Revisiting the Iron Age in Northern South Asia: New Dates from Indor Khera and Rohana Khurd in the Upper Ganga Plains

Jaya Menon1 & Supriya Varma2

1Shiv Nadar University, India

2Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

The entirety of the northern South Asian Iron Age chronology has been generalized based on a handful of radiocarbon dates from a small number of sites in the Upper and Middle Ganga Valley. For example, in the Upper Ganga region the beginning of the Iron Age is anchored by just one date from Abhaipur. The age of other important sites such as Noh, Jakhera, and Atranjikhera, have been inferred through relative dating. There are relatively more dates from the Middle Ganga Plains (N=13) from several sites including Raja Nala ka Tila, Jhusi, Lahuradewa, Malhar, and Dadupur. Dates vary between 1700 to 1400 BCE (N=5) at Malhar and Dadupur, 1200 and 700 BCE (N=6) at Raja Nala ka Tila and Lahuradeva and 1000 – 700 BCE (N=2) at Jhusi. Thus, it could be argued that in the Middle Ganga plains, the Iron Age dates to between 1200 and 700 BCE based on the largest clustering of dates. However, recent excavations and chronometric dating at Indor Khera and Rohana Khurd in the Upper Ganga Plains produced much later dates (4th century BCE) for the Iron Age. In this presentation we reconsider the methods and assumptions used for building chronological profiles for the Iron Age of an entire region. Instead, it is time that we focus on individual sites generating larger datasets of radiocarbon dates to provide more fine-grained chronologies. Instead of assuming that all Iron Age sites originated at the same time in northern South Asia, the evidence likely suggests that individual sites had their own chronological histories. Similarly, depending on ceramics to provide relative chronologies may not be ideal since ceramic styles endure for long periods in South Asia.