J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2006, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (6): -.DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7909.2006.00329.x

• Research Articles •    

Plant Remains from an Archaeological Site as Indicators of Vegetation and Agricultural Practice Between (3 320 ± 400) and (2 080 ± 80) yr BP in Gangetic West Bengal, India

Ruby Ghosh, Subir Bera, Ashalata D’Rozario, Manju Banerjee and Supriyo Chakraborty   

Abstract: Diverse plant remains recovered from an archaeological site of Chalcolithic-Early Historic age in the Bhairabdanga area of Pakhanna (latitude 23°25''N, longitude 87°23''E), situated on the west bank of the Damodar river, Bankura district, West Bengal, India, include food grains, wood charcoals, and palynomorphs. Radiocarbon dating of the recovered biological remains reveal the age of the site as (3 320 ± 400) to (2 080 ± 80) yr BP. The food grains were identified as Oryza sativa L. and Vigna mungo L, and seeds of Brassica cf. campestris L. were also found; these indicate the agricultural practice and food habits of the ancient people living at Pakhanna from the Chalcolithic to the Early Historic period. Sediments including plant remains have been broadly divided into two zones, considering archaeological findings and radiocarbon dating. Analysis of the plant remains (i.e. wood charcoals and palynomorphs) in addition to cultivated food grains has revealed that a rich vegetation cover existed in this area, with a prevailing tropical and humid climate, comprising the timber-yielding plants Shorea sp., Terminalia sp., and Tamarindus sp., with undergrowths of diverse shrubs and herbs during the Chalcolithic period (zone I) dated (3 320 ± 400) yr BP. Comparatively poorer representation and frequency of plant remains indicate a drier climate during the Early Historic period (zone II) dated as (2 110 ± 340) to (2 080 ± 80) yr BP. Comparisons of the archaeobotanical data recovered from the Chalcolithic and Early Historic period and also a principle components analysis indicate a change in the climate of the area from tropical and humid at (3 320 ± 400) yr BP to tropical and drier conditions at (2 110 ± 340) to (2 080 ± 80) yr BP. The present-day tropical, dry deciduous vegetation of the area suggests that climate change has occurred in the area since the contemporaneous past. The plant remains database has been utilized to reconstruct the settlement pattern of the community living in the site between (3 320 ± 400) and (2 080 ± 80) yr BP. The community settled near the riverbank, practicing cultivation.(Author for correspondence.Tel: +91 (0)33 2461 4959; Fax: +91 (0)33 2476 4419; +91 (0)33 2476 5210; E-mail: berasubir@yahoo.co.in)

Key words: agriculture, archaeological site, culture, India, Pakhanna, plant remains, vegetation, West Bengal.

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