The team believes there could be sites of religious and business establishments along with ancient settlements on an area of about 12 kilometers, stretching from Kapilmuni to Satkhira’s Tala upazila. The team is hopeful that these sites can be unearthed if explored and excavated.

Head of the archeological team Afroza Khan, Khulna regional director of the archeology department, told Prothom Alo, “The archeological items found at Rezakpur village seemed to indicate that they are about 1,100 to 1,200 years old. Artifacts of Rezakpur resemble other archeological findings discovered earlier in Khulna, Satkhira and Jashore region. So, we believe that there might be ruins of ancient civilisation throughout the whole area.”

The archeology department has already taken an initiative to conduct comprehensive tests on the artifacts including the burnt rice to confirm their period precisely.

Till now fishing and salt farming were thought to be the chief occupations of the people living in this area adjacent to the Sundarbans. No evidence of paddy farming in this area was ever found before. But now rice has been found during this excavation.

Shahidul Hasan, assistant professor at the history department of Dhaka University has been doing research on the history of Bangladesh’s south-western region during the Middle Ages. While talking to Prothom Alo he said, “From what I have learnt lately about this discovery, it seemed that an infrastructure including organised and planned settlements had formed across our southwest region. Out of the three newly discovered archeological sites there, rice has been found in two. That means earlier there used to be cultivation there. No information can be found in our history books regarding such an ancient civilisation or farming activities of the region. So, it can be said undoubtedly that this discovery is a new addition to our history.”

How old are the ruins

There is a site of archeological structure about 1,500 years old in Bharat Vaina village of Jashore’s Keshabpur upazila. Researchers say the designs on the structure and the artifacts recovered in Rezakpur bear resemblance and so they assume that the ruins in Rezakpur could be 1,200 years old. Apart from that, the structure in Rezakpur matches other structures that have been found at several spots including Shakhertek, inside the Sundarbans.

The process of determining the probable age of an archeological structure by examining its architectural design, size of the used bricks and other construction materials is considered to an established method in archeological research.

AKM Saifur Rahman, regional director of the archeology department in Chattogram and Sylhet, has been aiding the archeological team working at Rezakpur. He informed Prothom Alo that during the general pre-Muslim reign larger bricks used to be used in the Bengal region. The length of those bricks ranged from 18 to 22 and 22 to 36 cm while, their height used to be 6 cm. The construction materials used in the structure of Rezakpur seems to be of that same period. However, more research is required to be certain.

Visit to Rezakpur

Visiting the site in Rezakpur on last Tuesday, excavation was seen to be underway at a 250 metre long and 180 metre wide area. The soil was dug seven metres below the ground level.

A large portion of the main archeological structure has surfaced due to excavation. Thick walls, built of smaller bricks have been bared as well. Some were working to samples and listing the artifacts. Extremely careful excavation was going on at some parts. All the work is being done in a way so that the structures don’t get damaged. And the whole operation is being monitored by team head Afroza Khan. Almost 30 members are involved with the project.

Teachers of Kaopilmuni Meherunnesa Girls High School had brought their students to visit the site on the day. There were about a hundred students in that excursion group. Those students were eagerly watching the excavation work and the structures that had emerged. They students were handed out a leaflet titled ‘Home of scientist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray’ that contained a map of the archeological sites at different areas of Khulna division.

Rahima Akhter Shampa, headmistress of the school, told Prothom Alo, “No one knew there were so many ancient structures hidden beneath the surface, right beside our homes. People only got to know of this because of the excavation. These structures are a matter of pride for us. We brought our students to visit this site. This way they will get to learn about the archeological excavation as well as get ideas about our ancient history. The girls are delighted to see these old buildings too.”

Teachers and students of Kapilmuni Shahachari Vidyamandir School visited the site on Monday, the day before.

What has been found

The archeological team said it has been found in the initial survey that there are a lot of archeological ruins stretched over a large area in Kapilmuni union’s Kapilmuni, Rezakpur, Ramnagar, Shinghajani and Kashimnagar, which are still surviving. Earlier, Rezakpiur used to be known as ‘Kapilmuni-Agra’. However, the ‘Agra’ part got dropped while the administrative name was changed.

Archeologists involved in the excavation work of Rezakpur archeological site refer to the site as ‘Kapilmuni Dhibi’. They said the approximate length of this hillock is 250 metres and the width is about 180 metres. The hillock is 3.44 metres high from the sea level.

The excavation is underway at the southern part of the hillock. There are houses, cattle sheds, roads, ponds, ditches, fruit orchards and bamboo groves in the hillock area. Houses have been constructed on the hillock, excavating bricks by digging ditches. During initial survey, local residents said that they have removed quite a lot of brick structures while constructing their houses.

Due to archeological excavation, a square structure of a room was discovered on the hillock. There is an orbital path around that rectangular room. The path is surrounded by walls.

During the ongoing excavation angular walls, stretching from the corners of the square structure, have been found. The nature and purpose of the walls would be revealed once excavation is done on a wider area.

Various types of earthen pots and shards have been recovered in the archeological excavation. There were broken pieces of different earthen utensils -- cooking pots and pans, water vessels, jugs, lamps, etc. Besides, bits of various archeological artifacts including terracotta tiles, terracotta statues, designed bricks and cowry shells have been found too.

Meanwhile, blackish rice has been found mixed with the soil by the outer wall on the north-western and the north-eastern corners of the rectangular structure. Archeologists are referring to this as burnt rice. Experts opine, if research is conducted on the rice, ideas about the rice variety, nature and environment of that particular time would be revealed.

Swadhin Sen, professor at the archeology department of Jahangirnagar University, told Prothom Alo, “We have found mention of a 1,200-years or more ancient civilisations stretched across the south-western region of Bangladesh in the writings of many previous archeologist and historians. That indication has been proved now through the ongoing archeological excavation at Rezakpur.”

More proof

There is mention of various archeological ruins of Kapilmuni-Agra area in Satishchandra Mitra’s book titled ‘Jashoha-Khulnar Itihash’. Abul Kalam Mohammed Zakaria in his book titled, ‘Bangladesher Protnoshompod’ had written about archeological ruins stretched over an area of almost 14 kilometres from Satkhira’s Tala to Chadkhali in Khulna’s Paikgacha upazila. He also mentioned about a hillock in the Agra village. It is also mentioned in the book that ancient ruins of a structure was found excavating a hillock. However, no details of that excavation could be found.

Satishchandra Mitra and Abul Kalam Mohammed Zakaria had also mentioned about two Buddha statues that were found while digging ponds in that area. It is assumed that the Bishnu statue in a temple in Kapilmuni Bazar is approximately from the seventh or eighth century.

Based on the taxonomic features of the archeological artifacts especially earthen pots found in the area, archeologists are saying that their initial guess is that the artifacts could be from ninth to twelfth century.