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Sunday, 5 February 2012

Lithic continuity & innovation in Holocene South India

A new publication from the fieldwork of South Deccan Prehistory project, is a report on the struck lithics from the Sanganakallu-Kupgal area sites: Ceri Shipton, M. Petraglia et al. (2012) Lithic technology and social transformations in the South Indian Neolithic: the evidence from Sanganakallu-Kupgal. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. In it we report the results of ~800,000 lithics artefacts from 4 sites, and while obviously not all of those were diagnostic many 10,000s were quantified and measured from each site and major period. While the study as a whole spans the Holocene from 9000 BP to the 1st Millennium BC, the vast majority fall in the core period of the developed Southern Neolithic, or Ashmound tradition, mainly from 2000-1300 BC. Two rather different traditions of microlith manufacture are defined, one of which is "Mesolithic" and the other "Neolithic" although there are reasons to see a relationship between such as that the Neolithic represented innovation on the other, although the carrying some of this innovation by an immigrant Neolithic, which brought pastoralism but probably not cultivation may also play a role. Also of interest, however, is the apparent re-emergence of Mesolithic lithic after 1300 BC, when the Neolithic settlements were abandoned or in decline. This seems to imply that some hunter-gatherers population persisted in the region with their Mesolithic traditions but came to re-occupy sites, represented by the rock shelter of Birappa, after the transformations of the late Neolithic.  These data help to contextualize the Neolithization of South India, a region which saw some local crop domestications, as well as the Late Neolithic decline or transformation.

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