J.S. Kharakwal

J.S. KharakwalJ.S. Kharakwal (b. 1966) did his masters from Kumaun University, Nainital, and PhD from Deccan College, Pune (1994). He is currently Professor and Head of Department of Archaeology, JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Udaipur. He was a Fellow of Japan’s Society of Promotion of Science in 2001-02 and worked as Visiting Professor in the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, during 2004-05. He has carried out field research in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Gujarat on ancient metallurgy, Bronze and Iron Age settlements, rock art, and traditional agricultural rituals and rights. He directed excavations at Harappan and Iron Age sites. He has published six books and 50 papers and has participated in seminars in many countries in Asia and Europe.

Abstract of the lecture: Zinc Production in Ancient India

Zawar, near Udaipur in southeastern Rajasthan, is the oldest pure zinc production centre in the world. The smelting furnaces at Zawar were discovered in the early 1880s by a team of scholars from British Museum, Hindustan Zinc and M.S. University, Baroda. It is the only ancient site in the whole of South Asia where zinc was produced on a large scale. Zinc, being a volatile metal, was discovered very late compared to other metals. Though its history goes back to the 3rd century BCE, it was produced at Zawar with the downward distillation technique on an industrial scale between 1200 and 1800 CE. A few ancient texts of metallurgy and alchemy also mention the zinc-making process. It was mainly used for making brass, besides Ayurvedic medicines. The history of brass goes back to the 1st millennium BCE, with regular production starting only during the historical phase. Zinc as a metal was not known in Europe until 1734. Initially it was exported from India and later, in the second half of the 16th century, from China. The zinc production process at Zawar is regarded as the ancestor of today’s high-temperature technologies.