An ancient camping site from 8500 BC discovered near Ladakh

Located at 14,000 feet above sea level, further research in the rugged terrain, with low oxygen and no habitation is a daunting task.
An ancient camping site from 8500 BC discovered near Ladakh
An ancient camping site from 8500 BC discovered near Ladakh
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The Archaeological Survey of India has found an ancient camping site from the ninth millennium BC on the way from Saser La, leading to Karakoram Pass, in Ladakh.

According to a PIB release on the discovery, Joint Director General Dr SB Ota was exploring the Nubra valley in 2015-16, when he noticed the site. About 22km into his survey on the serpentine road along the Saser stream, he observed that a section lay exposed due to road construction and showed “successive layers comprising burning residue”.

Described as a small and flat area with “snow-covered peaks on one extreme, dry barren land with loose rocks all around and gushing stream within the deep western gorges”, the spot seemed like a picturesque spot for camping.

PIB image

BETA LAB in Florida then received a sample of the charcoal collected from the site, for radiocarbon dating to ascertain how old the site was. But even the ASI was surprised when the results showed the sample to be from 8500 BC (10,500 years ago), making it the oldest site in the region.

A team of ASI officials, including the Director General and Dr Ota, revisited the site in July 2016. More charcoal and bone samples were collected for testing. “Two of the charcoal samples from lower and upper deposits sent for dating have provided new radiocarbon dates of c. 8500 BC and c. 7300 BC (c. 10500 and 9300 years before present) respectively,” says the PIB release.

The new dates pointed to repeated human activity on the site for close to 800 years. PP Joglekar, a professor at Deccan College, Pune carried out the preliminary research on the charred bones found on the site, and discovered they indicated the presence of yaks and gorels.

However, the more challenging task for the ASI team is understanding the “camping patterns, extent of camping area, tools and other cultural aspects”. Only the antiquity of the site, and the nature of human activities, has been determined to an extent so far.

Located at an altitude of 14,000 feet above sea level, the site makes undertaking further research a daunting task, thanks to rugged terrain with low oxygen levels and no habitation. 

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