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15 January 2011
Neolithic sites discovered in southern India

A large number of prehistoric sites have been found in the Gayathripuzha Valley in Palakkad district (Kerala, India). Archaeologists led by V. Sanal Kumar, Director of the Geo-Heritage Archaeology Research Centre, discovered socket remains - cupules and postholes - on several rocky outcrops at the foothills Thenmala of the Western Ghats in the Palakkad gap zone.
     These postholes were perhaps used for construction of mandapas (pillared outdoor halls or pavilions for public rituals) or some wooden structures. Out of 13 posthole sites with 24 pillared halls identified by Mr. Kumar, 12 are in the rocky plateaus, 3-5 km from Thenmala (Venkatamala) and the other one is found at Polpully, about 20 km away from Thenmala.
     The sockets found on the wall of the rock shelter at Manjikkal Kotta of the Thenmala Valley are for fixing beams for covering the top, and for steps to reach the top, he said. Similar postholes on rock surface at Nagarjunakonda and Brahmagiri sites in Andhra Pradesh and other areas suggest that these must have been part of a Neolithic settlement between 4000 and 1000 BCE, studies have shown.
     The unearthing of Mesolithic artefacts, rock engravings and Megalithic monuments in the areas around the posthole sites of pillared halls and the similarity of these postholes to the the Nagarjunakonda and Brahmagiri sites, clearly suggest that the area was a Neolithic settlement site.
     Recent studies have revealed that Palakkad district has several important prehistoric sites. The presence of a valley, granite hillocks, caves, natural rock shelters, rocky plateaus, vast plain land, a natural protection by mountain ranges, medium temperature, average rainfall, a natural drainage system, water storage in ponds, availability of food products and accessibility to peninsular India through the Palakkad gap might have encouraged the prehistoric people to settle in this area. They changed their habitation from the caves and rock shelters of the hillocks and mountain ranges to the granite plateaus, surrounded by agricultural land.  
     All Neolithic findings from the district have been published in research thesis in the Department of Studies in Geography, University of Mysore, says Mr. Kumar.

Edited from The Hindu (13 January 2011)

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