By Harsh Kabra
Geologists have discovered a striking archaeological feature on a hillock in the Kutch district of the western Indian state of Gujarat.
This feature is shaped like the Roman numeral VI. Each arm of this feature is a trench that is about two metres wide, two metres deep and more than 100 metres long.
The feature has evoked the curiosity of archaeologists because such signs have mostly been observed so far in Peru.
The team, led by Dr RV Karanth, a former professor of geology at the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara, Gujarat, has been involved in a palaeoseismological study of the Kutch region for the past 11 years.
Palaeoseismology involves the study of sediments, landforms and other geological evidence of past earthquakes to unravel their history and determine the nature and occurrence of present-day earthquakes.
This feature was discovered at a hillock 3km from the sleepy oasis township of Khavda, which is also known as the gateway to the Rann of Kutch, an extensive salt marsh of western India and southeast Pakistan between the Gulf of Kutch and the Indus river delta.
The Kutch region is host to several archaeological findings belonging to the Harappan civilisation (3000-1500 BC).
This has led to the speculation that this feature could be related to the Harappan civilisation.
Dr Karanth clarifies that it is too early to arrive at any conclusion.
"It could be a manmade feature or may have been formed naturally due to erosion of the hill slope along a fracture formed by the movement of earth's crust," he says.
"However structures formed naturally due to erosion generally tend to be parallel to each other. But here, all three arms are in different directions. Besides, all the ditches are almost uniformly wide and deep."
Dr Karanth says such trenches have not been noticed elsewhere in the region. Archaeologists, he says, can now pursue further research.
Geologists say the features could be 'man-made'
Geometric lines and animal shapes etched into the desert plain by people of the Nazca civilisation (AD 1-700) of Peru are well known.
"But such signs on hill-slopes have not been reported from Peru," says Dr Karanth.
He says that one of the prominent explanations given for the Peruvian features is that they may have been constructed to make astronomical observations and calculations.
"The Tropic of Cancer passes through Kutch. So if this structure is man-made, it is likely that the slope of the hillock was utilised for making certain astronomical calculations in the past," explains the geologist.
Interestingly, there are numerous indications to suggest that Harappans were well-versed in astronomy.
The straight streets of that time were oriented in the cardinal directions - east, west, north and south.
Linkages between ancient Harappan scripts and latter Vedic texts also suggest that Harappan priest-astronomers tracked the progress of various planets and mapped the sky.
Dr Karanth has also discovered ruins of a fort-wall, houses, storage tank and a temple on the hilltop.
They may, he says, belong to the period of the Kathi Darbar, a warrior class from the Kathiawad region.