Unraveling the Mystery of Wari-Bateshwar

Wari-Bateshwar is the archaeological site of an ancient city in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh. Situated near the Wari and Bateshwar villages, about 75 kilometers from Dhaka and 3 kilometers west of Belabo in the Narshingdi district of Bangladesh, it is believed that the city dates back to 450 BC, making it a significant archaeological discovery.

Although initially discovered in 1933 by a local school teacher, official excavation of the site only began in 2000. Current excavations of Wari-Bateshwar are being carried out by a team from Jahangirnagar University’s Archaeology Department under the leadership of Professor Sufi Mostafizur Rahman. A number of artifacts, including monochrome glass beads, have led Prof. Rahman to believe that Wari-Bateshwar is the site of the wealthy, well planned, ancient commercial city, or emporium, of Sounagora mentioned by Ptolomy, a Greek geographer, mathematician and astronomer, in his book “Geographia”. The other emporia which Ptolemy wrote about include Mantai of Sri Lanka, Arikamedu of India and Kion Thom of Thailand. The artifacts found at these sites have marked similarities to those discovered at Wari-Bateshwar.

The discovery of knobbed-ware, rouletted-ware, layered glass beads, stone beads, monochrome glass beads and gold-foil glass beads are believed to indicate that the settlement at Wari-Bateshwar had Southeast Asiatic and Roman contacts. Other items that have been unearthed include a variety of earthen pots, ceramics, black-slipped ware and semi-precious stone beads, as well as iron artifacts such as spearheads, knives and nails. A significant number of round and square silver coins punch-marked with an image of the sun, boats or fish, were discovered in the area. It is believed that many coins that had been discovered between 1933 and the opening of an official archaeological site in 2000, have been melted down, sold and lost. The vast quantities of coins that have been found in the area indicate that the ancient city was one of great wealth involved in commercial activities.

Excavations at Wari-Bateshwar have also revealed a pit-dwelling – the first discovery of its kind in Bangladesh – indicating early urbanization in the area. Similar pit-dwellings, which are believed to be 4,000 years old, have been discovered in Pakistan and India.

Bangladesh is an interesting country with an ancient, and sometimes mysterious, history. Archaeological finds, such as Wari-Bateshwar, can either shed some light on the past, or raise more questions. It is the unraveling of the mystery of Wari-Bateshwar that researchers, as well as visitors to the area, find fascinating.