1.5-million-year-old instruments present in Museum vault

KOLKATA: Indian Museum is pushing back the history it has been narrating thus far. It has ‘excavated’ Paleolithic stone age tools, some of which are up to 1.5-million year old, from its own sub-terranian store and will put them on display at a new pre-historic gallery that will open next month.

The collection, handed over to the museum in the 19th century by geologist-cum-archeologist , had been gathering dust in the underground store till they was re-discovered recently. Foote is considered the father of Indian pre-history and was the director general of Geological Survey of India.

Museum officials stumbled upon the collection of 100-plus tools that were discovered by Foote in south India. The oldest among them were unearthed in Atiram Pakkam, an area in Pallavaram, Chennai. These finds were named Atiram Pakkam tools.

“The Bruce Foote Collection is indeed the oldest collection of human tools anywhere in India. This treasure trove has never been viewed since it was brought to the museum. The inventory has swelled for 200 years without proper cataloguing. We are now sorting and classifying the collections scientifically,” said Indian Museum director Rajesh Purohit.

About 40 stone tools comprising of hand axes, scrappers, cleavers and arrow heads, mostly made of quartzite, will be brought out from that collection and displayed in the new gallery that will replace the gallery which had been till now the starting point of history at Indian Museum. The Harappa gallery has remained shut to public for nearly 15 years. Handpicked items from the will also be exhibited at the new gallery.

The focus though will no longer be on Harappa and , because these are both in Pakistan today and a large number of excavations on the Indian side around a circumference of 1.22 lakh sq km have revealed footprints of contemporary civilisations. “We can build our own history around these sites that have been unearthed in Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan. While in the earlier case, the civilisation developed along the Indus, on the Indian side the civilisations sprung up along Ravi, Chenab, Beas, Sutlej, Jhelum, Saraswati, Hakra and Ghaggar,” Purohit explained.

While Lothal (Gujarat) and Kalibangan (Rajasthan) excavations are well-known, other explorations in Rakhigarhi, Krunal, Birhana, Banawali and Firmana that have happened later and have led to discovery of thousands of archaeological remains like pottery, figurines and seals will now be part of the new gallery.

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