A private collection started by Prof Md Nazmul Haque, lead to the birth of a local museum that now contains an assortment of ancient stones and other antiquities. Within two years he collected a number of antiquities, old stones and objects of archaeological value which have been on display at the ‘Rocks Museum’ at the Panchagarh Govt. Women’s College premises.
Nazmul Haque, who is also an ex-principal of the college where the antiques are on display, collected them in the years of 1997 and 1998, mainly focusing on stones..
His collection includes clay pots from around 700 AD, stones which contain Chinese inscriptions that have similarity with Nepalese and old Bangla letters, a decorated bamboo hedge from 1922, ancient iron clamps, decorated bricks of Mughal dynasty and old coins.
“People here did not know the history behind the antiques. Most of the collected items were found by the locals either by digging soil or from under the river beds,” said the professor, now working at Begum Rokeya University in Rangpur.
The ancient boats
In the ancient times, ethnic people in islands in the Pacific Ocean used boats made out of single tree trunks. They selected a log and removed sufficient wood to make the vessel light in weight, gave the boats sharp ends to maximize drag while making it strong enough to carry the crew and cargo.
Such two ancient boats presumed to have been built 500-1000 years back, were found while digging in the Chawain River near Amtala village and Karatoa River near Amorkhana village in Panchagarh district in the late 90’s.
The bigger wooden boat is 35-feet long and was found under the Chawain River by some villagers. They sold it to another family at Amtola village.
“I heard that someone has an antique boat in his house and rushed to see it with a staff from the college,” said Nazmul Haque. He bought the boat for for Tk1,300.
The smaller one is 25-feet long and was found under the riverbed of Karotoa, in Amorkhana village. It was handed over to the collector as a gift by one Nurul Haque.
Nazmul Haque sent samples from the boats to Dhaka University’s Chemistry Department, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and a lab in London but they failed to ascertain the exact age as the boats had been lying in the open sky after being discovered.
Nazmul said that he also discovered a paddle of an ancient boat from Kaliganj upazila.
“National Museum preserved designs of 81 types of local boats but those did not match with these boats,” he said.
Rocks and other antiques
The stones preserved at the ‘Rocks Museum’ allegedly originated in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts of India.
Displays include granite, twelve types of sands, fossilized rocks, petrified woods, quartzite shell, lime stones clay-rocks--some has old letters—including Biahmmi and Kharsty written on those. Some Chinese inscriptions have similarity with Nepalese and old Bangla letters.
The other antiques include old structural designs, ancient iron lamps, drawings, arrows which showcases the ethnic traits of Panchagarh and adjacent areas.
The museum has stone monuments that have similarity with stones at Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur. It also has hand-made stone axe of Neolithic era. Locals used to call those “Bajrakuthar.”
“These axes were under the soil for years. People thought that thunder fell from the sky and entered the ground hundreds of years back.”
The Rocks Museum was formally inaugurated on March 1, 1997 with the collected rocks and antiques. Nazmul Haque, who has a PhD in Anthropology, plans on doing research to find out more about the stones.