Sunday 9 May 2010
Source: The Hindu.
A megalith menhir with rock engravings, called petroglyphs, carved on it has been discovered on an open field on the left bank of Nagaleuru (India), a tributary of the Krishna at Karampudi, 100 km from Guntur.
The menhir is a significant remnant of the pre-historic megalithic civilisation, when humans used signs to communicate, and dates back to 1000-300 BC. Menhirs throw light on socio-ritualistic and ancestral beliefs. Archaeological evidence indicates they were also used as places of worship.
The lone and imposing Menhir, a standing stone erected in memory of the dead ones, measures 19.2 inches in height, 4.2 inches in width and is 7 inches thick. The upper row has four concentric circles with four small lines and a small pointed base. Archaeological reports point that the figures resemble the Muslim religious symbols “peer”. Below these circular figures, shapes of a crawling animal with an elongated head, probably that of a mongoose, a humped bull with V-shaped antlers and a peacock are found. In the last row, two men are seen carrying a pole on their shoulders and moving east (sun).
While the circular figures in the shape of a human head on the upper row depict the ancestral and ritualistic worship of the pre-historic human race, the row below it has figures of domestic animals and show that pre-historic man co-existed with animals and also domesticated them. The engravings of a tiger show that man hunted for livelihood.
The word menhir was adopted from French by 19th century archaeologists. It is a combination of two words found in the Breton language; men (“stone”), and hir (“long”). The function of menhirs has provoked more debate than practically any other issue in European pre-history. Over the centuries they have variously been thought to have been used by Druids for human sacrifice, used as territorial markers or elements of a complex ideological system, or functioned as early calendars.
Many menhirs are carved with megalithic art. This often turned them into anthropomorphic stelae, although images of objects such as stone axes, ploughs, shepherd crooks and yokes were common. With the exception of the stone axe, none of these motifs are definite, and the name used to describe them is largely for convenience. Some menhirs were broken up and incorporated into later passage graves where they had new megalithic art carved with little regard for the previous pictures. It is not known if this re-use was deliberate or if the passage grave builders just saw menhirs as a convenient source of stone. In many areas, standing stones were systematically toppled by Christians and of the many former standing menhirs of northern Germany, scarcely one stands today.