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Monday, October 13, 2014

Keezhanur hamlet on the Javadi hills

A “centre” for sharpening polished Neolithic (stone) tools made about 5,000 years ago has been found near the Keezhanur hamlet on the Javadi hills in Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. The “centre” is a bedrock in the middle of a rivulet, about a km from Keezhanur, with 21 grooves. It is in these grooves on the rock surface that the Neolithic man sharpened the edges of his polished stone axes when they got blunted after usage in cultivation. The shallow, trough-shaped grooves were formed by his constantly sharpening the tools against the rock surface.
R. Ramesh, a field researcher under the University Grants Commission-Special Assistance Programme, Department of History, Pondicherry University, found these grooves on February 16 during explorations on the Javadi hills, five km north of Pudur Nadu. This is the first time that grooves used for sharpening stone axes have been found in Tamil Nadu. They have been found at Sangnakallu-Kupagal in Bellary district, Karnataka.
Mr. Ramesh also found 75 polished stone axes of the Neolithic period collected by Keezhanur villagers on the fields near the rivulet. The villagers have kept these stone tools, along with ordinary stones, near a Ganesh temple and worship them as “ sami kal ” (divine stones). It was these “divine stones” that Mr. Ramesh first found and the villagers told him about the bed-rock with grooves which, they believed, were formed by the cattle kneeling on the rock and drinking water from the rivulet. They call the boulder kuzhi eruthu parai . When the researcher reached the bedrock, he found 10 grooves there and informed K. Rajan, Professor, Department of History, Pondicherry University, about them. Dr. Rajan told him to clean the surface and 21 grooves were revealed.
A week later, a team comprising Mr. Ramesh, Jinu Koshy of the Madras Christian College, M. Prasanna of the Archaeological Survey of India, T. Thangadurai and K. Mathivanan of Tamil University, Thanjavur, and V. Thukkan and G. Pauldurai of Pondicherry University visited the site and documented the grooves.
Dr. Rajan said, “The cultural transformation from food gathering to food production is considered a revolution in human history that happened during the Neolithic times. These tools represent the symbol of beginning of agricultural production in south India that took place about 5,000 years ago.” Human beings stayed in one place, observed the seasons and started doing agriculture. Dr. Rajan said the tools attained their final shape after passing through four stages: chiselling, pecking, grounding and polishing. The tools got smoothened after being constantly rubbed against the rocks. More rubbing led to their becoming polished tools. Since the Neolithic man constantly used these axes for cutting trees and plants, or digging out tubers from the soil, their sharp, working edges got blunted.
The polished stone tools belonged to two varieties: axes and adzes. While axes were used for cutting trees and plants, the adzes were used for ploughing. The adzes were tied to wooden staff and used for ploughing. After the advent of the Iron Age (circa 1,000 BCE), iron ploughs were made.
Dr. Rajan said that since stone axes belonging to the first three stages of their manufacture, viz chiselling, pecking and grounding were not available near Keezhanur, these tools must have been manufactured somewhere. During farming, these stone tools’ sharp edges got blunted. When they were sharpened on the bedrock for re-use, grooves were formed.
In Tamil Nadu, Neolithic settlements have been found at Paiyampalli in Dharmapuri, Mayilaadumparai and Kappalavadi in Krishnagiri, and Appukallu in Vellore districts.