NEW DELHI : More than a 100 mobile phones, sunglasses, slip-on sandals, wallets, and a well that could be at least 400 years old, if not more.
The medieval moat abutting the Mughal fort morphed into a recreational lake with peddle boats until it dried up nearly eight months ago, exposing a ragged bed that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is excavating to find what lies within.
“We found mobile phones, sunglasses, money bags and sandals… all damaged and of no use. We had to throw them away,” said a labourer digging and dredging the siltladen lake to restore its lost glory.
These trappings of modernity probably fell off people’s pockets and feet during their leisure trips on flashy polyurethane boats. But for the archaeologists, the wealth lies in the well.
They were aware of its underwater existence and couldn’t wish for more when the well resurfaced a month ago under the shovels of labourers.
“The uppermost layer of the well’s wall is built with Lakhori bricks and the lower portion has stone rubble. The well’s diameter is nearly two metres. We have to dig deeper and study the layers to be sure when it was built,” a senior ASI official said.
It is believed the fort was built around this lake as it stood out as a natural moat. Previous excavations at this site in 1955, 1969 and 2014 revealed evidence of settlements from 1,000 BC.
The finds include painted grey ware that straddles a continuous cultural sequence from Mauryan to Mughal through Sunga, Kushana, Gupta, Rajput and Sultanate periods.
The ASI is planning to go deeper this time.
“There was no point in digging or building a well when the moat surrounding the fort was full of water. We believe the well was built either before the moat was built or after it went dry,” the ASI official said.
In 2014, the ASI discovered a ring well 4.4 metres beneath the surface. It was lined with earthen rings, a characteristic of the Mauryan period.
“Earlier excavations revealed a Vishnu idol, terracotta seals, stamped pottery, beads and gems among others,” the official said.
Time will tell if the latest discovery will turn out to be a wishing well too … at least for the archaeologists.