Royal burial in Sanauli


The recent ASI excavation at Sanauli village in western Uttar Pradesh leads to the discovery of several burials, including that of a royal with chariots, swords and helmets, dating to 2000 BCE and belonging to the copper hoard culture.

Sanauli in Baghpat district in western Uttar Pradesh, about 80 km from New Delhi, has been making waves in archaeological circles across the country with spectacular discoveries of coffin burials and chariots with burial goods such as copper helmets, copper antenna swords and red vases with flaring rims. Seven burials have been excavated so far, and spectacular among them is a royal burial with a wooden coffin with a lid that has carvings in high relief with a series of anthropomorphic figures, all of which have headgear that has two horns and a peepal leaf in the centre. Besides the face, the figures have broad shoulders and a torso.

The sides of the coffins have running floral motifs and they are covered by copper plating that runs around the coffins. The wooden coffin, too, has a copper sheet of around 3 mm thickness. It stands on four wooden legs, which too are covered with copper sheathing with carvings, and looks virtually like a sarcophagus. The coffin itself is more than 8 feet (2.4 metres) long and has a height of about 40 cm. Inside the coffin lay the body of a man, probably a royal, oriented in the north-west and south-east direction, with the head facing the north-west. The pit that held the royal coffin also had two full-sized chariots, besides other artefacts.

“For the first time in the Indian subcontinent, chariots have been recovered from any excavation,” said Sanjay Kumar Manjul, Director, Institute of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Director of the excavation. Arvin Manjul, Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Branch-II, ASI, New Delhi, was co-director of the excavation. The teams that undertook the excavation were from the Institute of Archaeology, the academic wing of the ASI that conducts a two-year programme in archaeology for postgraduates in history and archaeology, and the Excavation Branch II.

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