It did not follow correct archaeological procedure

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) “did not follow the correct archaeological procedure” in initiating digging at the dilapidated Raja Ram Baksh Singh fort in the Daundia Khera village of Unnao and was now “trapped in justifying its fault,” a highly placed Central government official said on Wednesday.

“They have worked on the Baba’s [Seer Shobhan Sarkar] theory. It is not based on any archaeological principle. They have put aside all scientific methods,” the official, also a senior archaeologist, told The Hindu, requesting anonymity.

An exercise to establish the referred literature should have been done, followed by a recce of the area and another geological exploration conducting ground penetration radar, before the digging, he suggested.

“It is today possible to determine the location in a pin pointed manner, through scanning and underneath metal detection. The longitude and latitude can tell us of the exact spot.”

‘Excavation is not done on basis of depth’

The ASI initiated the digging at the site in the Buxar area after Shobhan Sarkar, head priest of the Shobhan temple, claimed to have dreamt of 1,000 tonnes of gold lying buried under the ruins of the fort. The ASI has so far dug up to 4.8 metres (around 16 feet) below the surface in the existing site and reached a level of Kankar formation. But that is of little significance, the official claims, as excavation is not done on the basis of depth but on contour.

“Digging is done in a north-south orientation, at the highest mound usually. This is to ensure that entire periods of history, the stratum, are determined. If it was a regular archaeological exploration, this procedure should have been followed.”

Pointing to the fact that the ASI had unearthed artefacts belonging to the Kushan period, the official said that was indicative of the “hurried” manner of the digging, stemming from the controversy the issue had created and “compulsions” of the seer.

“The ASI would have first found things belonging to the other ages that came before 1857, like the Mughals and the Sultanate. From 1857, they have gone straight to the Kushan period [1st century onwards]. The right procedure has not been followed,” he said.

According to the official, the ASI team had reached a level (the Kankar formation), which is archaeologically called the ‘virgin soil,’ and anything found in it would be of geological importance but not of any archaeological value. “This is a zone of non-organic [non-human] activity. You could find anything here, minerals, silica, even ores, but nothing for archaeology.”

To find property from 1857, as was being touted, digging must be started at the top of the mound, he said. To the ASI’s claims that it was not digging for gold but for other important artefacts, the official said that the place was “never a site of historical-archaeological importance” and there was no basis for prioritising it.

On the GSI report that claimed that there was metal underneath the dilapidated fort, the official said that it could be cannons or swords. Meanwhile, the digging, which was interrupted on Wednesday, will resume on Thursday.

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