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Books > Art and Architecture > History > Excavations At Siruthavur
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Excavations At Siruthavur
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Excavations At Siruthavur
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Description
Foreword

The study and research on "megaliths" in India was initiated during the nineteenth century. Early attempts on the study of megaliths were largely antiquarian in nature and in the process a number of megalithic sites were discovered. The surface features and contents of these monuments and the issues such as origin, chronology, authorship and other aspects have attracted the attention of numerous scholars.

The early investigations aimed at understanding this culture, primarily, through the study of their artefacts or material remains has now undergone change and the concepts of research have extended greatly towards understanding the culture in its totality with the help of other disciplines.

The district of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu is dotted with a number of megalithic sites with varied type of megalithic burials. In the light of new approaches towards environmental studies and the wider questions of climatic and environmental changes an attempt has been made in collaboration with the Department of Geology, Anna University, Chennai to excavate the centrally protected megalithic site at Siruthavur.

At Siruthavur a well-planned and carefully targeted excavation to answer specific problems was made and information has been gathered about a number of variables, such as nature of distribution, burial types with distinctive features, with a lot of variation in their external and internal architecture and contents. It has been noticed that to a large extent the geological features influenced the burial types prevalent in Siruthavur. The location of the site which provided the raw material to build megalithic burials, water and forest provided an ideal ground for the megalithic people to subsist.

This limited small-scale excavation of the representative megaliths to know the man-land relationship based on the environmental setting has brought out some facts on how the geomorphology of the region has influenced the settlement pattern of the megalithic culture.

I, congratulate Smt. Sathyabhama Badhreenath and her team for bringing out this report and putting the facts of the excavation for the scholars to research upon in the future.

Preface

The proposal of excavating the megalithic site at Siruthavur was initiated in collaboration with the Department of Geology, Anna University, Tamil Nadu in order to understand the man-land relationship during the prehistoric period. Megalithic burials are marked by big stones hence the name Megalithic (Mega-meaning big and lithic-meaning stone). Some other types where there are no associated stone appendages but where other related traits of this culture are present also form a part of this culture. This particular site gave all the potential parameters for the study due to its ideal location with a perfect geomorphologic background required by the megalithic folks. The site is located between a water body (lake) suited to provide water for irrigation and a small hillock which gave the required raw materials for building the megalithic tombs. Today, a part of this site comes under the forest zone. These burial practices also help us in understanding the socio-religious practices prevailing in the region during that period. In the earlier excavations carried out in this region the dating of megalithic burials was primarily based on associated material. A scientific date was required to study the comparison with other similar sites as well as to establish a chronological order.

A multidisciplinary approach for the study of megalithic culture has not been attempted so far in this region; hence a study of climatic fluctuation through the lake deposit was carried out. This gives an insight as to how the area witnessed changes in climatic conditions, and also its relation to Man.

The spatial distribution pattern study will aid in understanding the priority regions selected for the different forms of burial style.

Introduction

THE PROBLEM AND PREVIOUS WORKS

The megalithic culture was the earliest known culture responsible for the introduction of a full fledged agricultural economy based on irrigation in South India. The study of the megalithic culture had resulted in many speculations regarding their origin, spread and age. Tamil Nadu entered into the megalithic period from the Neolithic and had not witnessed the Chalcolithic period probably due to lack of copper ore in the region. Megalithic monuments are erection and construction of tombs of stone. In spite of their varied architectural features and methods of constructions, the culture has some common features like using stones, iron tools and Black-and-Red ware pottery. Few scholars like Wheeler, Childe, Subba Rao and Banerjee opine that the practice of megalithism spread to India from West Asia and few others like Christoph Von Furer Heimendorf, Gordon and K.R. Srinivasan feel it is autochthonous. Chronologically, the earliest megalithic type of Tamil Nadu is the dolmenoid cist with porthole on the east, which is found in the northwestern region of Tamil Nadu, around 500 BCE (Narasimhaiah 1980:205). Later, other types entered into Tamil Nadu in different periods. But all the types seem to have entered before the beginning of the Christian era (Narasimhaiah 1980:205).

The Sangam literature dated to the early centuries of the Christian era is a collection of Tamil poems belonging to the Tamil Academy which refers to these monuments. For example, the urn burials are referred to as tali or mudumakkaltali or imattali. The term nadukal could mean the menhirs.

Northern Tamil Nadu is rich in megalithic vestiges and explorations in this region were taken up systematically by the Archaeological Survey of India under V.D. Krishnaswami from 1944 to 1948 and it resulted in the discovery of more than 200 megalithic sites of different varieties in the two geological zones namely the lateritic in the north covering the taluks of Ponneri, Thiruvallur and Sriperumbudur and the granitic in the south covering the taluks of Saidapet, Chinglepet, Kanchipuram and Madurantakam.

As a result of his extensive explorations, the following types of megaliths were identified in the region:

Transepted Cist with passage: Chamber having either a part of it above ground level or completely under ground and capped by a huge slab and with a slab which transepts the chamber into two. There is a passage formed of two slabs placed upright on either side of the port-hole and is closed in front with another slab.

Dolmenoid cist: Chamber made of slabs or unhewn stones which are partly buried and partly above ground capped by a single or multiple capstones.

Sarcophagus: An oblong terracotta tub provided with legs and convex terracotta lid. Some are zoomorphic also. It is buried under ground inside a cairn circle or a dolmenoid cist.

Menhir: A monolithic slab or boulder erected as a memorial stone.

Stone circle, Cairn circle, Cairn circle with Capstone and Barrow: Huge unhewn boulders kept in one or more circles above the ground is known as stone circle; frequently, the stone circle encloses a heap of rubble; it has been classified as a cairn. If the heaped cairn does not have any lithic circle, it is referred to as a barrow. Sometimes a single or more flat stones are kept on the cairn in the middle of the circle; this type is known as a cairn circle with capstone. Sometimes these four types may contain a pit, an urn, a sarcophagus, or a cist.

Urn burial: A huge urn with or without skeletal remains and the primary deposits of the grave furniture is buried under ground. Sometimes the mouth is closed with a slab.

His work was followed by excavations in the present districts of Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur during 1950's under N.R. Banerjee and K.V. Soundarajan of the Archaeological Survey of India at Amirthamangalam (Ponneri taluk) (Banerjee, 1954-55:20-21), Kunnathur (Saidapet taluk) (Krishnaswami, and Saran, 1957-58: 37-38) and Sanur (Madurantakam taluk) (Banerjee and Soundara Rajan 1959:4-42) in order to understand the material interned in the monuments, mode of disposal of the dead and the method of construction of the tombs.

After a long gap, the excavations (2008) at Siruthavur offered an opportunity to open the representative types of megaliths in the Chinglepet region.

**Contents and Sample Pages**







Excavations At Siruthavur

Item Code:
NAW956
Cover:
HARDCOVER
Edition:
2011
Language:
English
Size:
11.00 X 8.50 inch
Pages:
93 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
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Weight of the Book: 0.66 Kg
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Foreword

The study and research on "megaliths" in India was initiated during the nineteenth century. Early attempts on the study of megaliths were largely antiquarian in nature and in the process a number of megalithic sites were discovered. The surface features and contents of these monuments and the issues such as origin, chronology, authorship and other aspects have attracted the attention of numerous scholars.

The early investigations aimed at understanding this culture, primarily, through the study of their artefacts or material remains has now undergone change and the concepts of research have extended greatly towards understanding the culture in its totality with the help of other disciplines.

The district of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu is dotted with a number of megalithic sites with varied type of megalithic burials. In the light of new approaches towards environmental studies and the wider questions of climatic and environmental changes an attempt has been made in collaboration with the Department of Geology, Anna University, Chennai to excavate the centrally protected megalithic site at Siruthavur.

At Siruthavur a well-planned and carefully targeted excavation to answer specific problems was made and information has been gathered about a number of variables, such as nature of distribution, burial types with distinctive features, with a lot of variation in their external and internal architecture and contents. It has been noticed that to a large extent the geological features influenced the burial types prevalent in Siruthavur. The location of the site which provided the raw material to build megalithic burials, water and forest provided an ideal ground for the megalithic people to subsist.

This limited small-scale excavation of the representative megaliths to know the man-land relationship based on the environmental setting has brought out some facts on how the geomorphology of the region has influenced the settlement pattern of the megalithic culture.

I, congratulate Smt. Sathyabhama Badhreenath and her team for bringing out this report and putting the facts of the excavation for the scholars to research upon in the future.

Preface

The proposal of excavating the megalithic site at Siruthavur was initiated in collaboration with the Department of Geology, Anna University, Tamil Nadu in order to understand the man-land relationship during the prehistoric period. Megalithic burials are marked by big stones hence the name Megalithic (Mega-meaning big and lithic-meaning stone). Some other types where there are no associated stone appendages but where other related traits of this culture are present also form a part of this culture. This particular site gave all the potential parameters for the study due to its ideal location with a perfect geomorphologic background required by the megalithic folks. The site is located between a water body (lake) suited to provide water for irrigation and a small hillock which gave the required raw materials for building the megalithic tombs. Today, a part of this site comes under the forest zone. These burial practices also help us in understanding the socio-religious practices prevailing in the region during that period. In the earlier excavations carried out in this region the dating of megalithic burials was primarily based on associated material. A scientific date was required to study the comparison with other similar sites as well as to establish a chronological order.

A multidisciplinary approach for the study of megalithic culture has not been attempted so far in this region; hence a study of climatic fluctuation through the lake deposit was carried out. This gives an insight as to how the area witnessed changes in climatic conditions, and also its relation to Man.

The spatial distribution pattern study will aid in understanding the priority regions selected for the different forms of burial style.

Introduction

THE PROBLEM AND PREVIOUS WORKS

The megalithic culture was the earliest known culture responsible for the introduction of a full fledged agricultural economy based on irrigation in South India. The study of the megalithic culture had resulted in many speculations regarding their origin, spread and age. Tamil Nadu entered into the megalithic period from the Neolithic and had not witnessed the Chalcolithic period probably due to lack of copper ore in the region. Megalithic monuments are erection and construction of tombs of stone. In spite of their varied architectural features and methods of constructions, the culture has some common features like using stones, iron tools and Black-and-Red ware pottery. Few scholars like Wheeler, Childe, Subba Rao and Banerjee opine that the practice of megalithism spread to India from West Asia and few others like Christoph Von Furer Heimendorf, Gordon and K.R. Srinivasan feel it is autochthonous. Chronologically, the earliest megalithic type of Tamil Nadu is the dolmenoid cist with porthole on the east, which is found in the northwestern region of Tamil Nadu, around 500 BCE (Narasimhaiah 1980:205). Later, other types entered into Tamil Nadu in different periods. But all the types seem to have entered before the beginning of the Christian era (Narasimhaiah 1980:205).

The Sangam literature dated to the early centuries of the Christian era is a collection of Tamil poems belonging to the Tamil Academy which refers to these monuments. For example, the urn burials are referred to as tali or mudumakkaltali or imattali. The term nadukal could mean the menhirs.

Northern Tamil Nadu is rich in megalithic vestiges and explorations in this region were taken up systematically by the Archaeological Survey of India under V.D. Krishnaswami from 1944 to 1948 and it resulted in the discovery of more than 200 megalithic sites of different varieties in the two geological zones namely the lateritic in the north covering the taluks of Ponneri, Thiruvallur and Sriperumbudur and the granitic in the south covering the taluks of Saidapet, Chinglepet, Kanchipuram and Madurantakam.

As a result of his extensive explorations, the following types of megaliths were identified in the region:

Transepted Cist with passage: Chamber having either a part of it above ground level or completely under ground and capped by a huge slab and with a slab which transepts the chamber into two. There is a passage formed of two slabs placed upright on either side of the port-hole and is closed in front with another slab.

Dolmenoid cist: Chamber made of slabs or unhewn stones which are partly buried and partly above ground capped by a single or multiple capstones.

Sarcophagus: An oblong terracotta tub provided with legs and convex terracotta lid. Some are zoomorphic also. It is buried under ground inside a cairn circle or a dolmenoid cist.

Menhir: A monolithic slab or boulder erected as a memorial stone.

Stone circle, Cairn circle, Cairn circle with Capstone and Barrow: Huge unhewn boulders kept in one or more circles above the ground is known as stone circle; frequently, the stone circle encloses a heap of rubble; it has been classified as a cairn. If the heaped cairn does not have any lithic circle, it is referred to as a barrow. Sometimes a single or more flat stones are kept on the cairn in the middle of the circle; this type is known as a cairn circle with capstone. Sometimes these four types may contain a pit, an urn, a sarcophagus, or a cist.

Urn burial: A huge urn with or without skeletal remains and the primary deposits of the grave furniture is buried under ground. Sometimes the mouth is closed with a slab.

His work was followed by excavations in the present districts of Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur during 1950's under N.R. Banerjee and K.V. Soundarajan of the Archaeological Survey of India at Amirthamangalam (Ponneri taluk) (Banerjee, 1954-55:20-21), Kunnathur (Saidapet taluk) (Krishnaswami, and Saran, 1957-58: 37-38) and Sanur (Madurantakam taluk) (Banerjee and Soundara Rajan 1959:4-42) in order to understand the material interned in the monuments, mode of disposal of the dead and the method of construction of the tombs.

After a long gap, the excavations (2008) at Siruthavur offered an opportunity to open the representative types of megaliths in the Chinglepet region.

**Contents and Sample Pages**







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