Prying Open the Blackbox: Some Implications of New Radiometric Dates from Maski (Karnataka) for South India’s Culture History Sequence

Peter Johansen1 & Andrew Bauer2

1McGill University, Canada

2Stanford University, U.S.A.

South India’s culture history sequence was codified by Mortimer Wheeler in 1948, a year before Arnold and Libby published their landmark paper on the radiocarbon determination method that transformed dating in archaeology. Yet while radiocarbon dating subsequently ordered Wheeler’s archaeological cultures into a sequence with absolute dates, it is more recently that radiometric assays have been mobilized to rethink South India’s chronological framework. Recent research in the Raichur District of Karnataka by the Maski Archaeological Research Project has accrued the first radiocarbon assays from prehistoric and historic period sites at Maski documented during systematic survey. The dates from Maski document a long chronology of differential mortuary practices spanning the middle of the Neolithic Period to the early Iron Age, and a diversity of settlement and land-use activities practiced during the Medieval Period. In this paper, we discuss how 46 radiocarbon dates from Maski are expanding and transforming our understanding of regional social and political histories and challenging the stability of South India’s conventional historiographic framing of chronology in culture-historic periodisation.