In News: Recently, new menhirs were found on the Pothamala hills on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.

More on News:

  • Pothamala hills have hundreds of cobbled stone structures, pointing to the existence of a structured graveyard of a prehistoric civilisation.
  • The menhirs were planted in a specific geometrical pattern on a cluster of hills.
    • Menhirs are monolithic slabs that are erected above the ground and may be small or gigantic in height. 
    • Menhirs are endemic to certain regions only and are a feature of megalithic culture.
  • Most of these structures are oriented in the east-west direction.
  • Exquisite natural settings of the hills and dales at Pothamala have made the yet-to-be explored megalithic site different from similar sites spotted in other parts of the State. 
  • The megalithic stone sentinels at Pothamala might hold the key to the hitherto unexplored facets of a civilisation that dated back around 3,000 years.

About Megalithic Culture:

  • It refers to the cultural remains found in the megaliths and from the habitation sites associated with them.
  • They include different kinds of monuments that have one thing in common-they are made of large, roughly, dressed slabs of stone.
  • Such monuments have been found in many parts of the world in- Europe, Asia, Africa, and in Central and South America.
  • It is derived from the Latin mega (large) and lith (stone).
  • They were constructed either as burial sites or commemorative (non-sepulchral) memorials.
    • The former are sites with actual burial remains, such as dolmenoid cists (box-shaped stone burial chambers), cairn circles (stone circles with defined peripheries) and capstones (distinctive mushroom-shaped burial chambers found mainly in Kerala). 
    • The urn or the sarcophagus containing the mortal remains was usually made of terracotta. 
    • Non-sepulchral megaliths include memorial sites such as menhirs.
  • The culture lasted from the Neolithic Stone Age to the early Historical Period (2500 BC to AD 200) across the world. 
    • In India, archaeologists trace the majority of the megaliths to the Iron Age (1500 BC to 500 BC), though some sites precede the Iron Age, extending up to 2000 BC.
  • Megaliths are spread across the Indian subcontinent, though the bulk of them are found in peninsular India, concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (mainly in Vidarbha), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Around 2,200 megalithic sites can be found in peninsular India itself, most of them unexcavated.
  • Even today, a living megalithic culture endures among some tribes such as the Gonds of central India and the Khasis of Meghalaya.
  • Megaliths in India cannot be treated as representing a single, homogenous or contemporaneous culture.