Archaeological survey on the alluvial plains of Jammu in north-western India 

This month, Navjot Kour is leading a ground-truthing survey in the outer alluvial plains of the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Here, her team is documenting and validating new potential archaeological sites and geomorphological traits that Navjot previously mapped using a combination of historical sources and multi-temporal satellite imagery. 

Navjot Kour

In particular, she successfully integrated a vast collection of Survey of India georeferenced cartographic maps with declassified “spy” satellite photographs, such as the CORONA (1970s) and HEGAXON (1980s) US reconnaissance missions. The combination of these datasets has revealed areas of archaeological interest that are no longer visible in present-day satellite imagery.

The mound of Biyan in Corona imagery (left) and in Hexagon imagery (right)

“The region has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, primarily due to the expansion of urban infrastructure and the agricultural leveling of many archaeological mounds. We are now addressing this long-term impact on archaeological areas from the ground”, says Navjot from the field. 

Left to right: Tsewang Dolker, Navjot Kour, Kajal and Hardeep Singh

Three scholars from Jammu University assist Navjot: Hardeep Singh, Kajal, and Tsewang. So far, the team has located more than a dozen previously unknown sites showing different levels of preservation, from visible potsherd scatters on the surface of agricultural plots to highly eroded mounds, ranging from the Period II (3rd C BCE-1st C BCE/CE) to the medieval periods. The survey has focused on the northern area of Akhnoor to south-eastern part of Bishnah. They still have a few more days to go as the team moves south-west to the RS Pura region. Good luck, team! 

The results will complete the first comprehensive archaeological and heritage database for Jammu. The newly reported sites will be added to the existing dataset collected by Navjot during her PhD (University of Baroda, 2021). In her next stage, she will evaluate the settlement distribution of the archaeology in the area with the long-term riverine evolution of the area that shaped the present-day northern plains of the Chenab and Tawi rivers. Over millennia, the region of Jammu was a strategic crossroad between the Himalayas and the plains of Punjab, and it is a critical area for providing an overall understanding of the development and interaction of cultures in northern South Asia.


The survey campaign is part of Navjot’s research under her postdoctoral project RIVERINE funded by the Spanish Agencia Estatal de Investigación (PCI2021-122026-2B).

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