Sunday, May 1, 2011

The discovery in the lalmai hill

The fact that, except for the chance find of a single palaeolithic tool from Chhagalnaiya, on palaeolithic site could be located in the territory of modern Bangladesh comes as a surprise.One must remember that there are large Pleistocene deposits in Bangladesh and that palaeolithic men had lived during the Pleistocene period. One must also recall that, although there is an almost total absence of suitable rocky material for  palaeolithic implements in Bangladesh, fossil wood occurs in reasonable quantities in many of the areas with Pleistocene deposits.The Barind tract of the northern part of Bangladesh, the Madhupur tract of the Mymensing and Dhaka districts, the Comilla-Noakhali hills of which the Lalmai hills are a part, and the Chittagong hilly areas are the major instances of Pleistocene deposits  in Bangladesh. The hypothesis could be checked in the field in the Lalmai area only in the early part of January 1989, and on the very first day of my personal exploration of the area it was possible to locate a stratified palaeolithic occurrence. The next spell of fieldwork, this time with the support of the archaeology project of the Jahangirnagar University, took place in April 1989 and resulted in the discovery of ten more palaeolithic occurrences.The Mainamati-Lalmai complex of hill, about 8 km long and 4.8 km wide at its maximum, extends from the Ranir Bangla ridge on the Comilla-Brahmanbaria road in the north to the vicinity of the Dhaka-Chittagong railway track in the south. The average height of this upland from the level of the surrounding  plain is about 12 m, with some individual spurs rising up to a height of 30-50 m. The northern part of this complex of hills is known as the Mainamati hills whereas the southern section is called the Lalmai hills. Basically this tract shows a spread of rolling uplands intersected by depressions. wherever the cliff- like formations are cut they show a clear cross-section of yellowish sandy material which is leached a little red towards the top. One can also observe some small nodule concretions and very rare small quartz pebbles in the section. Formerly, the area was given over to the jhum or slash –and-burn method of cultivation by a group of trials called the Tipras. Now the settled farmers use this area for vegetable cropping on the slopes and tops of the ridges and for normal rice cultivation in some of the depressions between the ridges. Vegetation has worn thin but one can notice stumps of sal, jack fruit and mango trees, apart from bamboo groves, etc. The area explored by us falls in the south and southeast  parts of the ridge. Our search for prehistoric tools was conditioned primarily by the distribution of fossil wood chunks which were used as raw materials. At the same time, we noted that not all types of fossil wood were preferred as raw materials. There was a distinct preference for only those pieces which showed below the cortex or surface skin a rather hard and flinty deep brown or darkish material. This shows that the prehistoric people concerned were closely familiar with the properties of fossil wood chunks of the area and their distribution.