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17 March 2012
Megalithic Indian burial complex unearthed

Researchers from the Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, recently excavated four megalithic tombs at Hirapur in Chandrapur district.
     Artefacts discovered suggest these tombs, dating between the 3rd and 2nd century BCE, were also worshipped by local rural communities - perhaps the first time that a megalithic structure has been found to have been worshipped. Archaeologists regard the four as a unique complex - the first such discovered in the South Asian megalithic culture.
     "In fact, one of the double-chambered megaliths found is still worshipped by a tribal community after they harvest their fields," says Kantikumar A Pawar, assistant professor at the institute, who supervised the excavations. "One of the four megaliths is intact... perhaps the largest in India". The dolmen's standing stones are about 3 metres high, the capstone 5 metres by 4.5 metres and weighing more than 80 tonnes. The structure has two separate chambers, with large rectangular 'windows' instead of the usual small circular porthole used for offering food to the dead.
     "We have also found glass bangles, a copper bangle, stone Celt and various potsherds from the site. The second and third megaliths found were quite small, yielding only a few potsherds, some iron ore and its residue... This is interesting because megalithic burials have never before yielded iron ore," says Pawar.
     The fourth dolmen is unique in form, but missing its cap-stone. "The chamber itself is floored by seven properly dressed laterite blocks, which are placed in the east-west direction. In the west corner of this chamber, above the dressed stone block, a huge ceramic assemblage was placed. Similarly, in the eastern corner, close to the northern standing stone, one punch-marked coin, having the 'Three-arch hill' symbol was placed. This shows some sort of royal treatment conferred upon the dead buried inside the chamber," he says. Adjoining is a huge, enclosing wall - "the first of its kind anywhere in the Indian sub-continent," according to Pawar.

Edited from The Times of India (12 March 2012)

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