The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: the Siemi, a former civilization
caption: Chapter sixteen. The Lost Folk
caption: remains at Asalu
medium: books
location: Asalu
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: The Asalu sites, the largest and most remarkable in the district, lay almost due south of the village, on the Barail ridge.
text: One climbed up to them from the bridle-road, through thick woods. At the top of the slope one bumped suddenly into stone walls, mounds, ditches; clumps, for no reason, of the odd 'gareo' bamboo. Then you saw that the ridge was crowned by a square stone fortification - at first sight square; for, on investigation, the walls died out on slopes, in jungles of creeper, in cane-brakes through which not even a Naga could cut, and the plan which, accurately, one could put down on paper was only a fraction of what had been there on the ground, of what could still be hinted at and surmised. Inside the double set of walls and ditches were more hummocks, more walls, lost, now, in a tangle of forest. Tucked in one corner, the south-west - if you risked a fall and clambered and crawled and clawed your way there through thorns and bushes and over the pits and screes of the tumbled masonry, all dry-stone work - was an oval pit; and out of this, on the north-east side, there opened at a higher level a curious, stone-walled lane, which, crossing the spur, became on the far side an unwalled shelf as broad and as made as a modern bridle-road. At the edge of the wood it stopped, (126) destroyed by slips, for the hill was grassy and steep; but there was no doubt where it led. It pointed directly down to the second site.
text: By climbing a short way up the hill one could see below, in the thick, deciduous forest, great clumps of a lighter growth - 'gareo' bamboo. A strange companion, this, of the Siemi sites; explained by the Naga legend, but fitting in no way into soberer archaeology; and yet so often there that we used, when searching for a reported site, to look first for 'gareo.' If we happened to find it, then sure as fate the remains would be somewhere near. If we did not, the search was that much more difficult; and the site, when found, was likely to be an uninhabited one, such as the fort or the alley. The 'gareo' mostly appeared on the old settlements. It was so here; the ravine where the remains lay was thick with forest, and only from the 'gareo,' so clearly visible from the opposite hill, could we find the site in the first place.
text: It was the biggest Siemi settlement we saw anywhere, an enormous village. There must have been, in all, between one and two hundred houses - as big as any Zemi site, old or new. In many places the stone facings to the house-platforms still survived. They cropped out here and there in the grass and bushes; on the steeper slopes, they might be ten feet high. The site lay spread round the head of a valley, concealed, but not defended. Perhaps the stone outwork on the ridge above was its sole protection. We found no other; and the Asalu men, who had seen the area cleared and under cultivation, said definitely that there was none. But there was, through the very middle of the village site, a deep ditch. It was a shallow gully sharply deepened (you could see the point at which the cut began) till, when men had done their work and the Rains had improved it, a twenty-foot chasm, a Devil's Dyke, divided the two halves of the ancient village. And no one could tell us why.