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13 February 2011
Evidence of clan-based societies in ancient Kerala

'Nannangadies' (earthen burial urns) unearthed at many places in Kerala (India) throw light on the rich heritage of clan-based societies in the Megalithic period. However, serious archaeological studies have not been taken up as such findings are unearthed accidentally by local people or farm workers, said T. Rajesh, who did extensive research on the history of Idukki district and its early settlers. In the absence of preservation steps, the urns and the metallic items found inside them have been destroyed.
     Earthen burials were recently found in Amaravathy and Cheruthoni. The findings are evidence to the existence of a clan-based society in the Megalithic period in the High Ranges of Idukki district. Researchers have found evidence of settlers near the rock mountains at Anappara in Anakkara village, he said. Heavy man-made granite structures ('veerakkallu') were found at Anappara, Adayalakkallu and many other areas. Veerakkallu is a marked burial place of warriors in prehistoric times. These urns and granite structures are the remains of one of the earliest known inhabitants and are scattered at various places, which are now facing increasing threat of destruction, he said.
     The recorded history of unearthing of the first burial urn was at Chakramudy when the first survey of erstwhile Travancore was conducted by a team of the Madras Army in 1817. This was followed by many such findings at various places in the High Ranges. In spite of individual efforts, such findings are often destroyed owing to lack of awareness among the people. Historian Rajan Gurukkal said the burial urns were unique remains of a clan-based society. The furnaces near such burial sites are indicators of primitive moulding of iron metals that were excavated from inside the urns along with small earthen pots. These urns are beautifully decorated in bright colours of black and red. These are unique in its pattern and bear similarity only with Indonesian findings. Carbon-dating shows that the burial urns represent a period from 1050 BCE to 3 CE.
     The Idukki district panchayat (the Indian basic unit of decentralized administration) had documented the history of the area as part of its efforts to protect the cultural life and historical evidence beginning from the Megalithic period. Co-ordinator of the project E.J. Joseph said the team members travelled far and wide and it was found that the evidence of the Megalithic period faced increasing threat in the absence of effective protection over the years. It was due to the lack of serious archaeological intervention, he said.

Edited from The Hindu (12 February 2011)

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