The Ambari Archaeological Museum was established in the year 2004 to house the treasures found during the extensive excavation carried out in the site of Ambari in Guwahati.
This one room museum has objects displayed categorically along with basic information attached with each individual item. There are 6 showcases where objects are displayed alongside the open display of few items.
About Ambari Archaeological site
The Ambari Archaeological Site is situated in the heart of the Guwahati city in Kamrup District of Assam. The site was accidentally discovered in course of digging the foundation for the building of the Reserve Bank of India in 1969. Under the Ancient Monuments and Records Act 1959, on 10th October, 1969, the Assam Government marched to protect the site as archaeological importance of the State. From 1970 to 2003 the site was excavated by different excavators. The occupation of Ambari has been made into two distinct cultural periods ranging from c. 7th to 12th c. AD and 13th to 17th c. AD respectively.
The excavation at Ambari Archaeological Site in 2008-09 was conducted jointly by the Guwahati Circle of ASI and the Directorate of Archaeology, Assam. Following the excavation, it is important and significantly rewarding in view of the fact that no cultural findings of the Sunga-Kushana period (2nd-1st c. BC to 3rd c. AD) were ever excavated in Northeast India prior to this excavation.
The most important discovery of the excavation of Ambari Archaeological Site during the field season 2008-09 is flight of steps made of bricks leading to the tank. Besides, the excavation has revealed two floors and two hearths resting on the natural soil significantly.
The ceramic industry of the site is dominated by Kaolin ware, Red ware, Buff ware and few Grey wares, which are available in medium and coarse fabrics and occasionally applied with slip. All the pot shreds found are of wheel-turned, although a small percentage of handmade potteries is also recovered.
It is worth mentioning here that three types of foreign ceramics namely Arretine and Rouletted ware (1st -2nd C.AD.), Chinese celadon ware (10th -12th C.AD.), and Green glazed ware (16th -17th C.AD.), were also found in the excavation.
- C. Sharma in his report titled “Excavation at Ambari (Guwahati) -Its Problems and Prospects” , writes : “The total depth of cultural layers at Ambari archaeological site is found to be more than 5 metres, as determined with the help of a test pit. The layers have yielded a large number of sculptures, totaling 301 icons of two sizes, large icons – 49 and small icons – 252 of different deities, such as Vishnu, Surya, Devi Durga, Sivalinga, Yonipith, Nataraj Siva, Agni, Ganga, Yamuna, Muni and Gaja Vyala, all found in undamaged and in some cases unfinished conditions suggesting that Ambari was a major Atelier centre of Ancient Kamrupa. In addition to these, the site has yielded a huge quantity of dressed and decorated stone architectural block of granite and gneiss, among which the rare piece consists of a lattice-work of black basal, an imported variety of rock, decorated with exquisitely carved lotus motif recalling the Gupta or the Post-Gupta style of art. The most important finds from Ambari are, however, the large varieties of pottery-both indigenous and foreign. Among the foreign varieties are the Chinese Celadon ware and perhaps local imitations of Roman arretine and rouletted wares, suggesting evidence of Indo-Roman and Indo-Chinese trade routes through the Brahmaputra valley, since the early part of the Christian era. The most significant pottery of Ambari is, however, the kaolin wares of extremely fine quality found in huge quantity. The other important finds from Ambari are the beautiful pieces of terracotta art-all made of Kaolin, again a distinctive feature of the Brahmaputra valley art and culture, a large number of beads of Semi-precious stone, such as Chalcedony, Agate, Carnelian, Jasper, Coral, Amber, jade etc. – all are imported varieties of rocks suggesting trade contact of ancient Kamarupa with Central India and China, terracotta beads and bangles and a terracotta sealing showing in positive a human head with long face and fine nose, large moustache, wearing a crown and necklace of large beads – suggesting that in the cavity of the sealing, the head of a ruling king of Kamarupa was engraved in negative on clay sealing-certainly an example of a masterpiece of terracotta art of ancient Kamarupa.”
The Ambari inscription of 1232 C.E. mentioned the existence of Satra institution at Ambari, established by king Samudrapala at Yogihati, in which rituals were performed and was attached to royal residence. The inscription bears mixed characters of Devnagari and old Assamese script having similarity with few characters of inscribed images of Ambari. This exhibits royal patronage for the development of art and crafts in the region
Objects such as potteries with cut impression and matt finished decoration on bowls and dishes with incised lotus motif on the large dishes were also found here.
A unique huge phallus shaped object, identified as mukhalinga , made of kaolin with a small hole at the tapering top, is found at Ambari having hair or rays on it in relief.
Another important finding, along with the terracotta fragment of a female torso made of kaolin, is a fragment of a terracotta female figurine having headdress with layers of lavishly ornamented with pearls. Two miniature Sivalingas and Ganesa figurines and a conical seal having depicted with a human face wearing tiara of three crests and perforated top are also found here during excavation.
The terracotta findings at Ambari represent one of the finest ranges of Indian art form. The excavated findings at Ambari archaeological site of antiquities, terracotta objects and a group of stone sculptures carved as per canonical norms indicates existence of a atelier of artisans working under master craftsman either for trade or other purposes.
The museum houses some stone images of Durgamahisasurmardini, Vishnu, Surya and Symbols of Siva. It has vast collection of terracotta fragments, pots, earthen lamps etc. Few collection of coins and beads can also be seen here. A Gaja-Vyala statue from 10th-11th century AD greets the visitors at the entrance.
- C. Sharma ; Excavation at Ambari (Guwahati)
- Choudhury, P.C., Significance of the Ambari Stone Inscription ( Ambari: Guwahati), Assam, Ambari Archaeological Site: A Interim Report, Dutta, H.N.(ed), Directorate of Archaeology, p.26.