Burzahom : Ancient Kashmir and its Dogs
Burzahom : Ancient Kashmir and its Dogs
The most Ancient remains of human settlement discovered in Kashmir are at a place called Burzahom near Srinagar. It is a settlement from the Neolithic Period and transits to the ancient period ranging from 8000 BC to around 1000 BC. It was discovered in 1935 and the excavations were done over a period of time and the excavations have been in three stages, NP III corresponding to the later period, NP II to the middle period and NP I to the earliest period. The Site is currently on Unesco World Heritage Watch List and it might get the status of a World Heritage Site in the future maybe.
As per the UNESCO "The Neolithic Site of Burzahom in the district of Srinagar, India brings to light transitions in human habitation patterns from Neolithic Period to Megalithic period to the early Historic. From transition in architecture to development in tool-making techniques to introduction and diffusion of lentil in North-Western India, the site of Burzahom is a unique comprehensive storyteller of life between 3000 BC to 1000 BC.
Archaeologist have excavated subterranean dwellings as well as burial pits at Burzahom. One of the most famous Work of art discovered at the site is a scene painted on a stone which shows the Burzahomese on a hunt. There are two hunters and a Deer and along with them is their best friend, yes you guessed it right, a Dog. And also interestingly the scene depicts two suns. As per the scientists the this is the first instance of a supernova being recorded in ancient times. Which of course makes this indeed a very interesting find.
Dogs it seems held a special status in the Burzahom culture. Dogs, Wolves and Ibex seemed to hold a special significance as burial pits containing their skeletons have been found. More interestingly a couple of burial pits have been discovered where the Dog is buried right next to the master within the compounds of the dwelling units. There is even an instance of Dogs buried in two layers one above another. Unlike in NP I where no burial remains have been found, in NP II culture many such burial pits have been found. This points out to the growth of a belief system and a transition to the ancient age from the Neolithic period.
Interestingly this Dog burial culture is similar to the Shilka culture, for whom the Dog was almost a cult animal, around the Shilka River which is a tributary to the Amur River in Siberia bordering Mongolia as well as other such cultures of the Gilyaks, Ulchis and Goldis where till recent history Dogs were sacrificed and buried with their owners. Probably to serve them in the their afterlife as well. It surely sounds cruel in today's time and age and actually it is but in that time and age it made sense to those people to send a dead man's best friend along with him to the next world. where animals were sacrificed as well and buried along with the person.
The pottery found at the site seemingly has a great similarity to similar remains found in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. And as mentioned earlier the burials practices and the type of tools found have been inferred as having close resemblance to those found in North Chinese Neolithic cultures which borders Siberia as well as Mongolia.
This practice is not seen anywhere in India. This again points out to the fact that Kashmir was the place where Central Asia met the Indian subcontinent. UNESCO also states that ' The results of excavations have provided dynamics of interchange of ideas between Central Asian and Southwest Asia through the Valley of Kashmir which acted as a bridge between higher Himalayas and beyond on one hand, and the Gangetic Plains and Peninsular India on the other hand during the third millenium BC. The interaction of local and foreign influences are demonstrated by the art, architecture, customs and rituals as also possibly by the language as demonstrated by some graffiti marks on pottery and others"
Historian M K Kaw in his book "Kashmir and its People : Studies in the Evolution of Kashmiri Society" writes " It is also clear that the Dog had a special place for the Burzahomese right from the day he settled in the Valley. This is further substantiated with the finding of a burial in period NP II where the Dog is buried with the owner in the house floor, preferably the compound. He has depicted him in the engraving on the stone slab already stated earlier. The Dog guarded his herd and helped him in pursuing the hunt on which his sustenance depended "
As of today the Dog is thriving. Thriving too much according to some people. And Srinagar is full of feral Dogs. Of all the cities I have been to I have never seen such a great number of Dogs in any other city. Another fact that I think is responsible is that people in Kashmir consume a great deal of meat. And of course a lot of this gets wasted and consumed by these Dogs and hence due to the availability of meat they thrive. Some people also put the blame on the political situation but I would rather not go there.
But of course that doesn't change facts about the importance of the Dog in the Burzahom Culture. And the fact that we have been friends for a very long time.
I am using 4 pics to highlight the Story as it is an important one which needs to be told and people made aware ( If you think you have a story which needs to be told with multiple pics please contact the Admins.)
Main pic from February 2018. Srinagar, Kashmir
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