A group of amateur photographers who had climbed up a hillock near Maski in Lingsugur taluk of Raichur district last week were in for a big surprise. They came across about 20 ancient urns with skeletal remains on the slopes of the hillock.
They learnt later that it was one of the ancient historic sites of Karnataka, many of which have been found in the past in Raichur, Gulbarga and Koppal belt. What the photographers had come upon was an urn burial site dating back to the Megalithic or Iron Age, which had got exposed following continuous rain that had washed off the top soil.
Maski is also famous for the Ashokan rock edict which was discovered by a British mining engineer in 1915, which dates back to the 3rd Century B.C. Another important location is Hirebenakal in Koppal district, which has a massive dolmen burial site.
“Ancient burial sites of this kind have been mapped in Maski and in this belt in pre-independence period,” says K.R. Ramakrishna, Commissioner, Department of Archaeology and Museums. One of the early colonial archaeologists to study this region was Robert Bruce Foote.
‘Excavate to find more’
Channabasayya Hiremath, Associate Professor, L.V.D. College at Raichur, says research related to these sites was later carried out by archaeologist B.K. Thapar in 1954.
“What needs to be done now is further excavation because there must have been human habitation close to the burial site,” says Prof. Hiremath.
Prof. Channabasayya Hiremath says that the time period of the burial site at Maski may have been about 100 years later than the time of the Ashokan edict, which is on another hill about a kilometre away.
The Hirebenakal site in the neighbouring Raichur is one of the largest clusters of Megalithic burial monuments in India with 400 port-holed dolmens, dated between 800 to 200 B.C. “The site presents quarry stones from which rock sheets were removed for erection of the monuments,” says Mr. Ramakrishna, adding that it points to sophistication in use of implements.
Neolithic implements, pottery, iron slag and cave paintings have been found around this area, pointing to continued and regular habitation in this region over a period of time. “As many as 10 rock shelters containing paintings ranging in date from Mesolithic period to early historic period have been found,” says Mr. Ramakrishna.
Variety in burial
Historians have talked about how the variety in these burial sites point to society which already had division of classes, with different kind of burials – such as pit, cist, urn and dolmen burials – indicating different social status.