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16 May 2010
Indian stone circles and burial cists destroyed in development

Amateur archaeologists including Ashvin Rajagopalan and Raman Sankaran from Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, India, report the destruction of stone circles and burial cists in the nearby town of Thiruporur. Following up on a local newspaper report, the group set out to explore an Iron Age megalithic cemetery dating between 1000 to 300 BCE that was apparently under threat from local property developers, despite a protection notice erected by the Archaeological Survey of India.
     The town of Thiruporur is known for its 16th century Murugan temple and buildings, but the megalithic site lies on the shores of a lake in a reserve shrub forest just outside the town near the village of Sirudhavur. The lake bed is now cut across by a fresh tarmac road, from which the archaeologists spotted two stone burial circles of about 20 large boulders. In the trench parallel to the road, they observed many fragments of pottery which they associated with the circles. A local man then suggested they look on the other side of the road, where he said there were "hundreds" of circles.
     Taking a closer look, they indeed found traces of many stone circles within the fenced-off properties and found ten intact. However, as they saw industrial diggers digging wells in properties that had had stone circles, they realized that the monuments were being destroyed, the stones removed and used as fencing material or landfill if they stood in the way of the developments. The local man advised them that all the developments were illegal.
     The archaeologists report finding in trenches and around the site fragments of thick terra-cotta used in large urns and sarcophagi as well as Polished or Rouletted ware. They point out that finds of Polished ware is important in establishing the origins of this kind of pottery, and whether it was developed as an indigenous tradition or borrowed from Roman pottery from the port of Arikamedu. Graffiti on pottery fragments is also used to increase knowledge of the scripts used in the Iron Age. They also found fragments of iron objects, "the holy grail of megalithic sites", and possibly the remains of a furnace. However, the damage done to the site meant that it was impossible to make any kind of accurate plans.
     The amateur archaeologists who visited the site lament the lack of resources which prevents the Archaeological Survey of India from being able to protect such sites from destruction and illegal development, and the unique knowledge being lost forever by the destruction of the site.

Source: The Megalithic Portal (13 May 2010)

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