70 graves discovered at Iron-Age site in SW India


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Archaeologists have not just discovered 70 burials from the Iron Age in Koppa, Karnataka, they have, for the first time, shown that people also lived near burials and cultivated ragi and paddy crops. Koppa is an early Iron Age megalithic burial site, located on the right bank of the Cauvery in Periyyapatna taluk, Mysuru district.

70 graves discovered at Iron-Age site in SW India
Artefacts  from  the  habitation  area at Koppa: a, Geometrical and non-geometrical microliths of quartz. b, Potsherds
 of dull red  ware, black ware and slipped red ware. c, Sling ball of granite, tools or tool edge sharpeners (?), 
fragments of spout and spindle whorl. d, Iron slag from locality [Credit: R. Arjun. Current Science]

“Koppa was discovered in 1868 by captain Cole, who was then the superintendent of Coorg (under Madras presidency). In the same year, he opened up 17 megaliths or burials. Later, KK Subbayya excavated a few more burials in Koppa. We, however, had no information about their habitation. My aim was therefore, to ascertain where people lived and I started my investigations from 2013,” Arjun Rao, archaeologist from the department of archaeology, Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, told Bangalore Mirror.

Though more than 3,000 burial sites have been identified across the Deccan Plateau and burials range from five to 1,000 at these sites, little is known about their habitation and settlement patterns. The current study is an attempt to bridge this gap. The author initiated explorations across five densely spread megalithic sites across the Cauvery river bank, covering Kushalnagar, Kudige, Ramaswamy Kanive, Heggedehalli and Koppa. Intensive and systematic archaeological explorations were conducted during 2013-2015 in a nine square km area, centring the Koppa burial site.

While archaeologists believed that the megaliths had been destroyed, Arjun during his explorations, discovered that around 70 of them existed in the periphery of the villages in Koppa on granitic escarpments. Bunding of field boulders across the agricultural fields helped in locating the site.

70 graves discovered at Iron-Age site in SW India
The stones (marked with red circle) demarcate the burial ground 
[Credit: Bangalore Mirror]

“The ongoing surface survey project has gained enough evidences to consider Koppa as a habitation-cum-burial site, with major offsite activities,” said the findings published in the Current Science journal.

Iron Age in Koppa, according to the research paper, was a dispersed settlement and had a strong belief in megalithism or honouring the dead, which was at the “centre of their habitation and overall functioning of the society”. “The significance of this research is that for the first time, we have an understanding of the landscape and their settlement pattern over the upper reaches of the Cauvery river bank. We can now conclude that people had located themselves within the given natural resources under tropical wet climatic condition of Western Ghats and the control of such resource locations might have played a decisive role in the societal and political functioning,” said Rao.

Till recently, experts believed that either the habitational evidences were covered by forest regeneration, or that the society was largely made up of nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoral communities, resulting in flimsy settlement deposits. However, since a decade, experts are getting a better understanding of their habitation and subsistence activities.

The landscape of the site, water availability and a look at the grain evidences from habitational sites or directly from the burials reveal that ragi and paddy cultivation could have been near the habitation and streams. Abundant supply of newly introduced crops like paddy and ragi (continued from southern Neolithic phase) in the burials substantiates large-scale production and practice of both wet and dry cultivation, says the findings. “Koppa burial excavations have given us the abundant supply of such food grains, so that means that they were locally produced crops,” he said.

Source: Bangalore Mirror [June 27, 2016]



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