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Cover Story

Grave danger to 3500 BC cemetery

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REMAINS OF THE DAY: Out of the 70 graves found at Samian, only two are in safe custody. Villagers have threatened not to allow further digs

One of civilisation's oldest graves was discovered with much fanfare last year in Haryana. Now, it lies abandoned with landowners filling parts of the site with mud.

Last year in March, the largest cemetery of the Harappan period was discovered in a quaint Rohtak village. The biggest ancient burial site till date, the excavation was seen as one of the most significant breakthroughs in South Asian history and is now listed for World Heritage status.

The discovery of the cemetery at Samian village, which has about 70 graves going back to 3000-3500 BC, by archeologists of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto (Japan), Deccan College, Pune, and Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, generated so much excitement that the Haryana Archeological Department initiated a move to declare the 9-acre plot a protected site and to speed up the acquisition process. But in a strange and unfortunate twist to the landmark findings, the site, just a year after it was discovered, has now been abandoned following the landowners' refusal to allow archaeologists to carry out further excavation. The state government in Haryana, like elsewhere, has been able to do little to protect the historic place. The landowners have not only refused permission to go ahead with the work, but have refilled the excavated sites with earth.

An official of the archeology department told TOI-Crest that though the authorities concerned visited the site after the row and have decided to take control of the plot, a final decision is yet to be taken. The move to declare the site protected is also still in process. "We cannot forcibly proceed with the excavation without notifying the site under the Punjab Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1964, " he says in defence.

Citing helplessness, an archeologist from MD University, Manmohan Kumar, says, "The owner of the land was willing to sell off the plot if the state government wanted. For now, though, we have no option but to back out. The site is lying unattended. "
Kumar says the team had successfully exhumed two skeletal remains from the graveyard. One of these is with the Deccan College while the other is being preserved at their museum. But the rest are likely to get destroyed in the absence of preservation, he warns.

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