Thandikudi, one of the major villages in the Lower Palani Hills occupies a unique position as this village was well connected by major trade routes. The archaeological vestiges unearthed here have clearly attested that it was continuously occupied since pre-Iron Age times. The occurrence of Dolmens, Cists, Cairn-circles and Urns points out to the convergence of different cultural traits. The available data accumulated through the explorations and excavations gives an idea in drawing of cultural process of Palani hills, particularly of Thandikudi, which played an active role in trade during the medieval period as attested by trade guild inscriptions. The present study was also conducted to have an idea about the architectural achievement in stone working, constructional methods, engineering skills and technological perfection of the Iron Age builders.
Generally, a dolmens Cave is a box like chamber, normally formed of six slabs, one lying horizontally, but directly on the bedrock serving as a floor slab. Around this base, the slabs stand directly on the bare rock and were placed in clockwise or anti clockwise direction with uneven surfaces on the top, which in turns supports the capstone placed above. Normally a capstone covers single dolmen, but at Thandikudi, a capstone covers two adjacent dolmen’s.
The groups of dolmens in eight complexes locally known as Pettu (which refers ‘to die’) were found on the way to Murugan temple, when approached through Regional Coffee Research Station (RCRS). All the complexes were more or less disturbed. The dolmens are raised on the slopes of the rocky surface and were in groups, which normally consists of two rows. The gaps between the chambers and the enclosure walls were tightly packed with cairn stones upto the level of the capstone to prevent any outward tilting of the orthostats. The inward tilt is prevented by the interlocking system of the chamber slabs.
The orientations of the dolmens are multifarious. Each complex was enclosed by an enclosure wall of either rectangular or circular one. These walls are raised of dressed stones of regular courses of no fixed sizes, but adjusted without any trace of binding medium. In the rectangular walls, the flat rectangular or square stones were used and in the case of circular, triangular stones were used with the outer or broader edges of the blocks were trimmed in a semi-circular form to build perfect walls. This is one of the special features of the dolmens of Palani hills. In one of the complex the dolmens were bifurcated into two generally at the narrow end usually by a flat rectangular stone.
The leveling of the ground for the banana and orange plantations led to the accidental discovery of the pear-shaped Urns, which is around 1m to 1.25m in height and was invariably covered with sand and gravel. These urns are ill-fired, very coarse-grained and the wheel turned. No grave goods were recovered, but some sherds of red ware, black-and-red ware and black ware were collected.
Cairn-Circles (Pit Burials)
The excavation on the left side of the Murugan temple reveals cairn circles more or less oval or ellipsoid in shape. The shape and sizes of the cairn stones are not uniform. These circles are extremely rich in ceramics and are devoid of charcoal, ashes or bone pieces and metal objects. The ceramic repertoire comprises of varieties of red ware, black ware, black slipped ware, black on red ware, black-and-red ware and Cut Ware. These potteries were kept one above the other in three rows at two different levels and of east-west orientation.