Oct 4, 2014

Prehistoric Ash-mound of Hallur

Hallur, situated on Tungabhadra river bank in Haveri district is know for a prehistoric ash-mound. Hallur's ash-mound was discovered by Nagaraja Rao in 1962 and excavated in 1965. The excavations revealed two periods of human occupation- 1. Neolithic-Chalcolithic (between 2000 BC and 1200 BC) and 2. an overlapping period between Neolithic-Chalcolithic and early Iron Age. During the excavations several artifacts were found- iron arrowheads, daggers & knives and earthenware. Pottery found was black-and-red ware with lines and patterns in white drawn over them.

March 17, 2014
I arrived at Hallur by 3 PM. At the village entrance my inquiries for ash-mound's location caught few people's attention. Of them one person seem to have an interest for history. In fact he sprang a surprise- ruins of Hallur's mud fort. Wow! The search for an ash-mound came with a bonus :) I asked him if he could take me to the site. Yes! My guide's name is Suresh F Tilawalli. We hopped into the cab and took a dirt branching out of the village's main street. Just outside the village and close to the site, Suresh showed couple of neglected ancient sculptures- damaged images of Hanuman and a slab with Kannada inscription : (

Hanuman | Slab with Kannada inscription
A short distance away to our right was the fort. This mound is one the corners. A wide trench running along the fort perimeter indicates the presence of a moat.

We take the dirt path going into the fort, towards the river. We stopped by a large excavated pit to out left. The white earth seen here is actually ash. I could see pottery pieces on every square foot, literally. This ash-mound is spread over 32 acres and over the ash-mound itself sits the fort. Suresh spoke about excavations carried out during 1990s.. hundreds of artefacts were found in this pit. Well, digging did not stop there.. in still continues. But why? Local people hauled loads of this dirt-ash mixture to their fields because they believe it improves soil's fertility and crops yield. Off late with increasing fertilizer prices, farmers have resorted to a large scale operation.

We inspect a layer of ash at a spot. The ash grey and fine. Suresh lets go a handful in the air, the mild breeze blows it away.

Suresh leads the way to the 'ash mine'. This is where earthmovers load hundreds of tractor-trailers every week. It really resembles a mine.

The excavations have revealed the innards of the ash-mound. Layers of different colors formed over time can be seen here. We locate a damaged grinding stone, the type used to grind cereals into flour. The concave surface is well ground, proof it was well used before coming to this state. This stone reminds me of similar grinding stones seen at Hiregudda near Sangankallu.

Here every foot fall raised a mini cloud of ash. At places our feet would sink into the fine ash.

Next we inspect a much wall with several layers of dirt and ash. At this point the mound is about 15' high. This is a very ideal spot to study the content.

Suresh points at a mass of ash and bits of charcoal embedded in earth.

Close look at ash and charcoal bits.
Here Suresh shows a layer of stones embedded into ash-earth mixture. His opinion is that a wall was built here. It does seem like a wall.Close by we found two more grinding stones the type used to grind wet food matter like batter or masala.

Here's a small sample of artefacts collected in 30 minutes- bone fragments, grinding stones and pottery shreds. Notice the bottom right piece- the red-black ware as mentioned in Ashmounds and hilltop villages: The search for early agriculture in southern India.

Few more closer views:

layers of ash, red and brown earth
ash, pottery shred and a tuft of hair like strands
black and grey shreds of pottery
Here's a short video of the ash mine-

Sadly, this important prehistoric monument is being vandalized. Several hundreds of trailer loads have been looted, doing permanent damage and loss of invaluable artefacts. A short distance from here is a sand mining setup. Oh mankind, what ever you are upto!!

We move to the highest point of the mound/fort. That's Tungabhadra flowing in our direction. Hallur village is the background, concealed by a wall of trees.

Suresh wanted to show me a stone structure with a passage. The structure was probably built during 16th century. It looks like a sentry/docking point for boats navigating the river, bringing in supplies for the fort. Such docking points can be seen at Arani, Havanur and Nadivi forts too.

In this view, on the left is a stairway descending into the structure. Perhaps it has a passage below which worked as an underwater entrance.

The structure as seen from river bed.

Blazing Sun had literally roasted me. We went to the water and cooled off. Bare feet in water felt great, I felt rejuvenated. We walked back the cab and drove back to the village. Back at the village entrance, we exchanged phone numbers over tea. We spoke of the hillock within Hallur's sight. The hill has peculiar rock formations on its southern face. The rocks are spiky, sticking out of the hill, varying in height from 4' to 12'. Also on the hill is a shrine dedicated to Shri Lakshmi Ranganath Swamy believed to be a Udbhava Murthy a self created image. Time being a constraint, I had to leave. Thanks to Suresh for his patience and time.

Here are links to few more ash-mounds of Karnataka-

LocationTaluqDistrict
KappagalluBellaryBellary
KudathiniBellaryBellary
BudhihalShorapurYadgir

The ended with a beautiful sun burst..

Hallur Ash-mound & fort coordinates: 14°20'27"N   75°37'15"E
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