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27 November 2010
Iron Age burial urn unearthed in India

A singularly massive megalithic urn with black and red ware, presumably dating back to the early-Iron age, was recently unearthed at Thillayadi in Nagapattinam, India. The 1.5m (5') high urn - with a mid-circumference of 3m (10 ft) and a mouth width of 84cm (33") - was found at a depth of about 2.5m (8') at a private construction site. The black and red ware pottery points to the cultural antiquity of the urn.
     According to Mr. Muthusamy, curator at the Danish Fort Museum, the burial is presumed to be over 2,500 years old. Only two such megalithic burials have been found previously in Thillayadi. One month ago, a similar megalithic burial of twin-urns were found at Thirumangalam village in Kuthalam. As with the earlier find, the presence of a sword by the recently discovered urn probably means that the burial was made for a Chieftain. The curator indicated a possible carbon dating by the Department of Archaeology to date the find.
     The urn contained red and black pottery that included kalayams (water bowls) - a total of nine bowls of which five were still stuck to its study interiors - and a clay-ware lamp. A fossilised jaw with teeth intact and six pieces of bone (one resembling a knee cap and another may be part of a spine) were found in the urn.  Mr. Muthusamy said that shards of broken clay perforated with tiny holes found in the urn may indicate a likely euthanasia. "People lived longer lives then and when they almost vegetated due to old age or when they reached a state of inability to eat, they would have them buried this way." These megalithic burials were essentially a cult practice with rituals writ large, and occasionally marked by mercy killings.

Edited from The Hindu (24 November 2010)

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