Ancient jewellery and decoration has a new meaning, with the discovery of bone ornaments in Telangana that go back about 4,000 years. In a find that has excited archaeologists, 50 pieces of bone ornaments have been found in a hamlet of Narmetta, an agricultural village on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Shaped precisely like a rhombus with round holes in the middle and circular indentations, these are thought to have been used as jewellery. Samples of the artefacts are being analysed at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.
Historian Prof. K.P. Rao, who led the 2005 Gachibowli megalithic excavation that dated the earliest megalithic site to 2200 BC said, “Bone ornaments have not been found till date in India. We had perforated teeth but this I am hearing for the first time.”
Along with the bone ornaments, officials of the State Department of Archaeology and Museums (DAM) also unearthed one of the biggest capstones in the region. The stone, weighing about 42 tonnes, had to be moved using a crane. “The season was fantastic, with discoveries that have given us a better understanding of megalithic history [of the region]. Once the bone samples are analysed, we will know which animal they came from,” said N. R. Visalatchy of DAM.
A 20-acre site at the farming village of Siddipet was excavated earlier, and in 2017, archaeologists began digging at a raised mound. Here, they found their first anthropomorphic menhir — an upright stone with human traits. “Anthropomorphic menhirs have been documented at multiple locations in south India, dating between 1300 BC and 200 BC but this is a first for Telangana,” said Ramulu Naik, a DAM official.
The 2.95-metre menhir was vertical. “The tradition of anthropomorphic figurine worship continues among some tribes. So, I am not surprised at the finding,” said Prof. Rao. The team also found four well preserved fire stands used by people to keep warm. The pottery and other items were discovered at a three- metre depth.
“These findings are just a sample. Many of the other rock formations and burial sites have been disturbed or destroyed by the people living nearby so that they can cultivate their land. We have to carry out our excavations quickly, as I don’t think any of these sites will be allowed to remain in their present status,” said G. Nagaraju, who was part of the excavation team.