Destruction Of Kashmir’s Burzahom Civilization Site Shows That We Need To Up Our Archaeology Game

Aiswarya Anil
·4-min read

India is a treasure trove for numerous historical sites and artefacts. The subcontinent has a very diverse and dynamic cultural history, considering how it has witnessed a confluence of multitudes of religions, traditions and native values.

The Indian subcontinent has also been home to one of the greatest and most renowned civilizations in history – the Indus Valley Civilization. However, while learning mainstream history, we often forget to mention and remember other gems that have also left a mark on history.

A picture from the site of the Burzahom Civilization, Kashmir
A picture from the site of the Burzahom Civilization, Kashmir

Burzahom Civilization, located in present-day Kashmir, is one such civilization that has not been taught in national history textbooks. It is one of the few sites in India that has made it to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. However, this entry has become tentative as of 2019 due to certain reasons.

It has been neglected not just from memory, but also from its physical preservation.

What Was The Burzahom Civilization?

The Burzahom Civilization belongs to the Neolithic period and used to be one of the most preserved sites in India. It was unearthed and explored by a Yale-Cambridge team during the 1930s and was eventually brought under the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1960s.

Also Read: What’s The Connection Between Pencils And The Pulwama District Of Kashmir?

Numerous ancient artefacts such as pots and underground winter homes have been excavated from the site, all dating back to 3000 BC. Burzahom has been recognised as a bridge between Central Asia and India, with evidence showing that it was connected to Harappa in Pakistan.

An excavated work of pottery from the Burzahom site
An excavated work of pottery from the Burzahom site

It used to be a crucial part of what is called “Kashmiriyat,” but not anymore.

What Led To Burzahom’s Neglect?

Saleem Beg, who used to be the chairperson of the National Monuments Authority and is the current Convener of Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage of Kashmir, states that the ASI, or the Archaeological Survey of India, is to be blamed for the complete abandonment of the site.

Local offices of the ASI in Srinagar took over the responsibility of these sites. However, when militancy started peaking in the area in the 1990s, these offices had to shift. While other government offices came back, the ASI never did.

An old picture of the Burzahom site
An old picture of the Burzahom site

According to him, the neglect is not just associated with Srinagar’s ASI but the archaeological system of the entire country.

What Happened To The Site Now?

With no supervision, the site was open for children to play cricket. There wasn’t even a sign that kept out trespassers or indicated the importance of the site! Eventually, the site was turned into a cricket field where thousands of spectators come to watch the annual T20 Premier League. It’s called the Burzahom Premier League!

People put up tents on the site during the cricket league
People put up tents on the site during the cricket league

The site was levelled out, which damaged the entire integrity of the excavations. People now pitch tents and park their vehicles in the area. This may have caused irreducible damage to all the skeletons and megaliths that were unearthed in the past.

While there was no tar road to the entrance of the site when it was historically significant, the government has now installed one to make the cricket field more accessible. It is saddening that nobody understands the significance of historical preservation.

In Conclusion

While it is disappointing that India has a weak archaeological system, there also needs to be more awareness among people. If the pressure from people can increase, then the government will be forced to take drastic steps to up the country’s archaeological resources.

Dr Ajmal Shah, archaeologist and professor at Kashmir University, has started a petition on change.org that calls for the protection of Burzahom. Click here to sign it.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: Live History India, Economic Times, Greater Kashmir

Find the blogger: @aiswaryanil

This post is tagged under: indus valley civilisation, indian civilisations, burzahom civilisation, harappan civilization, oldest civilizations in the world, neolithic period, megalithics, pottery, ancient artefacts, ancient pottery, indian archaeology, archaeological survey of india, ancient heritage, customs and traditions, skeletons, archaeological excavations, cricket ground, burzahom cricket league, what are some threatened heritage sites in india, kashmiriyat, travel sites in kashmir, ancient places in kashmir

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