What a site!

What a site!

Ballari Museum

For many, the 1,000-acre land between the Sannarachammagudda (Sanganakallu) and Hiregudda (Kapgallu) hills on the Ballari-Moka Road may seem like a barren and good-for-nothing real estate.

But for archaeologists, this piece of land is priceless. For, it is here that several legendary archaeologists of India and the East India Company have excavated human history that dates back to 2000 BC.

It was Robert Bruce Foote, considered to be the father of Indian prehistory, and a British East India Company geologist, who first discovered the presence of treasures hidden in those dry lands between 1863 and 1896.

Foote had identified more than 460 such sites across the Madras Presidency. Out of those, more than 160 sites were within the present-day Ballari district. However, of all those sites, it is the Sanganakallu Neolithic site that had fascinated several archaeologists, including B Subbarao, who first excavated this site in 1940.

One of the major reason for the archaeologists’ interest here is the sheer area.

The excavation of this area has thrown light on what scientists believe to be one of the largest settlements of ‘professional humans’ and complex society, which had a class hierarchy.

Years of excavation has brought to light how a society that had deep networks in trading stone tools thrived in the location tucked between the Hagari river on one side and the modern-day Ballari town on the other.

Ravi Korisettar, a senior archaeologist, believes that the site was a workshop for the Neolithic and Megalithic-era people, who carved weapons and tools out of the sturdy granite present in the hills. They had even mastered the art of preparing beads from semi-precious stones, he says.

“The artefacts and relics at the excavation site tell us that a systematic society existed here, which was not only involved in stone tools trading but also in cultivation, cattle-rearing and other activities. And all these some 4,000 years ago,” says Ravi, and adds that scientific discoveries at these sites have proved several theories wrong, including those beliefs that agriculture was introduced in South India after it came to North India.

The presence of millets and other food grains has proven that an advanced civilisation was thriving here.

While several such archaeologically important sites have been lost due to various reasons, including urbanisation and cultivation. The district administration of Ballari showed keen interest in protecting whatever little archaeological treasure that could be excavated from the Sanganakallu Neolithic site.

On February 26, the two-storied Robert Bruce Foote Sanganakallu Archaeological Museum was inaugurated. The approximately 7,000-ft museum houses artefacts from the Old Stone Age through to Iron Age.

There are human and animal remains from various archaeological sites, plant remains, especially charred grains from Neolithic and Iron Age at Sanganakallu, beads and other objects of adornment, and ritual and symbolic objects.

They are catalogued using modern methods to offer access to the students and researchers of archaeology.

Ravi, who is also the honorary director of the museum, says it has been conceived to serve the society of today and tomorrow, and provide access to archaeological objects collected through exploration and excavation in the region where Foote had set foot.

One of the prized possessions at the museum is the sarcophagus burial pot, a multi-legged, boat-shaped burial urn with a lid. This ‘coffin’, with several mud pots, was excavated near the Kudatini ash mound on Ballari-Hospet road. It is believed that a subadult was laid to rest in it.

“Not all were given such a burial. The presence of the sarcophagus burial pot suggests that the society had a class hierarchy and only a person belonging to a noble class could have gotten such a burial,” says Ravi.

The museum informs visitors not just about the Sangankallu site. The ground floor has three sections: African roots of humankind, the Indian subcontinent’s prehistory, and the prehistory of Kalyana Karnataka.

A gallery named after archaeologist Subbarao is dedicated to the discoveries at the Sangankallu site. 

In the central sunken area of the ground-floor, a scaled-down model of the Sanganakallu hill complex its archaeological features are highlighted with LED lights. Around it are replicas of humans going back 35 lakh years ago. These examples are a gift to the museum by scholars from Cambridge University in England and Texas A & M University in the United States.

Can be better

While the artefacts have been scientifically arranged at the museum, it can be developed and become a one-stop go for all the archaeological scientists if more funds are allotted, says organising committee member of the museum Santosh Martin. More than Rs 55 lakh has been spent on the museum so far. Corporates have contributed financially to the development of the museum via CSR. Another Rs 50 lakh could change the face of the museum altogether, he says.

 

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