Pre-historic Manipur :: Part 3
Extracts from the book 'Emergence Of Manipur As A Nation State'

N. Joykumar Singh *

 'Emergence Of Manipur As A Nation State' : Book Cover

(2) Khangkhui Cave:- The Khangkhui cave is another area from where the evidences of the existence of stone culture of the pre-historic period had discovered. These caves are located at Khangkhui village in the Ukhrul District. This place is situated between 24070/ N and 94040/ E.32 There are four caves and before the exploration of the historical importance of these caves the local people used to enter in these areas as a part of excursion and adventures.

These caves are located at about 11 (eleven) k.m. towards the southwest from the Ukhrul Town at an altitude of 1767 m. above the sea level. The type of the rock of this archaeological site is limestone of Cretaceous origin.33

These caves were first discovered by O. Kumar in the year 1969 and he found that out of these four, the two caves are on the western slope and another two on the eastern slope of the range. He marked it as cave number one, two, three and four. The caves on the western slope are number one and two and other two on the eastern slopes are number three and four.

According to the present physical features of these caves the cave number one is a very long like tunnel and has narrow entrances and cave number two is a dome shaped type and situated a little higher altitude from cave number three(one). It is completely opened and faces towards the west. Cave No. 3 is the biggest and situated near the peak of the hillock. Except at the extreme rare it is a well lighted cave and has two entrance points, one from east and another south-east and the walls upper towards the back with a construction at about the middle.34

There are numbers of stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave. The exploratory digging was started in the year 1969 and 1972 but the work was abruptly stopped. It is mentioned that it was due to "unfavourable circumstances".

The tools discovered from these caves are made of two types of rocks i.e. , limestone and sandstone. But majority of the tools are made of limestone. According to O. Kumar 96.4% of the total tools are made of limestone and remaining 2.2% are of sandstone35 and 1.4% chert are used for a fen artifacts. Another notable contributions of O. Kumar Singh was his degree of analysis of all the nature and character of the tools in a more scientific way.

He wrote."The Tools are mostly made on small flakes with or without prepares platform. Most of the flakes have plain platforms and in a few cases these inclines to the main flake surface. Some of the flakes are struck off the prepared discoid and tortoise cores and a few have parts of the faceted platforms and diffused bulb of percussion".36

A large number of bone tools was also discovered from the Kangkhui caves particularly from cave number three. It comprises points, scrapers, perforetors and blunted back blade. It is suggested that these tools might be the remains of the hunted animals like cervus, sus and bonives.37 From the discoveries of bone tools it is also observed that it indicates the maximum development of bone tools industry.

However it is very interesting to note that the exact or approximate date of the Kangkhui cave is not given clearly. On the other hand without mentioning any references some people claims that the age of Khangkhui cave is 15,000 B.P.38 On the other hand O. Kumar Singh, a pioneer in the archaeological exploration of this place did not mention specific age or date of this cave on the basis of the finding of stone or bone tools.

But T.C. Sharma, a reknown scholar of Pre-history period made an observation on the basis of the paper of Shri O. Kumar in the year 1972 . He said,"On the basis of cultural materials consisting of stone and bone tools in addition to faunal remains, It can be argued that Khangkhui cave evidence of Upper or late Paleolithic period. The first evidence of the Pleistocene man in Manipur dating back to about 30,000 B.C.".39 From this observation it is also suggested that though there is no specific age or date, the stone culture of Khangkhui cane was of Upper or late Paleolithic period.

(3) Nongpok Kheithelmanbi

Nongpok Kheithelmanbi is also another important archaeological site of the Paleolithic era. It is a small village situated at the foot hills of the mountain ranges which is located at the eastern periphery of the valley of Manipur. Exploration of this area was done during 1982 1984 and surprisingly from the pre-history artifact two stone culture were discovered. One was Paleolithic period and another was post Paleolithic period.

The exploration side was classified as locality 1, Locality 2 and Locality 3. The pre-historic artifact of post Paleolithic period was found in site of locality 1(one). From the other two areas i,e, locality 2 and 3 the explorers was able to collect 40 artifacts of different types.40

The types were Choppers, Seraper, Blade, Notch implement, Flake, Pebble graver, Core, Split pebbles and Waste Flake. The age and date of the stone culture of this archaeological side is not mentioned. However from the discovery of those of the stone culture it can be observed that Nongpok Keithelmanbi archaeological site may belong to the Upper or late Paleolithic period. It is also mentioned that these artifacts are made mostly on quartzitic sandstone pebbles and a few are on chert.

(4) Singtom This is also another archaeological site where a number of stone tools of the Paleolithic period have been discovered. It lies between 2407/N latitude and 93054/E longitude in the Chandel District of Manipur. The exploration of this site was carried out in the year 1989 by O. Kumar Singh on the basis of the information of the collection of some stone tools by one Mr. Joseph, a villager of the Singtom village.

From this place the exploration team have collected 16 (sixteen) stone tools relics of different types. They were
(1) Handaxe (one broken),
(2) Worked flati pebble with round edge,
(3) Flaked pebbles,
(4) Blade,
(5) Flake,
(6) Pebble striker,
(7) Split pebble and
(8) Waste flake.
It is also reported that all the artifacts are made on quartzitic sandstone.

(5)Machi:- It is also another archaeological site of Paleolithic period. It is a Maring village located in the Chandel District. The exploration of this site was done in the year 1974 and from here the explorations team was able to discover a pebble chopper by unifacial flaking with direct stone hammer technique. It measures 11.5 x 13.5 x 4.1 cm and unrolled.41

T.C. Sharma was of the view that the discoveries of stone tools from Machi "is a great landmark in Paleo-lithic archaeology of Manipur, as it confirms beyond doubt that Manipur was inhabited by the stone age ancestors since the early Stone Age or Lower Paleolithic period".42 However the age and date of this archaeological site base on the stone tools is not established till today.

Prof. Gangmumei said,"It was O.K. Singh, a young archaeologist of Manipur to whom credit should be given for a systematic archaeological excavation and our knowledge of the pre-history of Manipur is more or less based on his studies or excavations".43 It is a fact that it is mainly because of his consistent effort Manipur is able to include in the 'Pre-history map' of the region.

Along with exploration and excavation he also made a serious attempt to establish an affinity between the stone tools discovered in Manipur with other artifacts found in other parts of India and adjoining areas. Perhaps his attempt was to establish a chronology of stone age culture in Manipur. But the ground reality gives a totally different picture.

Therefore he also admitted the inadequacy of the evidences for the establishment of chronological sequence as the Paleolithic have been discovered only from two cave sites and three open air sites. However he had pointed the similarities particularly in the tools technology with the other area of the country. He said the pebble choppers from Machi can be compared typologically with those of the chopper chopping tool complex of the rest of India.44

In regard to Songbu cave it has already been mentioned above that the tools technique belongs to flake tool industry with a few core tools. It is said that these flakes are generally 'unretouched after detachment from the cave and very few are retouched marginally'. Such type of flakes technique and too assemblage is also a common feature of Indian Middle Paleolithic culture.

In regard to the tool industry of Khangkhui cave he said that there is a typological similarity of the flake blade elements from eastern India with Khangkhui cave materials. But the blade with rhomboidal cross-section of Khangkhui cave is not found in eastern India. In the meantime one Murti pointed out the technological similarities between artifacts of Kurnool cave of Andhra where the valuable evidences of the Indian Upper Paleolithic have been discovered with the findings of Khangkhui cave.

But O. Kumar was of the view that "core tools and blade with mid-ridges on both the surfaces of the Khangkhui cave" are not reported from the Kurnool cave..45 He further said that typo technologically the handaxe feature of Singtom can be compared with the Patjitanian stone culture which is based on the manufacture of many large and massive tools, like choppers, chopping tools, handaxe, hand adze, flake and blade tools. Apart from he also discovered the same technological tradition of the tool assemblage of Khangkhui and Singtom cave with Tampanian stone culture of Meghalaya.46

Apart from this he also pointed out many similarities with other stone industry like Singiran flake industry in Central Java, Niah cave artifacts of Borneo Tabonian flake industry in Philippines, Chouketian stone culture in China with the technology which was discovered in the Paleolithic archaeological sites in Manipur. However O.K. Singh was of the view that the origin of the Paleolithic culture in Manipur cannot be closely traced from the rest of India except some typological similarities of Upper Paleolithic period.

From the above cited evidence it can also be suggested that there are also close affinity with the stone culture of North East Region and South East Asia. With these observation he brought a save conclusion that the origin of the Paleolithic culture in Manipur cannot be determined without having a thorough research work of the entire archaeological evidence of the South East Asia because of its similar cultural tradition with the people of these areas.47

To be continued..

* This is the Chapter 2 from the book 'Emergence Of Manipur As A Nation State' by N. Joykumar Singh
This article was posted on March 07, 2015.

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