The Central Circle of the Sur-vey, under Shri M. D. Khare, undertook excavation at Besnagar, already famous for the Heliodoros pillar. Three cuttings, numbered BSN-1 to BSN-3, were laid out.
In cutting BSN-1, located on the confluence of the rivers Betwa and Bes, six Periods of habitation, ranging in chronology from prior to the Northern Black Polished Ware to post-Gupta times, were identified.
Period I yielded black-and-red and black-slipped wares along with plain red ware, animal-bones and iron objects.
Period II marked the appearance of the N.B.P. Ware, the frequency of which, how-ever, was less and the sherds were mostly fragmentary. The black-and-red, black-slipped and plain red wares of the previous Period also continued, plain red ware being the dominant ceramic industry. Besides various types of copper and iron objects, a number of other finds like terracotta beads, bone objects, terracotta votive tanks, stone pestles and querns, a collared copper bead, terracotta flesh-rubbers, punch-marked coins and a votive stone linga were also obtained from the deposits of this Period. The Period seems to have come to an end as a result of a conflagration, as seen by a uniform deposit of burning. Amongst the structures belonging to the Period mention may be made of an eight-course high baked-brick wall and some ring-wells.
Period III was distinguished by the use of the plain red, black-and-red and kaolin wares; marble objects; shell bangles; punch-marked coins; terracotta and stone beads; stone pestles and querns; and polished and burnt bone pieces. An inscribed stone seal, bearing an inscription reading Nikumbha-ragasya(?) in Brahmi characters of the Sunga period, was recovered from the late levels of this Period. Of singular interest was a lamp of fine red ware, provided with a pinched lip.
Period IV is assignable to the Naga-Kushan horizon. The ceramic industry of the Period included a red ware, sometimes also painted in black and represented by sprinklers, and a red-slipped ware. Votive tanks, terracotta beads, ear-studs, gamesmen, flesh-rubbers and a few copper coins constituted the finds of this Period.
Period V yielded antiquities relating to the Gupta period. The earlier tradition of painted pottery continued, though in a restricted strain, while the incised, stamped and impressed decorative motifs became quite frequent. Noteworthy among the other finds of this Period were: a terracotta bottle-stopper; a silver coin; terracotta human and animal figurines; terracotta stamping pieces with multiple designs; and terracotta and incised shell bangles. A circular brick pavement, perhaps used for ritualistic purposes, was also brought to light. The site appears to have been deserted after this Period.
Period VI, which followed after a lapse of some centuries, was represented by some rubble walls, enclosing about half-a-dozen earthen pots containing animal bones. The material remains of the Period comprised: a copper coin and a fragmentary stone sculp-ture, both depicting a sword and a shield in the hand; terracotta beads; circular discs or weighing-objects; and grey ware (painted) along with a plain red ware.
Cutting BSN-2 was laid out on the right side of Vidisha-Ashokanagar road and re-vealed an occupational deposit belonging to Periods I to V, as determined above. No post-Gupta remains were identified in this cutting. The cultural equipment of the various Periods was the same as in cutting BSN-1. A few structures belonging to Periods IV and V were also exposed.
Cutting BSN-3 was laid out in the area of the Heliodoros pillar. Excavation brought to light remains of a huge temple, measuring roughly 30 X 30 m. About 2.40 m thick walls of the ancient structure, showing a collapse mostly on the outer sides, were exposed. Associated with the structure were plain red ware, a few sherds of black-and-red ware, black-painted red ware and punch-marked coins, assignable to the second century B.C. A single sherd of the N.B.P. Ware was picked up from the black soil, underlying the ancient rubble structure. After this structure fell into disuse, the area was levelled up and remained unoccupied till the nineteenth century, of which period a coin belonging to A.H. 1296, issued by one of the Nawabs of Bhopal, was found. The latest phase of this structural activity continued till recent times.