A wider platter | The Indian Express

2020-02-25 | 2 minutes

Context: National Museum, New Delhi and One Station Million Stories (OSMS) have jointly organized Gastronomica-Indus Dining Experience Exhibition. Meat has not been included in the Historical Gastronomica-Indus Dining Experience Exhibition after objection by some MPs

Study of production and consumption of food in pre-historic times:

Scientific techniques are used to study different materials and artefacts found at archeological sites. These artefacts include pottery, animal bones, cereals and seeds of fruits, food processing and producing implements. As grains leave marks and outlines on clay, they can be identified easily. Animal bones and teeth can be identified on the basis of annular rings.  

Plant foods reported from ancient time in India: Charred carbonized seeds were found in a pot at the late Harappan site of Surkotada in Kutch. Nearly 7% of these seeds specimens collected from here were cereals. They included wild and cultivated millets, wild grasses, nuts, and weeds. Along with cereals, lentils, fruits and vegetables, spices have also been identified at Harappan sites. Starch granules from pots, grinding stones and teeth have been found at Harappan Farmana in rural Haryana.  Starch granules on cattle teeth found here were similar to other starch grain found at this early Harappan site. This similarity between starch granules shows that uneaten grains were fed to cattle.

Animal foods reported from ancient time in India:

Mohenjodaro excavation: First report on the excavation of Mohenjodaro in 1931 was the first thorough study on animal remains collected from the archaeological site in India. It identified different domesticated and wild animals, including humped capital, pig and fish. It seems that gharials and turtles were part of the food of Mohenjodaro.

Harappan remains:

  • Slaughtering of animals: Scientists have decided age and season of death of fauna (animals) by studying annular rings on nearly 15,000 animal bones collected from Harappan Oriyo Timbo (in Gujarat). Scientists have also studied annuli on cementum that are visible with a microscope. Cementum is the substance on the tooth. They found that cattle, sheep and goats were slaughtered between March and July.
  • Charred bones: As per P K Thomas and P P Joglekar, animal remains have been reported from two dozen Harappan sites. Over 70% of the bones were cattle bones. Thomas and Joglekar have also shown the presence of birds, turtles, fish, crabs and mollusks. Department of Archeology of Gujarat government has found animal remains in the excavation of a Harappan site at Shikarpur in Kutch in 1987-90. Study of these remains revealed marks and signs of charring on some of the bones.
  • Mega Mammals in Ancient India: As per the book titled as Mega Mammals in Ancient India, rhinoceros were present in Harappan sites in Gujarat. The book also shows rhinoceros meat was also consumed in India. Charaka Sahita also talks about the health benefits of the consumption of rhinoceros meat.

Mains Question:

Some MPs have objected to the inclusion of meat in a recently organized Historical Gastronomica-Indus Dining Experience Exhibition. Discuss archaeological evidence and examples indicating the consumption of animal food in ancient times in India. (125 words)