| 8 October 2010
Extraordinary settlement find in India
A large number of stone tools and weapons said dating back to more than 80,000 years ago were unearthed from a dry lake bed in Singadivakkam (Tamil Nadu, India). Located in a remote hamlet some 65 km south of Chennai only a couple of days ago, the cache could signal a major find in the area.
The discovery was made by Professor S. Rama Krishna Pisipaty and his student S. Shanmugavelu of the department of Sanskrit and culture at Sri Chandrasekaharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya. It was part of an ongoing excavation that is partly funded by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The artifacts uncovered so far include hand-axes, choppers, scrappers and borers, as well as microlithic tools (small stone implements) and pointed tools of different sizes and shapes. Most of the tools could have been used for hunting and fishing.
Professor Pisipaty said that the huge number of tools (over 200) found at the one-hectare-site indicates that it could have hosted a large human settlement. Many of the settlers may have migrated from the northern parts of the country, he added. "The settlement, as can be guaged from the tools found, shows transition from early to middle Paleolithic age," Prof. Pisipaty noted.
The geo-archeologist added that this period encompassed the first widespread use of technology as humans progressed from simple to more complex development stages. It is generally said to have begun about 500,000 years ago and ended about 6,000 BCE with the development of agriculture, the domestication of certain animals and the smelting of copper ore, he said. In this settlement, the community identity became more important than individual identity, Prof Pisipaty said.
Prof Pisipaty stated that unlike other similar finds, including the first Paleolithic tool (a hand axe) discovered at Pallavaram in 1863 by British geo-archeologist Robert Bruce Foote, the one at Singadivakkam is unique for at least one reason; the site has evidence in the form of tools and weapons showing the transition from the Stone Age to the modern age. In the rest of the Paleolithic sites discovered so far, he noted, there had been a break in the sequence. That makes this site the largest Paleolithic settlment near Chennai, he said.
Professor Pisipaty and Shanmugavelu, who had been conducting excavations at the site since February 2009, began with basic research, which included field visits. A large number of pebbles in different forms as well as the nature of soil convinced them of the significance of the area. Before starting the excavation, Pisipaty made a presentation to the authorities and was granted permission through the state archeological department. "Kancheepuram was ideal for early settlers with its large number of safe water bodies a lifeline for any human settlement," Pisipaty said.
Edited from The Times of India (25 September 2010)
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