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How Silk Route travellers survived Ladakh’s inconceivable terrain | India Information – Instances of India

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NEW DELHI: The freezing caves on an remoted stretch on the Leh-Manali route, some 4,000m above sea stage, look something however hospitable. The trail itself is treacherous, chopping by mountains amid glaciers, however a part of one which linked historic India to China and Central Asia — the Silk Route.
That merchants, travellers and pilgrims took this route has been recognized for years. What isn’t recognized is how they survived it.
A research by geochemists from the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow might have discovered the reply — in a maze of interconnected caves past the final go earlier than Leh, close to the Rumtse, Sasoma, Sumdo, Gya and Meru villages within the Ladakh valley. Scattered throughout these caves, about 8-12 toes excessive and 10 toes huge, are traces of life — damaged pottery, diyas and, the important thing to their findings, soot.
“It appears the caves have been in use since earlier than the 11th century,” Dr Anupam Sharma, lead writer of the paper revealed within the ‘Journal of Archaeological Science: Studies’ by Elsevier, advised TOI.
“The caves had been used intermittently by travellers and transhumant communities (those that transfer with livestock seasonally to search for summer season and winter pastures), principally in summer season. However they may have been in use all year long, as a result of they’re comparatively low-level and near streams.”
Ladakh had been the convergence level between central and south Asia when the Silk Route was thriving. “The 60-day journey on the Ladakh route linking Amritsar (Northwest India) and Yarkand (Southwest China) on the Silk Route (southern department) was routinely employed by retailers till the late 18th-Nineteenth century when mainland borders between India and China had been closed for strategic causes,” the paper mentioned. Co-author Dr Amritpal Singh Chaddha added, “The Himalayan economic system was dependent upon its commerce with central Asia and China.”
Proof of human presence in these areas itself will not be new. The Tibetan Plateau had been occupied by prehistoric human ancestors by the Neolithic age (the agriculture part of human evolution, which started about 12,000 years in the past). And archaeological traces of the earliest habitation within the area return even additional, to the Final Glacial Most (about 22,000 to 18,000 years in the past). However winters are excruciatingly lengthy and the mountains stay snow-covered for 3 to 4 months in a yr. The air is skinny, there may be barely any rain and vegetation is restricted to the valleys alone. Not the best place to name residence.
“However we discovered soot on the roof of the caves. These return to the Seventeenth-18th century. In dialogue with different students, it’s believed that it’s the final recognized date as much as which the caves had been utilized by people,” Sharma mentioned. The Ladakh samples recommend wooden was burnt inside these caves, depositing a tough, sticky, shiny, and resinous black charred materials on the roof. “Such coatings could also be the results of a condensed smoke generated by hearth primarily based actions (cooking and heating), almost definitely to take care of liveable situations contained in the caves,” the paper mentioned. “Moreover, the usage of oil for lighting torches additionally helps the formation of smoke/soot leading to cave coatings.”
How the caves had been used over the centuries additionally modified. Sharma mentioned the presence of “the close by Stupa and Mane (small Buddhist buildings) recommend the caves might have been additionally used for spiritual functions.”
With time, the concentrated pollution inside these caves might have thrown them into disuse. Pneumoconiosis, lung illnesses attributable to mud inhalation, is prevalent throughout Ladakh. And its emergence two centuries in the past might have been why folks stopped utilizing caves as stopgap shelters, the paper mentioned.
“The burning of dung and fermented humus within the small cave areas with minimal air flow would have resulted in big quantities of smoke and is clear from the cave roof coating. This may very well be one of many possible causes that the human inhabitants deserted the caves and moved on to alternate preparations.”

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