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16 March 2010
Kerala's megalithic monuments linked to the Mediterranean?

A wide range of megalithic burials recently discovered in some northern districts of Kerala (India) during a research project have thrown light on possible links between the Mediterranean and Kerala coasts in the Stone Age between 6000 BCE and 2000 BCE. The researchers, however, say further studies and analysis are required to establish the thesis. Interestingly, the finds were unearthed at a time when the researchers have firmly established the maritime links between the Mediterranean region with Kerala since ancient times, thanks also to the shards of Roman amphora that have recently been dug up from Pattanam near Kochi, close to the ancient port town Muziris.
     The existence of a large number of port-holed cists and dolmens in Palakkad, Wayanad and Idukki districts seeks to show that the megalithic people who lived in these parts of the world were navigators who migrated to Kerala from the Mediterranean region by sea route. V.P. Devadas, principal investigator, UGC [University Grants Commission] Major Research Project on Megaliths of Kerala, says that the archaeological studies on Malabar mainly depend on its megalithic culture. Though there is uniformity in the character of the megalithic burial monuments in Malabar, there are some differences in the mode of construction.
     Dr. Devadas says that Kerala is rich in megalithic monuments, viz. rock-cut caves, rock-cut pits, urn burials, umbrella stones (kodakkal, hat stones (toppikkal), slab cists, port-holed cists, dolmens, menhirs, multiple hood stones and stone circles. Among these monuments, the most typical of the megalithic burials is the port-holed cist. A port-holed cist is a box-like structure, made of four or five dressed granite orthostats or slabs kept upright either in the clockwise or in the anti-clockwise direction on a floor slab with a cap-stone cover. The box-like structure has a port-hole on the front slab, the hole facing the east.
     In the large cist cemeteries of Wayanad, the port-holed cists are found facing the east. This type is mainly confined to the granite highland region of Kerala. Port-holed cists are abundantly seen at Muppuzha in Palakkad district, Ayiremkolli, Kuppakolli, Krishnagiri, Vythiri and Mangalamkarp in Wayanad district and Marayur in Idukki district, according to Dr. Devadas' study. There are a large number of port-holed cists at Pathirikunnu in Krishnagiri at the foothills of the Chembra peak near Meppadi. There are about 200 such cist burials in an area of 1,500 acres near the Edakkal Hills.

Sources: The Hindu, (8 March 2010), BusinessGhana (9 March 2010)

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