India diggers find artefacts after holy man's treasure tip

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India diggers find artefacts after holy man's treasure tip
An Indian policeman stands guard at the fort of Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh in Daudiakala village in northern Uttar Pradesh state on October 18, 2013. Archaeologists began excavating an abandoned palace in northern India after a popular Hindu holy man said he dreamt 1,000 tonnes of gold were buried underneath as barricades were erected to control the crowd gathered at the site where a 12-member team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is conducting the excavation, led by ASI deputy director P.K. Mishra. AFP PHOTO.

NEW DELHI (AFP).- Indian archaeologists said Monday they have found artefacts in the ruins of a centuries-old fort where a Hindu holy man has said he dreamt that a hoard of gold was buried.

Archaeologists began digging at the fort in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Friday, three months after the seer told a junior government minister about his dream of a 1,000-tonne gold treasure.

The dig in the impoverished village of Daudiakala created a media storm and drew large numbers of local residents, prompting barricades to be thrown up around the site.

The fort belonged to Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh, a Hindu king who was executed after taking part in a 1857 revolution against British colonial rulers.

The Archaeological Survey of India (AIS) has said it began excavating on the basis of findings from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) that suggested gold or silver could be buried there.

The junior minister told an Indian newspaper that he had earlier alerted the GSI and fellow ministers about the gold, after swamy Shobhan Sarkar said that the dead king had appeared in his dream and asked him to recover the stash.

However the AIS insisted on Monday that its excavation was aimed at discovering and recording the fort's "cultural heritage" and was not a gold hunt.

"It is a trial excavation and so far we have cleared soil up to a depth of 1.5 metres (five feet) and yesterday we found a medieval wall, earthen jars and pots, a hearth and a floor," ASI's excavation chief Syed Jamal Hasan told AFP.

"Archeologists anywhere in the world do not dig for gold and treasures and here we are interested only in discovering the site's cultural heritage," Hasan said.

He said a 12-member team would keep digging as long as there were signs of human habitation.

"It might take us a month or so," said Hasan, whose government agency is charged with researching and protecting India's cultural heritage.

The guru told India media that he was worried about the "collapsing economy of India" and so also wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Reserve Bank of India about the "hidden treasure".

A hoard of golden Hindu idols, precious stones and other treasures, which some estimates value at billions of dollars, was unearthed in 2011 in the vaults of a 16th-century temple in the southern state of Kerala.

The temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, was built by a king and donations by devotees had been kept in its vaults ever since.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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