At site of India’s first archaeological theme park: 3000-year-old skeletons face danger of further decay due to crawling pace of preservation work

Written by Alifiya Khan
| Pune |

Published: August 11, 2020 12:44:26 am





The skeletons and artefacts were unearthed at an ancient burial site in Nagpur’s Gorewada forest. (Source: FDCM website)

Six primary and secondary human skeletons and artefacts from the megalithic period, which were to be part of a public exhibit in a first-of-its-kind project in the country, face the danger of further deterioration as the protection and conservation works at the site have been continuously delayed.

The skeletons and artefacts were unearthed at an ancient burial site in Nagpur’s Gorewada forest.

In 2018, the site had attracted the attention of historians, archaeologists and others after it was announced that India’s first archaeological theme park would be developed there, as a joint collaboration between the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) and Deccan College Deemed University.

The site was excavated until February 2019 and while the initial plan was to only showcase the excavated artefacts, it was later decided to let the skeletons remain on site. A glass dome would cover the burial site. Authorities said that this is the first time in India that on-site preservation of the 3000-year-old skeletons would be available for public viewing.

Nandkishore Kale, divisional manager at Gorewada Reserve Forest, FDCM, said that as per a memorandum of understanding inked with Deccan College, the Gorewada project is to be completed in several phases. The theme park will come up in Phase II, and it will display models of human civilisation, and trace its entire journey of evolution.

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While archaeological excavation work was carried out towards the end of 2018 to February 2019, he said the pace of work has been slow since then.

“The construction of the dome should have been completed months ago… the excavated objects are being subject to weather conditions and it is a matter of concern. We have written several times to Deccan College authorities, even as recently as last month. One team did come here and did some temporary conservation work but no work has taken place since then,” said Kale.

Dr Kantikumar Pawar, project-in-charge at Deccan College, admitted that the work had been delayed and blamed the contractor who had been given the work order. “The contractor was given the work order for protection of excavated stone circles, scientific conservation and consolidation of the human skeleton remains and provision of skeletons in glass domes to prevent further decay. They had a deadline of May 2019 but after several notices and extensions by the university, they informed us in October 2019 through an affidavit that they would complete the work by January 2020, a deadline they missed again,” said Pawar.

He agreed that the excavated objects would face the danger of further decay in case of more delays.

Vice-Chancellor of Deccan College, Dr Prasad Joshi, also admitted to delays but assured that things were on course now. “There were some delays by the contractor but a lot of factors were responsible like monsoons, the lockdown period and so on. Last month, some colleagues went and did some preservation work and now the other works will be completed within three months,” said Joshi.

When contacted, the contractor did not answer calls and texted to clarify that he was not liable for an explanation.

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