These urns contain bones (not skeletons) of dead people.
Similar findings are also there from Adichanallur
According to T. Satyamurthy, Superintending Archaeologist and
Director of the dig at Adichanallur,
the urns and surrounding pots conform to descriptions of ritual in
Tamil Sangam literature – 'Manimekhalai', 'Natrinai', 'Raditrupattu'
The remains of cremated bodies were placed in a burial urn, the mouth
of which was covered by inverting another urn over it. Smaller pots
strung around the 'twin-pot' burial urn contained personal possessions
of the deceased - ornaments or weapons - together with offerings like
paddy or grains.
This may be termed as a practice unique to Tamils.
And it will also be argued that Tamils were different from Aryans or
rest of India culture.
but it is not so.
Burying the incinerated bones of the cremated in pots is very much
Vedic in origin.
This is part of the post-cremation ceremony,
called Pithru-medha ceremony.
The Gruhya sutras of Asvalayana describes
the details of how this
ceremony is done.
As per this, the incinerated bones are collected and deposited in urns
in separate pots designed for males and females.
There are some excavations reported in Indus-sarawad excavations of
such urns bearing male/ female figures.
Similar ones are being excavated from Tamil nadu from time to time.
These are nothing but proofs of the prevalence of the Pithru-medha ceremony
authorized by Gruhya sutras.
This is again a strong proof that Tamils followed Vedic practices only.
Here is a note on this practice a described by texts.
Post cremation Burial (Pitr-medha)
During the Vedic and early Grhya periods it was common to bury the
incinerated bones of a deceased person in an urn.
This was the
The Grhya-sutras of Asvalayana describe how the burned bones were to
be collected on the third lunar day (tithi) after death.
In the case of a man who had died, the bones were to be collected by
and placed into a male urn.
In the case of a woman, the bones were to be collected by elderly women
and placed into a female urn.
Urns were designed by their shape to be male or female.
The performers of this ceremony were to walk three times in a
counterclockwise direction around the bones
while sprinkling milk and water
from a particular kind of twig (sami).
The bones were then placed into the urn as they were picked up individually
with the thumb and fourth finger.
First the bones of the feet were to be gathered
and then successively the other bones were to be gathered working
toward the head.
After the bones had been purified and gathered they were sealed and
buried in a secure location.
By the end of the Grhya period the practice of burying bones in an urn declined.
For full details, browse this link.
Sembiyankandiyur megalithic pottery with graffiti marks
Megalithic period pottery found
T.S. Subramanian (The Hindu, April 27, 2008)
Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department leads excavation
— Photo: M. Srinath
Significant finds: Pottery with graffiti marks found at
Sembiyankandiyur village in Nagapattinam district.
CHENNAI: Pottery items including bowls, dishes and urns, from the
Megalithic period, have been excavated at Sembiyankandiyur near
Kuthalam in Mayiladuthurai taluk of Nagapattinam district by the Tamil
Nadu Archaeology Department.
An important finding: eight urns aligned in a particular manner, three
of them with human bones inside. These might be of members of one
family, according to department officials. The pottery included
black-and-red ware, black ware and red ware.
The site yielded a rich collection of pottery with graffiti marks. A
few iron pieces were also found.
Archaeology Department officials estimated that the pottery belonged
to the Megalithic period or the Iron Age, which can be dated between
300 B.C. and A.D. 100.
The discoveries were made at the site where in 2006 school teacher V.
Shanmuganathan found a polished Neolithic celt (tool) that had
engravings resembling the Indus script. This celt caused a stir in
archaeological circles. It was T.S. Sridhar, then Special Commissioner
of Archaeology, who noticed the engravings on the polished celt. A
semi-polished celt was found nearby without engravings.
The Archaeology Department decided to excavate the Sembiyankandiyur
site to find out its antiquity and fix the chronology. The excavations
began on February 6. Four trenches were laid at the place where the
celt with the engravings were found. The first trench was laid in the
garden of Mr. Shanmuganathan, the second trench at Thoppumedu which
belonged to Shanmugam, a retired physical education teacher, another
in the backyard of the house of Muthappa and the fourth at Padayachi
Important findings from the trenches were bowls, dishes, broken urns,
full-size urns and so on. Eight urns were found to be aligned in a
particular manner, three of them with human bones. Some urns had
ritual pots inside. Some pots and sherds have thumb-nail impressions
Designs and markings
Full-shape pots had the graffiti depicting a fish, a 'damaru', sun,
star and a swastika. Geometric designs and marks depicting fish, sun
and star and graffiti marks are often found on black-and-red ware and
black ware, with the symbols sometimes repeated.
The excavations at Sembiyankandiyur were done under the guidance of
Dr. S. Gurumurthi, Principal Commissioner of Archaeology; Dr. S.
Vasanthi, Archaeologist; M. Muthusamy, Curator of Tranquebar Museum;
S. Selvaraj and P. Gowthamaputhiran, Archaeological Officers of
Thanjavur and Coimbatore respectively.
17 March 2004
Urn-burials at Adichanallur
100 years after an urn-burial site was first excavated by an amateur
British archaeologist the Archaeological Survey of India [ASI] has
resumed digging at Adichanallur in Tamil Nadu. To date, 20 burial urns
have been unearthed. The burial site, a huge mound, is close to a lake
on the southern bank of the Tamiraparani. Painted pot sherds, black
ware and red ware found near the urns date from the megalithic period,
1000 BCE, to the 1st century CE, and from the early historic period
which continued up to the 6th century CE. The sherds include hundreds
with beautiful designs and graffiti, superbly crafted pot spouts and
tiered knobs from pot lids. One sherd had a twisted rope-like design
running around it.
According to T. Satyamurthy, Superintending Archaeologist and
Director of the dig, the urns and surrounding pots conform to
descriptions of ritual in Tamil Sangam literature – 'Manimekhalai',
'Natrinai', 'Raditrupattu' and 'Purananuru'. The remains of cremated
bodies were placed in a burial urn, the mouth of which was covered by
inverting another urn over it. Smaller pots strung around the
'twin-pot' burial urn contained personal possessions of the deceased -
ornaments or weapons - together with offerings like paddy or grains.
The archaeologists are hoping to find grain and other organic material
(bones, wood or charcoal) that will assist Carbon-14 dating.
The site was first brought to notice by Dr. Jagor of Berlin in
1876. Amateur British archaeologist Alexander Rea, who excavated the
site for a few years from 1900, described it as "the most extensive
prehistoric site as yet discovered in southern if not the whole of
India. It covers an area of 114 acres, within which burial urns were
found, at some places close together and at others more widely apart."
Rea's results were published in the ASI's Annual Report for 1902-1903
under the title 'Prehistoric Antiquities in Tinnevelly'. According to
Rea, the several thousand objects found at the site and inside the
burial urns included finely made pottery, iron implements and weapons,
bronze vessels and ornaments, gold diadems, bones, stone beads and
stone household implements, together with traces of cloth, wood and
mica. "Husks of rice and millet were found in quite a large number of
pots inside the urns."
The aim of the current excavation is to investigate the site
thoroughly and establish its chronology. Another aim is to discover
whether there was a habitational site nearby. Burial sites were
commonly part of settlements. The Adichanallur site's location close
to a lake is similar to that of the urn-burial site at Mangadu in
Kollam district. Dr. Satyamurthy, who carried out the excavation at
Mangadu, says: "The burials found at Adichanallur show the trend of an
earlier phase, such as coarse pottery and hand-made pottery. So that
the date of Adichanallur may even be earlier than that of Mangadu."
Scientific analysis using C-14 or the archaeo-magnetic method may
confirm dates prior to 1000 BCE.
Source: The Hindu (14 March 2004)