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Burial cists open door to megalithic mysteries


Excavations by a group of archaeologists at prehistoric burial cists in Pathanamthitta have shed further light on megalithic culture, including the burial rituals and the concept of afterlife.

Burial cists open door to megalithic mysteries
Cists graves excavated at Poothangara in Pathanamthitta
[Credit: The Hindu]
A research team led by Abhayan G.S. and Rajesh S.V., Assistant Professors, Department of Archaeology of the University of Kerala, recently excavated a burial cist site at Poothangara in Enadimangalam grama panchayat in Pathanamthitta to unearth several interesting finds.

Cots, benches

The excavation revealed typical rectangular double-chambered cists, each 4 metres long and 3 metres wide, and made of large stone slabs.


The interiors of the cist chambers were found to have cots or benches made of stone slabs that are rarely found in cists, though they are common in rock-cut chambers (another type of megalithic burial monument) in northern Kerala, Dr. Abhayan said.

The researchers discovered pottery including pots, bowls, lids with knobs and ring stands, and a few fragments of iron tools in the chambers. The pottery and burial monuments apparently bore similarities with the burial cist in Niramakkulam in Konni that had been excavated in 2011. While the Niramakkulam cists had been dated to the 4th Century BC, the archaeologists found credible findings that pointed to the possibility of those in Poothangara sharing a similar time-frame.

Possible vandalism

The team also found several burial goods including pottery and iron objects lying outside the cists, suggesting the chances of human vandalism, possibly during a hunt for treasures.


According to Dr. Abhayan, the excavation was undertaken as part of the Kerala Megalithic Gazetteer Project that focuses on documenting megalithic sites in the State. Megalithic burials found in Kerala are mostly dated between 500 BC and 500 AD.

Burial goods

These are usually associated with burial architecture that includes dolmens, cists ( muniyara ), urns ( nannangadi ), stone circles, menhirs ( nattukal ), rock cut chambers ( vettukal guha ), umbrella stones ( kudakkal ), hat stone ( toppikkal ), and hood stones. Various burial goods such as pottery, iron objects and stone beads can be found in the burials. These are believed to be associated with the belief in life after death, he pointed out.

Author: Sarath Babu George | Source: The Hindu [June 11, 2019]

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