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Updated: January 30, 2010 20:53 IST

25,000 year-old ostrich eggshells found in Rajasthan

Special Correspondent
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Amateur archaeologist Om Prakash Sharma showing ancient dice that he discovered in Bundi district, at Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur. Photo Rohit Jain Paras.
The Hindu Amateur archaeologist Om Prakash Sharma showing ancient dice that he discovered in Bundi district, at Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur. Photo Rohit Jain Paras.

Fragments of prehistoric ostrich eggshells estimated to be 25,000 years old and earthen dice belonging to the Kushan period are the latest additions to the treasure trove of archaeological objects discovered in Bundi district of Rajasthan. The findings are set to throw a new light on the hoary past of the Hadauti region which is believed to have sustained an ancient civilisation.

Amateur archaeologist Om Prakash Sharma alias Kukki, who has made the spectacular discoveries, was honoured at the Republic Day ceremony of the State Government’s Directorate of Archaeology at Albert Hall Museum here on January 26.

Mr. Kukki – a barely literate grocer with a passion for the artefacts of yore – has discovered rock paintings belonging to Mesolilithic-Chalcolithic age and numismatic objects and tools of copper age and the Mauryan and post-Gupta period in the vast hilly tracts of Bundi, Kota and Bhilwara districts during the past two decades.

Mr. Kukki, who brought the rare findings with him, told The Hindu here that he stumbled upon the ostrich eggshells in the ravines of Nangli river, 35 km from Bundi, about three months ago. These eggshells most probably belong to a single egg as they were collected from a small area and are similar in colour, thickness and morphology.

The amateur archaeologist pointed out that the Asian ostrich or Struthio asiaticus, earlier found in the region between Central Asia and China, had become extinct around the end of the last ice age. The latest finding proves that ostrich inhabited this part of the country in the prehistoric times.

The extinct Asian ostrich probably behaved much like the ostrich of today, Struthio camelus, which is now found predominantly in Africa and is the largest living species of bird. The ostrich is also farmed around the world particularly for its feathers which are decorative and are used for feather dusters.

Mr. Kukki said the radiocarbon dating of the eggshell fragments found by him could help determine their age. Asian ostrich probably went extinct because of changing climate, shifting habitat and overexploitation by humans.

The previous findings of ostrich eggshells in Hadauti region are recorded in Baran district in the middle 1970’s by V.S. Wakankar and at Chandresal village in Kota district in 1980’s by another researcher.

Mr. Kukki said he discovered about 20 earthen dice from the mounds at Richcha Ki Jhonpriya hamlet, 34 km from Bundi, at the end of the previous monsoon season, when the soil from the mounds shifted naturally. “The small cubes are tastefully designed with lines, which probably denote the number assigned to each of them,” he said.

The dice, used on the chessboard for the indoor games of chance, belong to the Kushan period of 1{+s}{+t} to 3{+r}{+d} century A.D. Mr. Kukki affirmed that if the sand mounds in the region were excavated, the traces of an ancient civilisation and human habitation could be found, which could connect the missing links in the Indian history.

Mr. Kukki is currently working on a project sanctioned to him by the Directorate of Archaeology for documentation of ancient rock paintings in Bundi district, including those in the Gararda region facing the threat of submergence in water stored for a dam. There are about 55 sites in Bundi where the rock art provides a glimpse of the flora and fauna of the prehistoric era.

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