Archeological site of Qasim Bagh
By: Syed Rooh Fatima
The Neolithic site (New stone age ) ‘Qasim Bagh’ is located in Baramulla district around 1.5 kilometers south west of Hygham wetland reserve, in the northwest corner of the valley of Kashmir. The site was first identified during transect based survey by Professor Dr. Mumtaz Yettoo who is presently working in university of Kashmir in the Archeology Department. In the year of 2012, after noting the presence of Neolithic ceramics on the modern surface which was east west aligned, south facing section exposed by agriculture terracing, a number of large conical pits which are typical of early Neolithic period were identified here.
The deposit within the pit appears stratified and indicates a long term sequence of activity rather an adhoc backfilling during a phase of pit disuse. These deposit comprised of alternating layers of ashy fill and mud bricks or pise like material identified by aforementioned Professor who has been associated with the University of Kashmir and the University of Sydney. The material which was excavated from the pit consists of some botanical remains, it is supposed that the pit at Qasim Bagh was meant for storage or processing of food stuff- the most significant among them could be wheat, Millet and number of pulses.
The evidence from Qasim Bagh points to the growth of diverse agriculture system in Kashmir from the beginning of 4th millennium. While giving details, Professor Yettoo shares some important evidence from Qasim Bagh stating that the stratified nature of the material gives insight into the long term agriculture practice within valley from sealed and well dated archeological context. The evidence also suggests the agricultural transformation towards multi-seasonal cropping taking place significantly earlier than previously believed based on the evidence from Burzohama, Gufkral, and Semthan, (Some Neolithic sites in Kashmir valley) he adds.
Though the exact timing and mechanisms through which domesticated rice moved into Kashmir may remain obscure until further archeological and chronological data can shed light on the movement pattern and regional relations of the early farming villages in the valley, the new evidence, however, presented here alongside climatological and other archeobotionical (the analysis and interpretation of plant remains found at archaeological sites) the data suggest the valley had being an ideal location for experimentation with long distance transported crops from other regions of Asia, prior to their movement into central, south and east Asian heartlands. This may be demonstrated through the transformation taking place between the earliest Kashmir Neolithic phase at Kanispora and the material from Qasim Bagh.
The botanical materials recovered from the deposits within the pit and their association with stratified mud brick like surface suggests that the structure were used for food storage or other kinds of processing activity. As such, the Qasim Bagh pit evidences may help to resolve the long standing debate regarding the nature of use of thesestructure, though it raises further questions as to the nature of permanent or seasonal dwellings in Kashmir during the Neolithic age.
Many historians have previously argued that conical pits in Kashmir and Swat were used as granaries rather than dwellings and thus complicated the notion that the valley’s were inhabited year round and raising the possibility of a seasonally mobile agro- pastoral community. The granary hypothesis is supported by the evidence from Qasim Bagh and coupled with the shift in the botanical assemblage from barley dominated to wheat and millet, may suggest an early 4th century agricultural transformation .
This shift is also mirrored in the wheat dominated assemblages at Burzuhama and Gufkral and a later shift towards consumption of domestic sheep, goats and cattle. This transformation may be synchronous with an intensification of interaction between disparate agro-pastoral (of, or, relating to a practice of agriculture that includes both the growing of crops and the raising of livestock) population in the mountainous regions of inner Asia placing Kashmir within a wider network of regional contact and exchange.