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Preliminary Report —Manipur South: The Earliest Archaeological Site

Kathong Chingjao, situated at the southernmost hill ranges in the Chandel district of Manipur is a historical site ever known by the people for the last many decades. The journey from lmphal to Kathong Chingjao via Sajik Tampak is about four hours’ drive covering 120 km. On the visit onward from Chakpikarong everyone has to cross Haubiching on the top of the Kathong ranges where all civilization started. Then Sarangba Salt spring with beautiful pine forest always welcome visitors. The Kanat River runs from south east to north west and falls into lmphal river (Manipur River) where all caves are constructed on her valleys and tributaries. Kanat River plays very important role for breading of different fishes like Ngara Ngateen, Sareng, Nunga etc. With these Sugnu Ngatin is famous in the State.

1. Phuikon Haosabee Cave

The name, Phuikon Haosabee, is legendary and situated at Wangbran Khanachaoba of Kathong Chingjao in (Kathong hill). It is to the north east of Sajik Tampak. The distance of some 3 hour’s march may be 15 kms from Sajik Tampak.

On the way every one crossed three hill ranges. The hill ranges look barren due to rampant cutting of trees for charcoal or for jhum cultivation during 30 years. Here and there some scattered pine trees were seen. Also seen were pine seedlings coming up scatteringly over the area. If care is taken to protect the seedlings from fire and human disturbance, these seedlings would come up to form new pine forests.

The team walked down after crossing the 3rd peak of the three hill ranges. After walking for about half a km to down along a track, the team dropped down a steep slope away from the road to reach a stream below. From the stream and up a slope for about 300 ft the team proceeded up a vertical climb of 100ft. There is a solid rocky hillock. The north eastern side of the hillock is a vertical wall of (75-100 ft). At the foot, there is the Phuikon Haosabee Cave.

The mouth is isolated by a triangle of which the base measures 7ft height with or 6ft and an approachable depth of 20 ft. The floor of the cave and further inside it is filled with loose soil. They were pushed up with water inside the cave during rainy seasons. The walls and roof of the cave bear scratch marks of regular pattern. There are distinct linear marks of lime running across the depth of the cave. The roof of the cave has humps of lime, 17 ft above the floor.

The floor of the cave is almost plain and is filled up with loose soil for almost a depth of 2 ft. In front of the mouth of the cave there is a court yard of l0x10 square ft. It is nicely protected in the front by a rock wall. In 1987 excavation 17 Paleolithic tools were collected.

2. PHUIKON HAOSABEE CAVE – 2 (Phuikon Ningtrho Cave)

On the right side of this cave and after a climb of 25 ft there is another cave facing east. The mouth is triangular in shape – 12ft at the base and 7ft in height. The depth is measured at 16ft, there is a rock resembling a door or a gate at a distance of 6ft from the mouth of the cave. Further inside the cave, there is a hole that appears to the open sky. From the position of the rocks and walls and hollows at the left side of the cave, it appears that it was the result of slipping of rocks followed by weathering or earthquakes in the past decades. It is one oldest Cave in Planet Earth.

3. Khomunnom Cave

The Khomunnom Cave is situated at a distance around 95 km from Imphal and 2087ft from the road crossing at the centre of the village, Khomunnom. This village is about half an hour’s walk to the south-western side of Sajik Tampak. The Khomunnom Cave measures 93 ft. across the mouth with a height of 6’3″ and a depth of 21′.11″ at the deepest point. The floor is almost plain and has an area of about 15 ft above the bed of a stream. Above the cave roof a small steam drops down forming a small waterfall across the mouth of the cave. The drop of the waterfall will be around 25 ft. During rainy seasons, the water from above the cave flows away some 20 ft from the foot of the cave. The exploration team dug a pit of 6’ x 6’ x 2’at a distance of 2.5 ft from the foot of the cave as preliminary study on 23 May 1983. The next study cum scientific way of Survey was done in Feb 2011 which dug a pit of 8x8x1 ft at a distance of 4.5 ft from the front of the cave. Various kinds of 216 Paleolithic tools for milking tools for cutting and polishing etc were found and collected. These tools were used during the lower Paleolithic Era and probable culture of 2,00,000-50,000 BC. This Cave is one of the oldest and biggest rock shelters in the world.

4. Doyang Cave

It is situated about 35 Km from Sajik Tampak towards the south of the Indo Myanmar Border near the Yangdung and Khongtan village. Doyang cave is a limestone cave facing toward the south east. The Entrance is Oval in shape with 5.5ft in base; height 18-20 ft (Approx) and depth 8ft. There is a small stream about 35 ft towards the east. This is evidence of early prehistoric era. But due to time limit and present scenario of law and orders no excavation and survey could be done till today.

Conclusion

So far, finding of tools, caves structures with its location, the Phuikon Haosabee Cave of Kathong Chingjao, Doyang Cave at Yangdung and Khomunnom Cave at Sajik are evidence of earliest Paleolithic Era. Secondly the presence of the caves and the findings of the stone tools point to the fact that the stage of Paleolithic era was there in the archeological history of Manipur.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Our special thanks to

1. Maj Gen DS Hooda, VSM GOC, Red Shield Div. Manipur,

2. Maj Gen CA Krishnan, IGAR South

3. Col Ravindra Kumar, Commanding officer HQs 8 Assam Rifle;

4. Supt of Archeology, Manipur

5. Headman of Khomunnom and people of Sajik

6. Principal, DMC of Science Imphal

7. Th. Bishwajit Singh, Social Worker

8. S. Ingo Singh, Khongman, Social worker.

*The article is written by NK Shimray.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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