.5 inch x 8.5 inch
Weight 1 kg
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The explorations described in this report formed the continuation and necessary complement of the tour which in the early portion of 1927 had taken me along the North-West Frontier fro, the Kurram river down through Waziristan and the northern districts of Baluchistan. In the introductory remarks of the Memoir dealing with the results of this tour I have had already occasion to refer to the reasons which had prompted me in 1925 to propose to Sir John Marshall an archaeological reconnaissance of the Indo-Iranian border lands comprised within the limits of British Baluchistan. Foremost among these reasons was the special interest bound to be attracted to this wide and in an antiquarian sense as yet little known region through the important discoveries attending the excavations carried out under Sir Join Marshall’s direction at the sites of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. The area of the prehistoric civilization thus revealed on the lower Indus had extended also into the hill tracts adjoining wastwards, as was conclusively proved by the abundant finds of interest which had rewarded Mr. Hargreaves’ thorough exploration in 1924 of a burial ground of chalcolithic times at Nal in the territory of the Kalat State.

Search of prehistoric remains west of Indus-It had been recognized almost from the first that there were unmistakable links between what is almost from the first that there were unmistakable links between what is now conveniently designated as the early Indus civilization and the remains brought to light from certain prehistoric sites of Iran and Mesopotamia Apparent similarities noticed between the characters, as yet undeciphered, on seals from Mohenjo-daro and Harappa and those of the earliest Sumerian script would necessarily help to direct attention to the possibility of a line of closer relations having lain through the territories which stretch from the terminal course of the Indus to the head of the Persian Gulf. Of these territories the easternmost, extending from the Indus for upwards of 300 miles towards the Persian border, and once forming part of ancient Gedrosia, are now included in the Kalat State under the control of the Baluchistan administration. Hence a systematic search on this ground for remains of prehistoric settlements continuing the chain westwards distinctly recommended itself as both useful and practicable.

Interest of ancient Gedrosia.-It was into that useful and practicable. Of Gedrosia which comprises the territories of Kharan, Makran and Jhalawan, between the Arabian Sea in the south and the deserts adjoining Afghanistan in the north, that I had wished to extend the investigation started at the beginning of 1927 far away in the north near the confines of ancient Gandhara. The effective support of Sir John Marshall secured the approval of the Government of India also for this portion of my programme, first broached, first broached in 1925, together with an adequate grant for its execution.

Apart from the special archaeological interest already indicated there were consideration of a geographical and historical order which made the opportunity thus generously afforded particularly welcome to me. On the one side there appeared good reason to hope that close examination of ancient remains traced in a region now so arid and for the most part truly desertic would help to throw fresh light on the much discussed problem of ‘desiccation’ with which I had such ample occasion to concern myself in the course of my Central-Asian explorations. On the other side this ground of ancient Gedrosia, however small its importance economically and politically has been ever since the times of the Achaemenidian empire, had once been the scene of a notable historical episode, Alexander’s famous march through its torrid wastes on his return from India. Notwithstanding much learned speculation concerning the exact route followed by the great conqueror, some topographical details may continue to baffle the critical student even when examined on the ground. But the comparatively ample and trustworthy accounts in our classical sources of the observations made on that hazardous exploit could not fail to be of distinct geographical interest if compared with the present conditions of that region or with those which archaeological evidence might reveal as prevailing in far earlier times.

Sketch of essential geographical facts.-The considerations just referred to, together with the important bearing which the physical features in the areas examined must have upon the interpretation of the ancient remains there traced, have made it advisable to prefix brief of essential geographical facts concerning those areas to the record of my antiquarian observations. Such a sketch has appeared all the more advisable in view of the scantiness of the information which is to be found in a readily accessible form about that remote and in its present condition far attractive region. The conclusions to be drawn from a comparison of these conditions with what he evidence of the earliest traceable remains indicates, may best be comprehensively reviewed in another place.

Help of kalat authorities.-Succinct as the data furnished in this preliminary sketch must needs be, they will suffice to convey some idea of the great extent of the ground which had to be covered by my explorations and of the difficulties to be faced on account of climatic drawbacks, absence of local resources, limitations of time and labour, etc. It would have been quite impossible to meet these difficulties but for the most willing and effective help of the authorities of the Kalat State which was secured to me from the outset through the arrangemrnts kindly made by Colonel T.H. Keyes, C.M.G., C.I.E., Political Agent, Kalat. In preparing the plan I derived the utmost advantage from the shrewd advice of this distinguished political officer who through his prolonged association with the State has acquired exceptional knowledge of all its different parts. The instructions issued on my behalf by Nawab Sir Mir Shams Shah, K.C.I.E., Wazir-i-Azam of Kalat, assured to me throughout whatever assistance in the matter of guidance, transport and labour could be rendered by the local administration in Makran and Jhalawan. In Kharan I enjoyed similar advantages through the help of its chief, Nawab Habibullah Khan.

Great extent of region surveyed.-But notwithstanding all this assistance a reconnaissance survey of ancient of ancient sites scattered over so vast an area, from the drainageless Mashkel basin to the coat of the Arabian Sea and from the Persian border to the southernmost tributaries of the Indus, would have called for several cold weather tours had not the construction during the last few years of tracks practicable for motor transport during the greatest part of the year permitted a saving of time and effort undreamt of before on such trying ground. These tracks owe their existence mainly to Colonel Keyes’ energy. They made it possible for me to move rapidly along the great lateral valleys of Makran, those of Kej and Rakhshan, to wherever ancient sites could be traced in them. Similar facilities for rapid access could thus be gained to the remains of prehistoric settlements in the long-stretched valleys which descend through the hills of Jhalawan towards the sea. the sea. The advantages thus secured were duly set off by the contrast of the long weary marches which had to be done with camels through desert hills or barren plains in order to reach ground of archaeological interest away from those main valleys.

Character and limits of reconnaissance survey.-The circumstances just briefly indicated will explain how possible for me by dint of much hard travel to extend my archaeological survey over an area which taking the whole of the territories together measures some 270 miles from north to south and over 300 miles from east to west. The fact of this survey having to be accomplished in the course of four and a half months will help to account also for the scope and character. Of the object aimed at. It was my endeavour within the limits imposed by the available measure of time and accessibility to examine all ancient remains I could trace on the surface and to determine their general character and relative epoch. Wherever trial excavation seemed advisable for this purpose and local conditions would allow of them, they had to be confined to the measure needed for securing data sufficient to settle essential points. The complete exploration of remains which at some of the sites traced might well claim months, if not seasons, could not come within the purview of my survey. In all such cases I must rest content to have indicated to future excavators the places to which their labours may be directed with advantage, and to leave it to them to supplement or modify the conclusions to which I was led by the observations and the materials obtained in the course of my partial exploration.

Limitations of report.-With regard to the report here presented of the results of my survey I must repeat what I have already stated as to the limitations of my previous report on the explorations in Waziristan and Northern Baluchistan. It has been my endeavour to give a full account of all I was able to observe and note at each surveyed site and by description and illustrations adequately to represent the general character of the archaeological materials secured there. But neither the range of my competence nor the time available to me for the preparation of this report will permit of my attempting here a systematic analysis of these abundant materials.

Prehistoric remains; lack of chronological control.-They are almost exclusively remains of prehistoric civilization and consequently and consequently lack chronological control by datable finds. Well marked variations of style exhibited by the plentiful decorated ceramic wares, mainly painted, clearly betoken different periods of deposit. Indications from modifications of design, colour, etc., in these wares as well as protracted observations on the ground as to implements, structural materials, burial customs and the like have led me to form some quasi-empirical conclusions as to the sequence of these periods. But definite stratigraphic evidence as regards all these remains is still scanty.Hence it appears to me that their systematic classification must await on the one hand expert examination of the ceramic materials in respect of their technique and fabric apart from decorative design, and on the other close comparison of the same with corresponding relics from other archaeological fields.

Comparison of ceramic remains.-My acquaintance with the latter is restricted to the pottery remains recovered by me from wind-eroded sites in the desert delta of Sistan and from the debris mounds explored by me on the Waziristan border and in Northern Baluchistan during my tour of 1927. In the case of both these areas the painted potted pottery generally assignable to chalcolithic times shows very close affinity with the ceramic wares from different sites examined in Makran and Jhalawan. But without evidence of stratification is is not possible there definitely to trace successive stages of development. The plentiful and well preserved funerary pottery from Nal which I know for the present only from Mr. Hargreaves’ very instructive preliminary report on his excavations of 1924 and from the specimens of earlier finds deposited in the quetta Museum, represents, as far as I can judge, a single characteristic type since found by me also at several of the sites to be described below.


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