At Annigeri, a rare find of human skulls

They are neatly arranged in what is reckoned to be a mass grave

March 08, 2011 12:44 am | Updated 02:46 am IST - ANNIGERI (DHARWAD DISTRICT):

Neatly arranged human skulls at a mass grave that was discovered after excavation at Annigeri in Dharwad district of Karnataka state. Photo: Kiran Bakale

Neatly arranged human skulls at a mass grave that was discovered after excavation at Annigeri in Dharwad district of Karnataka state. Photo: Kiran Bakale

Scores of human skulls found here have been termed a ‘rare find' by archaeologists and historians, who have excavated the site and conducted a study. They reckon that it is a mass grave, but what makes it unique is the manner in which the skulls are arranged.

Addressing a press conference here, Deputy Commissioner of Dharwad Darpan Jain, Director of the Department of Archaeology and Museums R. Gopal and historian M.S. Krisnamurthy said there was no report on the existence of such a mass grave so far.

Initially, only 50 skulls were found next to a drain after the ground was dug up for clearing the silt. As the finding caused a sensation, the administration cordoned off the area and requested the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums to conduct a study. A team of experts, led by Mr. Gopal and Professor Krishnamurthy, visited the site, but put off excavation because the area was damp. The excavation began on January 12 after the drain was diverted so as to allow the ground to dry.

After the excavation, Mr. Jain said 471 skulls were found on a stretch of 15.6 metres by 1.7 metres. “The human skulls [only the upper portion, with the jaws missing] had been placed neatly facing different directions, and next to them were human bones on the same stretch. There is a missing patch in the arrangement, which experts believe might have been due to the digging for the drain… According to experts, around 600 human skulls might have been buried at the site.”

The experts reckoned that the skulls were those of adults, he said, and the period to which they belonged was yet to be ascertained. After the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Hyderabad, expressed its inability to ascertain the period, the skulls were sent to the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneshwar, where tests were under way to ascertain the period through carbon dating.

Mr. Jain said the next course of action would be decided only after the test results were out, possibly in two to three weeks.

Mr. Gopal and Professor Krishnamurthy said the skulls were of those slain in a massacre. In the past, evidences for massacre and mass burial were found in the country, including those related to the Vijayanagara empire, but nowhere had such a neat arrangement of skulls been reported.

Mr. Gopal said Annigeri boasts a history of more than 1,000 years, and there is a mention of a massacre at Annigeri in an inscription dating to the 12th century.

Professor Krishnamurthy said the skulls were buried just two feet below the top soil, and there were chances of it being a secondary burial. “We are also searching for any mention of a massacre in the local folklore, so that we can relate it to a particular period.”

He said 286 of the skulls were intact, and if the test results were to be unclear, a few of these skulls would be sent again for fresh tests.

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