Overview of Wari-Bateshwar
Wari-Bateshwar a significant archaeological site in Bangladesh. Located three kilometres west of Belabo thana of Narshingdi district, Wari (Wari) and Bateshwar (Bateshvar) are two contiguous villages long known for being the find-spot of silver punch-marked coins in Bengal. The villages are situated on the Pleistocene flat surface of the eastern Madhupur tract. A small dried-up river, called Kayra, flows in an east west direction on the northern side of the villages. The landscape of the area suggests that during an early historic period the old Brahmaputra river used to flow near the village. The river has now shifted a few kilometres eastward. The Meghna flows only a few kms to the south of this area and the Arial Khan flows into it. The location of the two villages on a comparatively high, flood-free ground; their proximity to the old Brahmaputra, and access to the Meghna add significance to the site.
Md Hanif Pathan, a schoolteacher, first brought the archaeological importance of the villages to light in 1933. Later his son Md Habibullah Pathan, an amateur archaeologist took initiative to collect antiquities and study them. Sporadic explorations had revealed that the major part of Wari and Bateshwar villages was occupied in the ancient period. Signs of ancient settlements are noticed in the surrounding villages namely, Raingertek, Sonarutala, Kandua, Monjal, Chandipara, Patuli, Jaymangal, Harisangan, Jessore, Kundapara, Gotashia, and Abdullanagar. Hundreds and thousands of semi-precious stone beads, glass beads, Iron artifacts, silver punch-marked coins and many minor artifacts have been reported from the region from time to time. Unfortunately, all the artifacts were chance finds. They came out during ploughing of fields, digging ponds and other domestic activities and during rainy season when rainwater washes away the topsoil.
Recently important discoveries were made during a small-scale excavation at Wari. Among the discoveries a sherd of Rouletted Ware, a piece of Knobbed Ware, good number of Northern Black Polish Ware, Black-slipped Ware, common ceramics, a few semi-precious stone beads, chips, flakes and cores of semi- precious stone beads, melted pieces of iron, sign of fallen mud-wall and signs of some sort of burning activity are very significant.
The discovery of tiny parts like chips and flakes of semi-precious stones clearly prove the existence of semi-precious stone bead manufacturing centre at Wari. The flakes are produced out of primary chipping or dressing cores. The exotic beads at Wari -Bateshwar region are objects of a bye-gone art and bear silent but eloquent testimony to the marvelous artistic skill attained by the Wari-Bateshwar people. The raw materials are not available within present Bangladesh; possibly it had to be collected from outside.
A large number of iron artifacts, eg iron blooms/ handaxes (?), spearheads, knives, nails and slugs were reported earlier. Recently nails, slugs, melted tiny missing parts and unidentified iron objects were discovered from the excavation. Although furnace has not been encountered in the small-scale excavation but some signs of firing activity could be noticed. Burnt bricks like clay lumps, result of a high temperature burning, were discovered. It is likely that there was an iron smelting industry in and around the site. Iron objects were found at Wari in NBPW level also. The time bracket of NBPW from different sites of the subcontinent varies from c 700 to 100 BC or 50 AD.
A part of fallen mud-wall has been found in NBPW level. The discovery is very significant because it reveals the long tradition of mud-wall architecture in the region in particular and in Bengal in general. This mud-wall is possibly the earliest evidence of architecture in Bangladesh. However, brick structures (brick size, 32 x 30 x 6 cm) are also found in the region. The religious nature of Wari-Bateshwar habitation is not very clear. The discovery of a Knobbed Ware at Wari hints at the existence of Buddhist practice in the region.
Considering the geographical location of Wari-Bateshwar, Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti predicted that the region had Southeast Asiatic and Roman contacts. The discovery of Rouletted Ware and Knobbed Ware from excavation and the chance finds of high-tin Bronze Knobbed Ware, sandwiched glass beads, gold-foil glass beads and Indo-Pacific monochrome glass beads provide support in favour of Chakrabarti's assumption. Chakrabarti went one step further and tried to identify Wari-Bateshwar with Ptolemy's Sounagoura. Peter Francis Jr reports Indo-Pacific Monochrome glass beads from Arikamedu (India), Mantai (Sri Lanka), Kion Thom (Tailand) and Oc-Eo (Vietnam) - each of these sites was the first urban centre in their respective regions. They were each major ports, all have been identified as emporia listed in Ptolemy' Geugraphia. The location of Wari-Bateshwar carries all the characteristics of Ptolemy's sites. Indo Pacific Monochrome glass beads were found here, it was possibly the first urban centre in the region, it was a port city and it might have had trade relations with many other cities.
It has been inferred that Wani-Bateshwar was the eastern most limit of the Mauryan Empire. The recent discovery of NBPW from excavation has provided positive support in favour of this hypothesis. It has been argued by scholars that the wide distribution of NBPW is concomitant with Mauryan imperialism. The discovery of NBPW is significant for the understanding of Buddhism and trade routes also.
The excavation has placed Wari-Bateshwar in the early historic period. The C 14 dates have pushed back the chronology of Wari to 450 BC. The Northern Black Polished Ware, Rouletted Ware and Knobbed Ware are chronology markers of the Early Historic period. The numerous NBPW sites of the Subcontinent are placed between circa 700 to 100 BC or 50 AD, Rouletted Wares to circa 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD and Knobbed Ware to 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD.
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