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Home > Discover Jaipur > City Lifestyle > Rewriting History

- the lost civilization

Rewriting History. Not as the politicians would like to in our history texts, but in order to set the record of the growth of villages and cities in the world straight.

Up until now, the first major urban settlements in the world were believed to have appeared in the ancient river valleys of Mesopotamia around 4000-3500 B.C. Then came the Nile Valley civilization in Egypt. This was followed by the Indus Valley civilization, which flourished around 2500 B.C. Now suddenly the lost city of Cambay throws up the possibility of a civilization that predates the oldest known ones by 2000 years! As Dilip Chakrabarti, Cambridge University historian puts it, "it could completely alter all our notions of history".

A chance discovery
As all discoveries, this one too was uncovered by chance. A team of oceanographers from the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai, were trawling the murky sea 30 km off the coast of Gujarat in the Gulf of Cambay, measuring the levels of marine pollution. As part of the routine, they took sonar photographs of the ocean floor. Months later while analyzing the images, they realized they had unknowingly photographed the ruins of a vast city submerged 40m under the sea. So back they went to dredge the site and collected over 2000 artefacts.

When the team first made their revelations public in May last year, many experienced archaeologists brushed their theories aside as poppycock. Besides, they were oceanographers, not archaeologists. Stung by criticism, the team sailed back to the site in November, but this time armed with a robotic vehicle fitted with a video camera, a dredge and a scoop. They also took along marine geologist, S Badrinarayan. Although the camera was not of much use because of the strong underwater currents that churned the waters and made it murky, they were able to haul up tonnes of sludge, from which they retrieved invaluable artefacts.

The Cambay findings could mean that early Indians were not copycats
Delhi University historian, Nayanjot Lahiri says that if the Cambian civilization is proved to be the oldest in the world, that could refute the theory that urbanization spread from West Asia to the Indus and thence downwards to India.

However, there are many interesting questions yet to be answered: Historians have little evidence to show how a predominantly farming community in India took that giant leap forward and built some of the most well-designed cities in the world during the Indus period. Where, for instance did the people of Cambay come from? Were they natives or did they come by sea from West Asia? When did they transit from hunter gatherers to agriculture and a mature urban settlement?

Harvard University historian, Richard Meadow thinks the discovery is important enough to launch an international collaborative study as was done to uncover the sunken ruins of the Titanic.

The task ahead
At a press conference in Delhi, last month, the Union Minister for Human Resources, Murli Manohar Joshi made the team's findings public. The Government will now launch a national multi-disciplinary project to uncover the mysteries that the lost city of Cambay has thrown up.

A host of specialist institutes will assist the NIOT including the ASI, the NIO,Goa, the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, apart from the NGRI, BSIP and a host of universities.

The impact of the discovery will be far reaching. While doubts persist, the findings could revolutionize history. The sunken city of Cambay might well be the oldest in the world, thereby pushing back the age of civilizations by 2000 years.

The most important task at hand now is to conclusively establish the age of the sunken city of Cambay. Once this is done, history might probably have to be rewritten.

Civilizations down the ages

THE MESOPOTAMIAN: Pottery relics from this cradle of civilization date back to 7000 B.C., but urban traces emerge in 5500 B.C. When the Mesopotamians came in 3800 B.C., the tools of civilization were already in existence.

THE AGEAN: The Cretans in 6000 B.C. were farmers and their culture primitive. The 1,500 year long civilization reached its peak in 1800 B.C. under the rule of the legendary King Minos.

THE CHINESE: China cultivation began in 5000 B.C., but the farmers employed primitive techniques and shifted their villages as the soils became exhausted. Permanent settlements emerged only after 1500 B.C.

THE EGYPTIAN: Prior to the Bronze Age, there were a large number of small farming communities in Egypt. It was in 3000 B.C. that a conquering family unified the disparate settlements and set up capital at Memphis.

THE HARAPPAN: The twin cities of the Indus Valley civilization, Harappa and Mohenjodaro, reached their peak in 2500 B.C.

THE CAMBIAN: Dated at 7500 B.C., it could be the oldest civilization yet.

Source: India Today

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