Apr 16, 2016

Prehistoric Artefacts

Between 2008 and 2014 my journeys touched some of the oldest inhabited places in Northern Karnataka. While most sites are on rocky hills, few are on plain land. The ones on rock hills had natural rock shelters.. homes of ancient people. Those ancient people left their marks in many forms.. right from dwellings to stones tools to stone drawings to music to inscriptions to anthropomorphic statues to tombs. In between is something which many today are not even aware of - stone alignments to predict seasons.. the ancient calendar system based on positions of shadows. There's one thing common in these all these artefacts one thing is common - stone. Here we go.. lets check out samples of the ancient artefacts..

Rock shelters and Cave dwellings
In the rock hills of Chitraduga, Bagalkot, Koppal, Bellary and Raichur are many a shelters in which ancient humans refuge from sun, rain and animals. Those shelters must have been occupied for generations. Yes, they lived free.. no rent or taxes to pay :) Of all rock shelters, the largest is know by the name Sidlaphadi. The word means lightning stone in Kannada.. however the name is given recently but for sure it was inhabited by humans several millennia ago. This picture below is Sidlaphadi, a bridge like rock formation. In the roof are three openings which are believed to be caused because of a massive lightning strike. This spot is situated in a depression on the plateau of Hiregudda (Big hill) of Badami. Besides this shelter, there are several smaller caves in the vicinity separated by plain land. During my visit I noticed one side of the cave's plains was sandy.. indication of flowing water. I looked for stone implements found none. Few kilometers from here is hill of Kutkankeri, a place of many shelters with rock paintings.

Stone tools
We have another hill called Hiregudda near Bellary. The hill has history dating back to Neolithic times, it was a tool manufacturing centre of that period. Even to this day we can find stone axes, spear-heads, pounding stones, and grinding stones. Our guide to Hiregudda is the one and only Rama Dasa of Sangankallu village which is approximately south-west of Hiregudda. On the northern-eastern side of the hill is another hill is Kappagallu; its name id derived from the dark colored dolerite dyke on the northern side of Hiregudda. During our second visit to Hiregudda, Ramadasa showed us the stone factory.. damaged & rejected stone implements and flakes formed during the process of manufacturing. Hiregudda is surrounded by vast plains of back soil. People back then practised agriculture and reared cattle. The stone tools manufactured here were also traded at Hiregudda, probably barter system had existed back then. Here are few pictures of ancient implements. In the bottom-right corner, Ramadasa was demonstrating how grains were ground into flour. The top-left picture is a grinding stone to sharpen axe heads. To read more about this visit open Prehistoric stone tools of Hiregudda.

One other place I'd seen stones which seemed like hand tools was in a riverbed next to Sonda fort.

Paintings on rocks
Now we are going to see the artistic side of ancient humans who at some point of time developed a delicate hands to create amazingly beautiful drawings of animals & birds including fish, humans, flowers, scenes of humans hunting wild beasts, group dances, battle scenes and abstract too. The paintings though mono-chrome have life to them, easily identifiable at the first glance. The largest collection of paintings were at Onake Kindi near Anegundi village, the city of ancient kingdom of Kishkinda. However the single largest painting depicting a hyena skin pattern was at Anepadi (meaning elephant stone) on the sandstone hill of Kutkankeri near Badami. Hire Benekal hill is better known for its megalithic tombs but it is said that hundreds of paintings could be found in the numerous rock shelters. Of all the paintings, the one near Ranganatha Swamy temple on Hiregudda of Badami is unique. The uniqueness is because of the fact that the animal and human forms seem unearthly.. they give a feeling they existed on a different planet. Personally I never felt such animals and human forms existed on Earth. Not just that, there are two drawings which are very much like an astronaut and a rocket in flight (see top-right picture). As you see the color used in all paintings is ochre, a shade of red

This is another form of drawings; stones scratched with stones. This is relatively rare to find,I've seen only two sites with ancient petroglyphs- Kappagallu and Maski. The name Kappagallu means dark stone in Kannada; the name has derived from the black igneous boulders of Hiregudda hill. On these rocks are hundreds of drawings of humans, animals & birds, and geometric figures. The most commonly seen animal is bull; one of the most lovely pictures is of a crane with a fish in its beak; and one a complex diagram of five pairs of bull & axe. The bull-axe-wheel has a deep meaning to it.. something which connects our earth with the space beyond the sky. In these pictures is Ramadasa, the person who knows Hiregudda by his heart. Maski in Raichur district is another place where I saw pictures of fish and elephants on a granite boulder.

Stone Alignment
This is something less known. Stones aligned in a huge matrix on plain land (spread over several acres) next to a twin peaked hill is one of the earliest known calendar system. The position of the peaks' shadow in the grid told what season it was. The only such alignment I've seen is at Vibuthihalli near Shahpur town in Karnataka.

Bell or Musical stones
Along with lovely sights, Nature produces captivating sounds... chirping birds, the sound of crashing waves, water gurgling through rocks.. well there's something else. Stones when struck produce clear sound.. like a bell. Through my journeys I've seen and heard four such rocks- two at Dolerite Dyke of Hiregudda and two at Mudgal fort. The top two pictures are from Hiregudda, these are igneous rocks. The bottom two are from Mudgal, a variety of granite local to that area. The bottom-right picture is a rock inside a natural shelter; that particular stone produces seven distinct notes... Sa Re Ga Ma... Amazing to hear the clear rings.. ting ting.

One another wondrous artefact is the kettle drum stone of Hire Benakal hill. This hemispherical stone is supposed to be created few thousand years ago. It is said that when the stone is struck with a wooden staff, it produces a booming sound which is audible as far as a kilometer! Well, I did not get a chance to check it out personally.. hoping the day comes.

Ash or Cinder Mounds
We all know ash is an end product of burning combustible material but here we are looking at rather big to gigantic ash mounds. In these ash mounds were found ancient artefacts like pottery pieces, grains, hair, bones, stone implements proving that they are ancient. Starting at top-right, going clock-wise direction- Hallur, Budihal, Kappagallu and Kudathini. Cinder mound of Hallur (Haveri district) is the largest covering approximately 30 acres and 30' high at places. Sadly this ancient monument is being actively destroyed by the village's own people. The next largest is at Kudathini. Kappagallu originally has three ash mounds however two have been flattened off by the land owner and one has survived the test of time. Lastly, Budihal ~ the name itself is derived from ashes. Budhi is the Kannada word for ash.

Anthropomorphic statues
These granite sheet cut-outs is another rare artefact. It is unclear as to what they represent.. are they deities or grave markers or a type of hero-stone? Whatever they are, they are clearly ancient and beautiful. These large human forms located on flat land between Kumathi and Valase villages in Bellary district. Locals call them Rakshahsagallu meaning demonic stones. Incidentally, about 3 kms away is a port-hole chamber megalithic tomb made of granite. Ramadasa remarked that the statue on right looks like a bird in flight. The other statue seems like Jesus in a lose robe.

Megalithic tombs
These is an interesting topic. Local people believe there structures made of dressed slabs were homes of ancient dwarf people. Archaeologists say these are ancient tombs. I've seen such tombs at five different sites- Hire Benakal, Aihole, Bachangudda, Kumathi, Rajan Kollur and Raap village next to Brahmagiri hill. I've also seen destroyed structures at Kutkankeri. Hire Benekal is the largest site, originally around 300 tombs, now around 100 can be seen. Structure heights vary from 1½ to 10 feet. Some of the tombs have port-holes. The lonely tomb of Kumathi is destroyed but the workmanship is good. The tombs of Raap village are destroyed completely, some ruins have been fenced off by ASI. Aihole and Rajan Kollur sites are more or less size same but the difference is while the former is on a hillock,, latter is in a gentle slope next to a stream. Tombs of these two seem primitive; rough cut red sandstone blocks have been used; again heights vary from 1½ to 6 feet. The group of tombs at Rajan Kollur has been researched by Philips Meadows Taylor way back in 1850. His book describes the structures in detail including a map showing the locations. The book also mentions tombs at Yeemigudda hill near Kanakagiri and Hegaratgi villages.

Similar tombs are also said to be found on Koppal hill and one near Mudabidri in western ghats. Neolithic culture had its own way of honouring their dead.

Cairns or Stone Circles
This is another type of grave markers. The only one I've seen until now is at the base of Hiregudda hill. Meadows Taylor has mentioned seeing several cairns in the Gulbarga, Raichur and Koppal districts.

Burial Urns
Terracotta burial urns can be seen at historical museums. Government Historical Museum at Bangalore and Museum at History Department of Karnatak University Dharwad have some good collection of burial urns and other clay-ware items like pots, plates, jars and jewellery too. The largest urn at Dharwad resembles a four legged creature.. like an ox or a horse. The museum's collections includes stone implements like axes, spear heads, sling balls, pounders and grinding stones.

..there's still lot to learn about our past.


Bharath Kumar said...

Hey!! I really never knew about these facts and places. Its a real Eye-opener. Amazingly you have proved to know a lot more in this process. Keep going Sidd

sindhoor said...

Lovely write - up and pictures.

siddeshwar said...

Thank you.. Bharath and Sindhoor.