skip to content

Department of Archaeology


Ancient Settlements of the Gangetic Plain: Location and Territoriality


Research Aims and Current Results

The Gangetic plain is more than half-a-million sq km of alluvium below the outer arc of the Himalayas and to the north of the northeastern segment of the geologically old Indian Peninsula. The aim of this project (current approval till 1999) is to understand the long-term settlement history of the valley with reference to the locations of sites and the inferences which may be drawn on that basis about land-use, plateau-valley interaction, routes and textually known ancient political territories. It is rooted in the general urgency of recording the archaeological details of the Indian landscape where population pressure has created an unstoppable process of mass destruction of archaeological sites and in the fact that nobody has had a close look at the distribution of sites in the valley as a whole since the late nineteenth century.

The still overwhelmingly preindustrial character of agriculture in the valley offers some scope of inferences regarding the general character of ancient land use. The major basis is what one learns from the present day cultivators and the district-level information: which types of land are preferred and for which crops? For instance, we now know that the third and second millennia B.C. farmers in the West Bengal and Bihar sections of the valley showed a preference for locations either on river-banks or in the close proximity of low-lying lands. The nature of interaction between the valley and the adjoining plataeu sections can be appreciated from the study of surface scatters of valley sites. This opens up the issue of trade and it has been possible to infer that this trade was both on local level and in terms of a distance of 300--400 km or more. During the historic period in the deltaic portion of West Bengal this trade included maritime contacts with the Mediterranean and southeast Asia, leading to the establishment of more than ten major urban centres in this section. The mode of investigation of ancient routes is the location and alignment of sites in an area and the historical and ethnographic documentation of the routes of that area. Ancient political units have been mentioned in ancient texts, and this survey tries to understand the major geographical markers which could serve as the delimiting lines of these units.


Project Director

  • Dr Dilip K. Chakrabarti, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.


Project Phase

  • Seventh field season


Collaborating Institutions and Project Members

  • Directorate of Archaeology, Government of West Bengal. (Dr. G. Sengupta)
  • Directorate of Archaeology, Government of Bihar. (Mr. Ajit K. Prasad)
  • Department of History, University of Delhi. (Dr. N. Lahiri, Dr. R.K. Chattopadhyay)
  • Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Banaras Hindu University. (Professor P.Singh, Dr R.N.Singh)


Financial Support

  • The Society for South Asian Studies;
  • The British Academy;
  • Cambridge University Travelling Expenses Fund.



  • Chakrabarti, Dilip K. and Chattopadhyay, R.K. 1992. Notes on the archaeology of Maldaha and West Dinajpur districts, West Bengal. South Asian Studies 8 :135-153
  • Chakrabarti, Dilip K., Sengupta, G., Chattopadhyay, R.K. and Lahiri, N. 1993. Black-and-Red Ware settlements in West Bengal. South Asian Studies 9 : 123-135
  • Chakrabarti, Dilip K., Goswami, N. and Chattopadhyay, R.K. 1994. Archaeology of coastal West Bengal : Twenty -four Parganas and Midnapur Districts South Asian Studies 10 : 135-160
  • Chakrabarti, Dilip K., Prasad, A.K., Jha, S.K., Anand, K. and Chattopadhyay, R.K. 1995. Preliminary observations on the distribution of archaeological sites in the south Bihar plains. South Asian Studies 11 : 129-147
  • Chakrabarti, Dilip K., Prasad, A.K., Jha, S.K. and Verma, A.C. 1996. From Purnea to Gangetic Plain.
  • Champaran : The distribution of sites in the north Bihar plains. South Asian Studies 12 : 147-15
  • Chakrabarti, Dilip K., Singh, R.N. and Tripathi, K. 1997. Notes on the archaeology of the Sarayupar plain, eastern Uttar Pradesh. South Asian Studies 13 : 285-299

Project Tags

Geographical areas: 
Central Asia
Powered by Drupal