How historians reconstruct religious past
Archaeologists reconstruct the past in the following manners:
(i) They excavate the ancient sites related with culture or civilisation. They find out remains from the site such as seal, material remains of houses, buildings, pots, ornaments, tools, coins, weights, measurements and toys etc.
(ii) Sometimes they find skull a, tones, teeth, jaws, and some articles kept with the bodies. Archaeologists take help of botanists, who are specialists in ancient plant remains. They also study the animal bones found at different sites with the help of zoologist.
(iii) Archaeologists try to identify the tools and implements used for cultivation and harvesting. They try to find out traces of means of irrigation such as wells, canals, tanks etc.
(iv) They used present day analogies to try and understand what ancient artefact were used for. Sometimes they compare the ancient findings with present day articles.
(v) Archaeologists observe the different layers of sites and try to find out different things which give pictures of socio-economic conditions, religions and cultural life of the past people in different times.
(vi) In order to identify centres of craft production, archaeologists usually look for the following: raw material such as stone needles, shells, copper ore; tools; unfinished objects; rejects and waste material. In fact, waste is one of the best indicators of craft work. For instance, if shell or stone is cut to make objects, then pieces of these materials will be discarded as waste at the place of production.
(vii) Sometimes, archaeologists have to take recourse to indirect evidence. For instance, though there are traces of cotton at some Harappan sites, to find out about clothing we have to depend on indirect evidence including depictions in sculpture.
(viii) Archaeologists have to develop frames of reference. We have seen that the first Harappan seal that was found could not be understood till archaeologists had a context in which to place it - both in terms of the cultural sequence in which it was found, and in terms of a comparison with finds in Mesopotamia.
(ix) Attempts have also been made to reconstruct religious beliefs and practices by examining seals, some of which seem to depict ritual scenes. Others, with plant motifs, are thought to indicate nature worship. Some animals - such as the one-horned animal, often called the “unicorn” - depicted on seals seem to be mythical, composite creatures. In some seals, a figure shown seated cross-legged in a “yogic” posture, sometimes surrounded by animals, has been regarded as a depiction of “proto-Shiva”, that is, an early form of one of the major deities of Hinduism. Besides, conical stone objects have been classified as lingas.