Ancient India Simplified: Megalith (Iron Age) (3500 B.C – 300 B.C)

1. Around 1500 B.C, the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala (Mostly South Indian States) were inhabited by Megalith People. 
2. They are found to be contemporary of the Late phase of Harappa and Megalithic settlements flourished until the second century BC. Sangam literature mentions Megaliths and its close association with the regions in the south.
3. Megalith Means “Big Stones”. The Megalith culture was known for its burials and big stones were placed around the burials. 
4. They found iron tools in these burials which signified that they had knowledge to smelt Iron.
5. Megalithic people cultivated a variety of food grains, including rice and wheat. Donkeys and buffalo were among the animals they domesticated. Agriculture was subsistence and was practised on hill slopes and not on plains. 
6. Use of high-quality red and black pottery during this era is highly characteristic.

Major types of Megalithic Burials:

Pit Circle GravesThe Body is first excoriated (Skin peeled off) and then buried. Pots and Iron artefacts are placed in the grave. A stone circle is erected around the pit. 
CistsCists are stone coffins made of granitic slabs. They may have portholes.  They may contain single or multiple burials.
Laterite ChambersSimilar to Cists found in the Malabar region.
Alignments Burial which consists of a large number of standing stones called “Menhirs” which are arranged in square or diagonal shape. 
SarcophagiCoffin Made of Terracotta
UrnsBurial in which a pottery vessel is used as a grave repository for the ashes and bones of the corpse.

Recently, Archaeologists have identified 65 large sandstone jars (Megaliths) believed to be used for ritual burials across four sites in Hasao district, Assam. Earlier in 2020, the State Department of Archaeology, Chennai had identified 250 cairn-circles (Megalithic Structures) from the Kodumanal excavation site in Erode district of Tamilnadu.

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