Discovery of menhirs throws light on prehistoric cultures of Guntur region

Archaeological evidence indicates that the huge stones were erected in memory of the dead

Published - September 30, 2022 11:20 am IST - GUNTUR

Archeologist E. Siva Nagi Reddy at the site of megalithic menhirs discovered near Macherla

Archeologist E. Siva Nagi Reddy at the site of megalithic menhirs discovered near Macherla | Photo Credit: VIJAYA KUMAR T.

The Guntur district is home to prehistoric cultures that have interested archaeologists across the world. More than a decade after the pathbreaking discovery of megalithic menhirs with rock engravings called petroglyphs, in an open field on the left bank of Nagaleru, a tributary of the Krishna river at Karampudi, 100 km from Guntur, by freelance archaeologist Kadiyala Venkateswara Rao, a huge collection of megalithic menhirs have been discovered at Gangalakunta village in Veldurthi mandal near Macherla, about 150 km away from Guntur.

The discovery has again brought the focus on the study of prehistoric civilisations. The necropolis was first discovered during 1870-71 by J.S. Boswell, then District Collector of Krishna, who was a keen archaeologist. 

The menhir with petroglyphs is one of the significant remnants of the prehistoric megalithic civilisation, when humans used signs to communicate, and dates back to 1000 B.C-300 B.C. Menhirs throw light on the socio-ritualistic and ancestral beliefs. Archaeological evidence indicates that the huge stones were erected in memory of the dead, much similar to the present burial grounds, and they were also used as places of worship.

Only a few left

“It seemed that the area, part of the Reserve Forest, is home to about 1,000 megalithic menhirs, but the indiscriminate digging by locals has reduced them to about 20 now,” says E. Sivanagireddy, archaeologist and CEO, Pleach India Foundation, who rushed to the spot after being informed by P. Satishbabu, an amateur historian of Macherla on Tuesday. 

The memorials represent the cist burial category in which the dead were interred inside a stone chamber arranged below the ground level within a circular structure of five metres diameter and two metres height over which river rolled pebbles were heaped up in hemispherical shape. It is interesting, according to him, that huge stone slabs (varying in height from 5 to 8 metres with a width of 1.5 metres and thickness of 0.15 metres) are erected towards the northern side of the burial structures.

He says that the menhir standing up to 8 metres at the site is one of the largest ones in the State.

Mr. Sivanagireddy, after a thorough exploration of the entire area spread to an extent of three square km, found that the burials are damaged for laying water pipelines from the Krishna and for mining. He says he has sensitised the local farmers and shepherds on the archaeological significance of the structures and appealed to them to preserve the structures for posterity.

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