|Excavated trenches at the site; some crucibles and terracotta coin moulds that were found
New Delhi, Feb. 26: Archaeologists have stumbled upon what they believe is an ancient mint that goes back at least a thousand years and might have been lost forever in the rush to build modern houses.
Sources in the Archaeological Survey of India said the mint could date back to the Pratihara period, particularly its strongest king Mihira Bhoja I, who ruled in the 9th century AD.
The chance discovery, thanks to a retired professor, came at the site of an under-construction housing complex in Rohtak, 70km from Delhi.
“Pratihara sites are found in and around Rohtak. This particular site was an ancient mound, where usually archaeologically important objects have been found in past. The site, however, was not protected,” ASI additional director-general B.R. Mani said.
The Haryana Urban Development Authority had recently started constructing the housing complex, nearly flattening the site. It drew the attention of Manmohan Kumar, a retired history professor of Maharishi Dayanand University.
Kumar alerted the ASI after an informal visit revealed a few coin moulds. “We have been exploring this site. Some stray coin moulds had been found earlier close to the site. So we suspected that a minting facility must exist here. We decided to alert the ASI because, once the houses come up, the site would have been lost forever,” Kumar said.
Early this month, an ASI team visited the site. “On our first visit on February 2, we found at least 31 moulds close to the surface after which we decided to carry out an extended excavation,” Mani said.
On February 15, the ASI began excavating the site, which has yielded 300 coin moulds and several crucibles — measuring containers used to pour molten metal into moulds. “The moulds and crucibles indicate it was a coin minting facility,” Mani said.
The ASI has now written to the urban development authority, which owns the site, to hold off construction till the excavation is complete.
The ASI has also found a housing complex with several small cells. This is believed to be the mint. The complex is a burnt brick structure and only the southern wall is intact. The cells were probably used by workers to shape the coins.
The moulds have the impression of Adivaraha, which, according to Indian mythology, is Vishnu’s boar incarnation, and the epithet Srimad-Adivaraha, which Mihira Bhoja I used as an inscription on his coins.
Bhoja, who believed himself to be an incarnation of Vishnu, had adopted the title Adivaraha. He is said to have been the strongest king of the Pratihara dynasty that ruled much of northern India from the 6th to the 11th century AD.
Surprisingly, the ASI has neither found any coins from the site, nor molten metal lumps. “It is possible the coins once moulded were taken away from here,” Mani said.