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New geochemical data on tephra samples from a layer present at several archeological sites in India support correlation of this layer to the Youngest Toba Tuff, erupted from northern Sumatra about 74,000 yr ago. The data show that the Indian tephra layer is not a correlative of older tephra erupted from Toba, as has been suggested on the basis of artifact assemblages. Previously published geochemical data on the Indian tephra beds was based on bulk ash samples containing mineral and clay contaminants, and the resulting variability in analyses did not allow identification or discrimination of individual eruptive events. Our new data were collected on individual glass shards and small, purified glass separates which have greater resolving power in fingerprinting. Acheulian and Paleolithic artifacts found at some of the Indian tephra sites do not reflect the antiquity of the tephra bed, as they occur in fluvial sediments and may be reworked.
A controversy currently exists regarding the number of Toba eruptive events represented in the tephra occurrences across peninsular India. Some claim the presence of a single bed, the 75,000-yr-old Toba tephra; others argue that dating and archaeological evidence suggest the presence of earlier Toba tephra. Resolution of this issue was sought through detailed geochemical analyses of a comprehensive suite of samples, allowing comparison of the Indian samples to those from the Toba caldera in northern Sumatra, Malaysia, and importantly, the sedimentary core at ODP Site 758 in the Indian Ocean—a core that contains several of the earlier Toba tephra beds. In addition, two samples of Toba tephra from western India were dated by the fission-track method. The results unequivocally demonstrate that all the presently known Toba tephra occurrences in peninsular India belong to the 75,000 yr B.P. Toba eruption. Hence, this tephra bed can be used as an effective tool in the correlation and dating of late Quaternary sedimentary sequences across India and it can no longer be used in support of a middle Pleistocene age for associated Acheulian artifacts.
The authors have surveyed the little known paintings of the Kurnool area in central south India, bringing to light the varied work of artists active from the Palaeolithic to the present day. By classifying the images and observing their local superposition and global parallels, they present us with an evolving trend – from the realistic drawings of large deer by hunter-gatherers, through the symbolic humans of the Iron Age to the hand-prints of more recent pilgrims and garish life-size modern ‘scarecrows’. Here are the foundations for one of the world's longest sequences of rock art.
The Jwalapuram Locality 9 rockshelter in southern India dates back to 35 000 years ago and it is emerging as one of the key sites for documenting human activity and behaviour in South Asia. The excavated assemblage includes a proliferation of lithic artefacts, beads, worked bone and fragments of a human cranium. The industry is microlithic in character, establishing Jwalapuram 9 as one of the oldest and most important sites of its kind in South Asia.
The Neolithic period in South India is known for its ashmounds, superseded (in its Iron Age) by megalith builders with craft specialisation. Thanks to a major radiocarbon dating programme and Bayesian analysis of the dates, the authors have placed this sequence in a new chronological framework: the ashmounds, formed by burning cattle dung, are created by a few generations of people. In many cases the mounds are then succeeded by villages, for which they may have acted as founding rituals. The new tightly dated sequence also chronicles the cultivation of particular crops, some indigenous and some introduced from Africa.