Beef was widely eaten in ancient Hindu India – conclusive proofs, as assessed by Sanjeev Sabhlok

Archaeological evidence of beef eating in India (Indus Valley, Vedic period, etc.)

Based on preliminary research I've published the following posts on archelogical evidence on this subject:

Conclusive evidence of beef and horsemeat eating in Kurukshetra during the Vedic period
Conclusive evidence of beef eating in the proximity of Ayodhya during the late Vedic period
Evidence of beef eating in the Gangetic plain during the Vedic period
Beef was eaten in the Pune area at least till 1400 BC
Beef was commonly eaten in Rishikesh-Haridwar till 5th century AD
The precise method of cow slaughter in the Indus Valley Civilisation

Other evidence

1) 51. EXCAVATION AT LAL QILA, DISTRICT BULANDSHAHR.— [Indian Archaeology 1969-70 A Review]

Thermoluminiscence dating of a few potsherds of the Ochre Colour Ware from the site, conducted by the Archaeological Research Laboratory at Oxford, indicate a mean date of 1880 B.C. Besides other finds, animal bones were found in large numbers. The cut-marks, present on many of them, suggest that meat was the staple diet. Evidence of some grains
(cereal), suggesting agriculture as a subsidiary occupation, was also available.

2) 62. EXPLORATION IN DISTRICT UDAIPUR. VEDIC PERIOD [Indian Archaeology 1961-62 A Review]

While the occurrence of animal bones attested to a meat diet, querns, pounders and rubbers indicated a grinding-activity suggestive of the use of grains, though no grains were obtained.

3) 81. EXCAVATION AT NARHAN, DISTRICT GORAKHPUR.— [Indian Archaeology 1985-85 A Review]

Deep pits cut into the natural soil containing pottery fragments, animal bones, antlers and loose ashy earth were encountered. Some of the bones and antlers bearing cut mark and occasionally charred, indicated that meat was an important component of their diet. Remains of charred grains were collected by flotation technique.

4) 9. EXCAVATION AT RAMAPURAM, DISTRICT KURNOOL. [Indian Archaeology 1980-81 A Review]

[note this is from possibly a pre-Vedic period]: People domesticated animals like Bos indicus (cattle), Bubalus bubalis  (buffalo), Capra aegagrus (goat), Oris aries (sheep), Sus scrofa cristatus (pig), etc. It is interesting  to know that there is some indication for killing cattle at a very advanced age. If the cattle was  kept only for food purposes, the inhabitants would have killed these animals at an early age, possibly around the age of three when the meat is tender and in plenty. It is possible, therefore, that the inhabitants kept these as domesticated animals, some of them being used for agricultural purposes. As there is a scarcity of vertabrae, ribs and lower parts of the limb-bones in the collection, it seems that majority of these animals were slaughtered outside the habitation and later the flesh-bearing parts brought in. The inhabitants supplemented their food economy by occasionally hunting wild animals like Cervus Unicolor (sambar), Gazella Gazella (chinkara) and birds. It is also certain that they exploited aquatic resources like mollusc and fish. The presence of a few pieces of marine shells indicate that the people might have contacts with outsiders living nearer the sea.

5) 1. Excavation at Gandlur, District Guntur.— [Indian Archaeology 1983-84 A Review]

[Note: This is neolithic, i.e. pre-Vedic] From inside the pits of the dwelling complex, objects of household use were recovered. These included a fragmentary quern, several mullers, pounders, belt hammers, a few stone axes, microliths, dabbars, clay and steatite beads and one terracotta lamp, which interestingly has a tubular provision for inserting wick. Clods of burnt earth were a recurrent phenomenon in the pits; a complete hearth except for one near the rim of the quardrupartite pit was not noticed elsewhere. Pottery and animal bones have been found both inside and outside the dwelling pits. Occasionally full pots in fragments were also present in the pits. The pottery was handmade with coarse fabric. Most of the animal bones appear to be of cattle. There were many cut and charred bones of cattle, probably suggesting consumption of beef. Food grains were also recovered from the dwelling pits which throw some valuable light on the agricultural practices and dietary habits of the people.

6) 65. Excavation at Ganeshwar, District Sikar [Indian Archaeology 1983-84 A Review]

[Note: this is probably from the Indus/pre-Vedic/copper age] A preliminary study of the available bones revealed three groups of animals (1) animals  which were in the process of domestication like cattle, sheep and goat, swine, dog, ass, camel  and fowl, (2) animals that lived in the houses or in the vicinity of township like hog, shrew, rat, etc. and (3) wild animals including those hunted for food like Nilgai, antelope, deer, hyena, wild bore, wolf, comb duck, hare, rabbit and fresh water fish. In case of the bones of cattle, fish, fowl, sheep, goat and wild animals, a number of them bore cut marks, besides being occasionally charred, pointing to their use as food. Evidence for extraction of bone marrow from various bones was also observed.

7) 90. Excavation at Damdama (Warikalan), District Pratapgarh.[Indian Archaeology 1983-84 A Review]

[Note: this is pre-Vedid] The excavations at the site brought to light a large number of animal bones belonging to cattle, sheep/goat, ass, deer, stag, tortoise, fish, birds, in charred, semi-charred or unchar-red condition. The availability of these bones at the site in such a large number furnished evidence not only about the hunting economy of the people but also about the range of animals roaming in the area at that time. Besides, the assemblage also gave some indication about the prevailing climatic conditions during the Mesolithic times in this part of the Ganga Valley.

8) 28. EXCAVATION AT PRABHAS PATAN, DISTRICT JUNAGADH.— [Indian Archaeology 1976-77 A Review]

Interesting feature of the collection is that the bones of horse (Equus caballus) and fish were found only in the early historical period. Bones of cattle (Bos indicus), sheep (ovis orientalis vignei), goat (capra hircus aegagrus) and pig {Sus scrofa cristatus) are found right from chalcolithic to early historical periods, in almost all levels. Bones of camel (camelus dromedarius) occur in the chalcolithic and early historical periods. Most of the bones collected belong to the domesticated animals, except two wild examples of Sambar (Cervus unicolor) and Chital (Axis axis). A few bones of turtles (possibly Trionyx) and rodents have also been collected.

9) 49. EXCAVATION AT DAIMABAD, DISTRICT AHMEDNAGAR.— [Indian Archaeology 1975-76 A Review]

[Note this is chalolithis, i.e. Vedic/pre-Vedic] A preliminary study of the plant remains found elsewhere in this Phase by Shri Kajale of the Deccan College Post-graduate and Research Institute, Pune, revealed that wheat, barley, rice, ragi, safflower, jowar, gram, peas and lentil were cultivated. The large number of animal bones indicate that meat formed an important part of the diet of the chalcolithic people. The animal skeletal remains belonged to sheep, goat, cattle, horse, buffalo, dog, tortoise and fish.


It is not just the prevalance of animal bones that matter in providing insights into meat eating in ancient India. The dental record also matters. It can corroborate the findings of animal bones, since the teech of meat eaters change (and become different) to the teeth of those who eat less meat. An incidental feature of this information is that in the past Indians very often did not cremate, but buried their dead. Most human skeletons recovered in ancient India are from burial sites. The following article corroborates the wide prevalence of meat eating in north India in the mesolithic period (around 

Mesolithic Subsistence in North India: Inferences from Dental Attributes, by John R. Lukacs and J. N. PalSource: Current Anthropology, Vol. 34, No. 5 (Dec., 1993), pp. 745-765.

Research on the vertebrate faunas from MDH and  DDM is still in progress, but preliminary identifications  suggest a wide diversity of mammals, birds, reptiles, gastropods, and fish. The presence of bison, elephant, and hippopotamus in these contexts lends support to the idea of a moister climate than today’s.  Many of the animal bones are charred, most are recovered from hearths, and many yield evidence of cut marks. Taken together, these observations point to the  importance of meat in the diet. This interpretation is  counterbalanced, however, by the fact that querns and  grinding stones are among the most frequently found  stone objects at MDH and DDM, attesting to the dietary  significance of gathered wild grains and roots.

Caries prevalence is dramatically greater at Harappa. The key differences are attributable to the tendency for the Gangetic Plains samples to show severe dental wear, dental abscessing and antemortem tooth  loss attributable to wear rather than caries, a greater  prevalence of calculus (reflecting higher meat consumption), and a greater prevalence of alveolar resorption resulting from heavy masticatory stress in combination with calculus deposition.


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