Complete information on the Iron Age in South India


According to radiocarbon analysis of objects recov­ered at Hallur, iron was introduced in this area around 1100 BC. At sites like Brahmagiri, Piklihal, Sanganakallu, Maski and Paiyampalli, the Chalcolithic settlements spilled into the Iron Age.

Evidence of the earliest Iron Age phase is obtained from exca­vations at Hallur and Piklihal, where some iron objects, black and red ware and a matt painted buff and red ware have been recovered. Stone axes and blades were still used.

The Iron Age in South India is associated with megalith burials (generally burials among stones in graveyards’ separated from areas of habitation), a custom prevalent from the fifth to first century BC.


The megaliths are mostly found in eastern Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Pottery furnished in the graves such as a bowl on a stand is similar to those in the graves in Iran and north-west India. Paintings of horses (Piklihal rock paintings) and horse harnesses and bones recovered from excavations indicate contact with West and Central Asia as horses were not found in India.

Megalithic burials have been reported from Nagpur, Maski (Karnataka), Nagarjunakonda (Andhra Pradesh), Adichanallur (Tamil Nadu) and Kerala.

At some of these sites, large urns of red pottery containing the bones of the dead were buried in pits marked by stone circle and cap stone (or with one of these).

In some cases, pit circles have been formed with stones for burying the dead. Cist graves made with granite slabs have also been noted. Rock-cut chambers were made for burial in Kerala. Rows of standing stones, in diagonal or square pattern, were another way of marking Megalithic burials.


The grave furnishings comprised identical types of iron objects, tridents and Roman coins in some along with weapons and agricultural implements.

The pottery and other objects associated with the Iron Age include black and red ware in the shape of bowls (shallow tray and deep tray with round bases), ring stands and water pots; iron objects) (found in Megalith sites such as Junapani near Nagpur and Adichanallur) like flat axes, spud or pick axe, flanged spades, hoes, sickles, wedges, bill hooks, chisels (or adzes), knives etc., copper or bronze bells, gold objects and beads of semi-precious stones.

Very few of the excavated Iron Age sites bear signs of prolonged habitation and suggest that people] lived there for short periods. Their use of iron tool might have helped in colonizing new areas.

The agro-pastoral groups entered the historical phase in the early centuries of the Christian era. It would appear that such groups existed in the area even before the introduction of iron.


In the Iron Age many of these groups continued with their burial practices. In Chalcolithic Inamgaon there was pottery-burial, while local cultural innovations might have brought forth other features of the megalithic burial.

Anyway, contacts with the areas north-west of India are suggested by some of the objects found in the graves. Pottery-like bowls on stand are similar to those found in earlier graves in north-west India and Iran.

Likewise, bones of horses and horse-riding gear show that they were equestrian people. As wild horses were not found in India, those people presumably brought them from Central Asia.

Junapani near Nagpur reports horse burials while Maski and the Piklihal rock paintings show groups of horse riders carrying metal axes.


All these increased contacts with communities in the north-west India show that the Iron Age burial was a combination of indigenous and foreign influences.

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