Excavations at Hathab

Excavations at Hathab, Gujarat (2001-03)

Hathab (21°35'N; 72°15'E) is situated on a branch of the river Maleshwari in Bhavnagar District, Gujarat. The rivulet is flowing from the north-west to north-east. It surrounds the mound and functions as a moat before meeting the Gulf of Cambay, 1.5km away. Earlier scholars had identified the ancient Astakapra, referred in the Greek literature such as Ptolemys Geography and Periplus Maris Erythraei, with Hathab on the basis of a Copper plate grant of Dhruvasena I of Vallabhi (5th – 6th Centruy AD). This was further confirmed by archaeological excavations which revealed a buried city with a habitation deposit of 8 meter, belonging to three cultural periods.

The Period I, datable from 4th century BC to 1st century AD is assignable to the Mauryan time. The only habitational remnant found during this period is a circular structure with paved coping, occurrences of a copper coin of Appolodotus and a bronze spouted-pot with riveted bottom. Period II, datable from 1st century AD to 4th century AD can be assigned to the Kshatrapas and is divided into three structural phases. In Phase A, the remnants of stone pavements with upright stones in between rectangular and circular stone structures ranging from 1.30m to 2.58m in diameter, red polished ware, coarse red ware, coarse grey ware, iron implements for domestic and ritual use were noticed. In Phase B, the habitation is marked by the appearance of a rectangular brick structural complex measuring 3.50m x 4.4m with postholes at regular intervals. The Phase C was probably a prosperous one, characterized by brick built twin wells within the complex with a diameter of 1.50m. The habitation is represented by a pebble paved mud wall complex, circular huts of both perishable materials and stones. The remnants of Period III, datable to 4th century to 6th century AD and assignable to Maitrakas were destroyed by the modern cultivation activities.

The excavation has revealed rich material vestiges in the form of antiquities like terracotta figurines, beads of various materials, shell bangles, iron and copper objects, hoards of copper and lead coins, hundreds of seals and sealings, gold and shell jewelery, bone and ivory objects, glass and stone objects along with the Early Historic pottery including amphorae sherds.

In addition to the above, a step-well, built of bricks (47cm x 37cm x 7cm) and sandstone was also noticed which measures 5.70m in diameter and 9.50m in length. A narrow short entrance with sandstone and steps led to a chandra shaped platform. From there at the top, narrow pathways at both sides of the walls descend like a ‘coil of snake’. The architecture of the ground plan is interesting where the landing platform rests on wooden logs at all four sides and a carved stone kurma (tortoise) was noticed on the natural bed rock.