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Karnataka History

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Archaeological excavations in Karnataka have brought out cultural relics of great antiquity which reflect the life of man in the dim dawn of civilization. The first evidence of the stone age culture in Karnataka surfaced as early as in 1842 when Primrose discovered a polished stone axe at Lingsugur in Raichur district. But the systematic exploration of pre-historic sites was conducted by Robert Bruce Foote of the Geological Survey of India, who has been rightly regarded as the Father of Indian Pre-History. His good work was continued in Karnataka by a galaxy of earnest scholars which include Dr. R. V. Joshi, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Sampath Iyengar, Dr. Allchin, Dr. M. H. Krishna, Dr. M. Sheshadri, Dr. M. S. Nagaraja Rao, Dr. A. Sundara and Dr. B. K. Gururaja Rao.

Rivers have been a sustaining force of cultures in their earlier phases of growth. Providing food, water and transport facilities, the rivers have nursed the man groping up the ladder of civilization. The primitive man also used the pebbles in the rivers to make his crude, simple weapons and instruments. Many sites on the river banks have yielded weapons of the primitive man. The Hampasagara in the Tungabhadra or several sites along the Malaprabha basin may be mentioned as examples.

Robert Bruce Foote had discovered Early Stone Age (Paleolithic) tools at some sites like Lingadahalli and Nidaghatta in Chikkamagalur district, Halakundi in Bellary district, Talya in Chitradurga district and Nyamati in Shimoga district. Dr. R. V. Joshi excavated 21 Early Stone Age sites on the banks of the river Malaprabha, which include Manasgi and Khyad. At Hunasigi in Gulbarga district Dr. K. Paddayya conducted excavations in1974, and many implements of lime stone have been discovered.

The Stone Age implements found at different sites include hand-axes and cleavers. Wooden scrapers have also been found at Kibbanahalli. The life of the primitive man in Karnataka was evidently unenviable. He was a nomad; a gatherer of food; he hunted animals, did fishing, collected fruits, nuts and tubers from the forests and lived a precarious existence in the caves or in other natural shelters. Archaeologists have found evidences to surmise that many Paleolithic sites were destroyed by the change in the course of rivers. Obviously, that was the price the primitive man had to pay for his over-dependence on rivers.

A number of Neolithic sites have been excavated in Karnataka, although some of them have been listed as Microlithic or Mesolithic sites. Tekkalakota and Sanganakallu in Bellary district, Piklihal and Maski in Raichur district, Hallur in Dharwad district, T. Narsipur and Hemmige in Mysore are the most important among them. The Neolithic man was not just happy to remain a gatherer of food. He chose to settle down in a place to raise crops, domesticate animals and enjoy a more secure life. Excavations have brought out the evidence of ragi and paddy at Hallur and of Horse-gram at Tekkalakota. The domesticated animals included cow, goat, dog, buffalo, horse and sheep. The bone of a buffalo has been found at T. Narsipur, while at Sanganakallu, the bone of a horse has been unearthed.

The Neolithic man emerged from the shelter of caves to build thatched huts for his residence. Sometimes, huts were constructed on a single post, which resembled an umbrella. Such huts were constructed at Hallur and Tekkalakota. In places like Brahmagiri and Sanganakallu, remains of square, mud-walled huts have been discovered. The Neolithic pottery in Karnataka is mostly hand-made, although wheel-turned wares have been found. Large pots were made to store grains. They were also used in burial. Red, Grey and black colours were used in pottery, which have also been engraved or painted with a variety of designs.

In Karnataka, the Neolithic Age is not quite distinctly marked from the Chalcolithic (Copper Stone Age) or Megalithic ( Big Stone Age) Age. Large number of stone-axes have been found at Sanganakallu. Bone implements have been found at Maski, while an arrow-head made of deer's horn has been discovered at Hallur. Copper axes have been unearthed at Tekkalakota and Hallur and many other varieties of copper and bronze weapons have come to light at Brahmagiri. Ornaments of different kinds made of stone, bone, ivory, copper and gold were in use. Copper ornaments have been found at Maski and Brahmagiri, and ear-rings of gold have been found at Tekkalakota. Semi-precious stones like Jasper and Agate were used in ornaments.

The Neolithic man in Karnataka buried their dead generally with their head laid towards the North or East. Their belief in life after death is reflected in their practice of burying vessels, jewels, weapons, food-grains and other things along with the dead. Small children were buried in urns, as seen at Brahmagiri.

Scholars believe that Karnataka had commercial contacts with the people of the Indus Valley in C. 3000 B. C. it is pointed out that the gold found in the Harappan sites was imported from the gold mines of Karnataka. The hypothesis cannot be summarily ruled out.

It has also been argued that the advent of the early Neolithic settlers in Karnataka must have been the result of mass movement and immigration. Towards the end of the upper Neolithic period, there are indications of an intrusion into this region from the north. The painted pottery discovered at Sanganakallu and Piklihal is said to be indicative of the impact of the northern people who migrated to the south.

The last phase of the Neolithic Age has been marked by the Megalithic culture, during which period the use of iron became popular. Axes, hammers, spikes, arrow-heads, swords and sickles made of iron were found at different sites in Karnataka. The period is also marked by the construction of stone chamber tombs.

The pre-historic art and particularly the paintings of the Neolithic man in Karnataka, have been found at Piklihal, Hirebenakal, Tekkalakota and other places. Figures of men and animals, hunting scenes or other themes are depicted. Dr. A. Sundara feels that the Pre-historic artist "should be unquestionably credited with the laying of the foundation of the Art-tradition in Karnataka".

to be continued...
Mr. Arthikaje

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