History Optional Paper- 1 Solution – 2012: Q.3 (a)
Q3.(a) Discuss the extent, settlement patterns and subsistence economy of the megalithic cultures.
The word ”megalith” comes from two Greek words, megas meaning great or big and lithos meaning stone. Megaliths include different kinds of monuments that have one thing in common- they are made of large, roughly dressed slabs of stone.
Extent of the megalithic cultures
In the Indian subcontinent, they occur in the far south, the Deccan Plateau, the Vindhyan and Aravalli ranges, and the north-west. However their main concentration lies in Deccan and far South.
Some of the important sites in Maharashtra and South India are Takalghat-khapa, Naikund, Borgaon, Junapani, Adichanallur, Korkai, Brahmagiri, Maski , T.Narsipur, Hallur, Nagarjunakonda etc.
Settlement patterns of the megalithic cultures
(1) The megalithic people lived in villages consisting of a sizeable population. Though they had a bias for the urban life, they were slow in building huge cities like their contemporaries in the Gangetic Valley.
(2) The houses in which the megalithic people lived probably consisted of huts with thatched or reed roofs, supported on wooden posts as indicated by the presence of postholes in the excavated sites. At Brahmagiri and Maski were found postholes indicating the presence of timber construction for ordinary buildings.
(3) Recent study of the megaliths of Tamil Nadu suggests that the location of megalithic sites close to irrigation tanks (mostly rain fed, some fed by streams) was more than a coincidence.
Megalithic sites are mostly found in areas where intensive agriculture was possible. The large concentration of megalithic sites in river valleys and basins and preference shown towards occupying black soil, red sandy-loamy soil zones also supports this contention. The distribution pattern of these sites in rainfall zones where the average annual precipitation is 600-1500 mm, also hints to the same conclusion.
(4) Megalithic sites were initially understood as settlements of nomadic pastoralists but the evidences clearly suggest sedentary living.
Subsistence economy of the megalithic cultures
The basis of their economy was agriculture. The megalith builders were responsible for the introduction of the advance methods of agriculture on a large scale, based on irrigation.The megalithic builders introduced the ‘tank-irrigation’ in South India.
The crop remains identified include rice, lentil, barley, pulses, ragi, millets, horse gram, green gram, etc. In addition to these, location of sites near water sources and agricultural implements also suggest the existence of agriculture.
(2) Animal husbandry
Scores of megalithic sites have yielded evidence of the remains of the domesticated animals like cattle,sheep, goat, dog, pig, horse, buffalo, fowl, ass, etc.
Cattle (including buffalo) predominates over other domesticated species.
The occurrence of the remains of domesticated pig and fowl suggests pig rearing and poultry farming on a small scale at many of the sites.
Frequent occurrence of bones of wild animals and equipment for hunting, like arrowheads, spears point towards this.
There are rock paintings of hunting scenes, showing peahens, peacocks, stags and antelopes.
The evidence in the form of terracotta net sinkers from Takalghat and fish-hooks from Khapa besides the actual skeletal remains of fish from Yelleshwaram reflect that fishing was also practised.