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Ancient megalithic jars connecting Assam with Laos and Indonesia

  • Category
    History
  • Published
    18th Apr, 2022

Context

Discovery of megalithic stone jars have been found in Assam’s Dima Hasao district having similar resemble to those found in Laos and Indonesia  has brought to focus likely cultural relationship between India’s Northeast and Southeast Asia, dating back to the second millennium BC.

About

About the Megalithic Stone Jars in Assam

  • Megalithic Stone Jars were first sighted by British civil servants James Philip Mills and John Henry Hutton in Assam in 1929. They recorded its presence in six sites in Assam’s Dima Hasao district.
  • Further follow up was only undertaken in 2014 leading to discovery of two more sites in 2016 and six more in 2020.
  • As many as 546 stone jars were found in Nuchubunglo making it the largest stone jar site in the world.

Significance of Megalithic Stone Jars Discoveries

  • Link between India’s Northeast and Southeast Asia:Discovery of the similar jars indicates that once upon a time a group of people having similar kinds of cultural practices occupied the same geography between Laos, Indonesia and Northeast India.
  • Link to Mortuary Practices:In Laos, human skeletal remains are found inside and buried around the jars indicating the stone jars were used for mortuary practices.
  • No solid functions of the jars have been found in Indonesia, although some scholars suggest a similar mortuary role.
  • Similarly, the study refers to the practices of ancestral bone repositories of tribes like Mikir, Sakchips, Hangkals, Kuki, Khasi and Synteng and evidence of cremated bone fragments placed in one of the jars. It suggests that the jars found in Assam were also associated with mortuary rituals.

About Megalithic Burials in India

  • Megaliths are spread across the Indian subcontinent, though the bulk of them are found in peninsular India, concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (mainly in Vidarbha), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Megaliths were constructed either as burial sites or commemorative (non-sepulchral) memorials.
  • The urns were usually made of terracotta.
  • The Commemorative megaliths include memorial sites such as menhirs.
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