Bhubaneswar: From under the ruins of an ancient fort on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, archaeologists have dug out the remains of a 2,500-year-old city which they believe was bigger than classical Athens.
Eighteen pillars were found among the remnants of the grand city at Sishupalgarh, a ruined fortification first discovered 60 years ago. The findings include debris of household pottery and terracotta ornaments, pointing to an advanced lifestyle led by the people who lived there. The polished potteries even have ownership marks on them.
Dr Monica L. Smith, head archaeologist from the University of California, who was part of the 12-member team that conducted the excavation, said the site is the ?most visible standing architectural monument? discovered in India so far. ?It'sa huge city that existed about 2,500 years ago.?
?The city had four gateways and could have housed up to 25,000 people. Even classical Athens had only 10,000 people,? said R.K. Mohanty from Deccan College, Pune, who was part of the excavation team which also had members from the Archaeological Survey of India and University of California.
?It was a very important city with well-built walls and a big expanse. The pillars we found were part of a gigantic structure, probably used for public gatherings,? added Mohanty. Sishupalgarh was once ruled by the Kalinga kings.
Situated on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, Sishupalgarh was once a thriving metropolis, with a population of over 25,000.
Dr Monica L. Smith says, ?These cities from a very early time about the third or fourth century BC were very densely populated and urban in every sense of the word.?
Even though Sishupalgarh was discovered in 1948, it wasn'tuntil three years ago that excavations started here.
A team of archeologists from Deccan College in Pune, University of California and Archeological Survey of India (ASI) are manning the digs.
Deccan College Head Archaeologist Dr R.K. Mohanty says, ?What we have excavated is a very small area of the site. Each area has given a different perspective and architecture.?
A large variety of pottery discovered, show the high quality of life in the city. Excavations reveal the city was well planned with eight gateways.
There was a large monument for public gatherings. The whole city was surrounded by large defensive walls.
Archeologists believe that it is because of the excellent architectural skills; the pillars could stand for so many years.
But so far only a small portion of the huge site has been excavated.
Researchers have to depend largely on foreign funding for the excavation as the government has not yet stepped in to help.