Connecting Microhistory and the Longue Durée: Radiocarbon Dating and the Iron Age-Early Historic Transition in South India

Namita Sanjay Sugandhi1, Vinayak2, Devendra Singh Chaudhary3

1Hartwick College, Department of Anthropology, U.S.A.

2Indraprastha College for Women, India

3Department of History, University of Delhi, India

Tekkalakota is known primarily as a site associated with the Southern Neolithic (c. 3000-1200 BCE) of India, but recent archaeological research has systematically documented remains that date to later eras including the Iron Age (c. 1200-300 BCE) and Early Historic period (c. 300 BCE-300 CE). The transition between these two periods in South India is conventionally marked by the presumed conquest of the region by the North Indian Mauryan Empire (c. 320-180 BCE), though aside from the mid-3rd BCE edicts of the Mauryan emperor Asoka, there is little actual evidence for imperial control during this time. Tekkalakota is located within 5 km of two Asokan edicts at Nittur and Udegolam and was most likely a major centre of occupation during Mauryan times. A new series of excavations has been initiated at Tekkalakota through the MAST project, which is designed to examine the long-term history of Tekkalakota, beginning in the Neolithic era and extending up until the Medieval period. Excavations by our team in 2019 identified a stratigraphically intact deposit that dates from at least the 8th century BCE through the 1st century BCE, capturing the period before, during, and after any supposed Mauryan conquest. Detailed radiocarbon dating of this deposit can be refined with the help of age-depth modelling to create a fine grain analysis of change that lies between the specific moments in political history, and the broader scales of time associated with archaeological culture-history. In this paper, we present some of the preliminary results of our research and discuss the implications for our understanding of early imperialism and broad processes of change in South Asia.