When we think of Rajasthan we usually think of a land of desert, forts, and camels. But there is much more to Rajasthan. Did you know that in ancient times Rajasthan was important for its copper mining and copper crafts? Copper was one of the earliest metals used in a big way by human beings all over the world. In India, copper ores (rocks in which copper is found) or found in various parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. There is evidence of mining and the making of copper artifacts at many sites in these areas, which shows that people knew about and were using many of these sources of copper ore from very ancient times. The Aravalli hills of Rajasthan are rich in minerals and in metals such as copper, tin and iron. The Khetri area is especially rich in copper ores. These were extracted, melted and then made into different kinds of implements at various factory sites. Ganeshwar is an important site of this kind.
What do archeologists mean by 'factory sites?'
Factory sites are sites where people made certain things on a large scale-things like stone tolls, metal items, or beads, for instance. Don't, however, think of modern factories with machines! Because these shorts of things did not exist then. Factory sites were usually located close to the raw materials that were need to make the craft items.
When we look at an ordinary metal object, we usually do not realize all the hard work, skill, and time that must have gone into making it. The rocks containing the ores had to be dug out of the hills. They then had to be melted in specially made furnaces where a temperature of 1084° centigrade had to be maintained (this is the temperature at which copper melts). The craftsmen then made different kinds of artifacts out of the copper, using different kinds of techniques.
The site of Ganeshwar was discovered in the 1970's, and that is when the excavations began. The earliest settlers here were stone age people who used small stone tools which archaeologists call microliths. It was clear that their tools were made at the site because bits of stone and waste material were found along with the finished tools. These people were food gatherers and hunters. Bones of animals, mostly of wild animals, were found. This suggests that the people got at least part of their food by hunting. In the beginning they seem to have hunted mainly birds and small animals, but later they increasingly hunted bigger animals.
Gradually, things changed, and in the second stage (archaeologists call this Period II), the first copper objects appeared at Ganeshwar. These included arrowheads, fish-hooks, a spearhead, and an awl (a small, pointed tool). This shows that the people were beginning to make and use copper tools and implements, but on a small scale. The people also made hand-made and wheel-made pottery. They lived in round huts which had floors paved with stone. They continued to hunt and use microliths.
Ganeshwar soon developed into a major copper working site. In the earlier phases, only a handful of copper artifacts were found. But in the later period (which archaeologists call Period III), hundreds of such artifacts were found at this small site. The metal for making all these objects came from the copper ore mines nearby. Not only did the number of copper items go up (compared to the earlier period of Ganeshwar), new types of items were being made. Apart from weapons like arrow-heads, spearheads, and fish-hooks, these were ornaments like rings and bangles, carpentry tools like chisels, and other implements like axes. Most of the arrowheads had sharp points and were probably used to hunt birds. There are others, however, which have an unusual curved tip. Going by the hundreds of arrowheads found at Ganeshwar and the animal bones found at the site, it is clear that hunting was still an important part of the lives of these people.
The things that people make and the way in which they make them is an important part of their culture. Some of the craft items we find at a site may have been brought from other places, while others may have been made locally. A large number of craft items and remains of workshops point to the presence of skilled craftspersons. Craft techniques were learnt, perfected, and taught over many generations. The craftsmen of Ganeshwar were making copper items from about 3000 B.C., from a time even before the cities of the Harappan civilization emerged. They gradually started trading these items with other people. The copper artifacts from Ganeshwar found their way to Harappan sites and to many other places in north and central India.
These days, scientists can analyze metal objects and tell us about the metal composition and the way in which the artifacts were made. These tests can also help us identify from which area the ores came from. The copper workers of Ganeshwar seem to have made many artifacts out of pure copper. But they also knew the technique of strengthening the copper by alloying it with other metals such as tin.
Ganeshwar, Jodhpura, and Bagor were important centers of copper melting and working in north-east Rajasthan. There were a number of important sites in south-east Rajasthan as well-sites such as Ahar, Balathal and Gilund. Clearly, Rajasthan was a major supplier of copper and copper artifacts to other parts of India.