This essay discusses the preliminary results of recent archaeological investigations into stone axe production and exchange processes at a Neolithic hilltop settlement in South India. The site in question comprises a stone-lined circular structure situated on a plateau area on the side of a topographically complex hill, known locally as Hiregudda. Across the plateau, extensive surface scatters of flaked dolerite material indicate a heavy focus on edge-ground bifacial axe manufacture at the site. Excavation of the structure and its immediate surrounds has revealed stratified deposits of dolerite axes, axe blanks and debitage, as well as a large lithic dumping area adjacent to the structure. Several clusters of axe-grinding grooves are documented on granite boulders and bedrock exposures both in and around the structure, and at least two intensively quarried outcrops of dolerite have been recorded within close vicinity of the plateau. Following a detailed examination of the axe manufacturing technology employed by knappers in the ''workshop'' structure, we suggest that the evidence for large-scale quarrying and industrial activity at Hiregudda points to the importance of this hilltop settlement in the axe production and exchange network of Neolithic South India. We present radiocarbon dating evidence from our investigations that implies the most intensive phase of axe manufacture and possibly distribution at Hiregudda took place during the Late Neolithic–Megalithic transition around the thirteenth or fourteenth millennia B.C.


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pp. 65-95
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