In what is considered “a new opening in Indian archaeology”, an ancient camping site used by pre-historic man and datable to circa 8500 BCE, has been found at an altitude of about 4,200 metres near Saser La in the Nubra Valley, Ladakh. Saser La leads to the Karakoram Pass.
A camping site is a place where hunter-gatherers stayed temporarily before they moved on to another place. S.B. Ota, Joint Director General, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), found the camping site during an exploration there in 2015-16. Charcoal pieces from hearth activity and remains of bones associated with it were found at the site. The charcoal pieces sent for dating to Beta Analytic, Florida, U.S., revealed that the site belonged to circa 8500 BCE.
Rakesh Tewari, Director General, ASI, called it “the earliest camping site in Ladakh”. He told The Hindu, “Such an early antiquity on the basis of a scientific date is the very first for that region. This date has generated a lot of in-house discussion and excitement in the ASI.”
Dr. Tewari, who visited the site in July 2016, explained that “a camping site” is “a seasonal settlement, not a permanent settlement.” The camping site found near Saser La was “an ideal place for camping in a picturesque setting,” he said. He described it as “a flat area of barren land with loose rocks all around, snow-covered peaks at a distance and a stream” in a gorge.
Ladakh is famous for its Himalayan mountain ranges, its spectacular glaciers, passes, valleys and the Buddhist monasteries. But not much archaeological importance was attached to the region.
Only 6th century CE to 7th century CE remains were reported in Ladakh. Rough terrain, high altitudes and extreme weather made it difficult for any explorer to undertake archaeological expeditions in the region.
However, the arduous and persistent efforts made by an ASI team under Dr. Ota led to “remarkable archaeological discoveries in Ladakh,” the ASI Director-General added.