Mahiwala 1 (MW-1): a Mesolithic site in the Thal desert of Punjab (Pakistan)

A very recent paper looking at the Mesolithic period, roughly 10,000-8,000 BCE, many thousands of years before the Indus civilization flourished, but critical to better understanding its antecedents. The authors write that "the discovery of a knapped stone assemblage with microlithic backed tools and geometrics represents a groundbreaking point for the prehistory of Punjab. It opens new research perspectives in a promising territory that had never been explored before, where surveys are undoubtedly to be continued in the future because of its great potential."

The finds, in the Thal Desert of northwestern Punjab, on the east bank of the Indus near sites also known for Kot Diji and Hakra Bronze Age finds, show that hunter-gatherers were present in an area that probably was once not the desert it is today. "To sum up, the discovery of Mesolithic assemblages in the Thal Desert of Punjab opens new perspectives to the study of the last hunter-gatherers in the north-western territories of the Indian Subcontinent during the first millennia of the Holocene. Though this topic is still badly known, scarcely studied, and the presence of geometric microliths in the region largely debated, mainly as regards their chronology, technol- ogy, shape and dimensional variability (Hiscock et al. 2011; Lewis 2017), the new finds show that groups of Early Holocene hunter-gatherers most probably exploited very different environmental landscapes both in Sindh (Biagi 2003- 2004) and in Punjab. Their presence contributes to the interpretation of the problems related to the behaviour of the last hunter-gatherers in the Indus Valley and its neighbouring territories."

Above: Raw material samples exploited at Mahiwala for making chert