My explorations began at the granitic lowland denudations of Devadurga, a small town in Raichur District located 10 km south of the river Krishna and on its right bank (Figure 4). It is a landscape of field boulders of pink granitic rocks with pea-size sand covered desert. Topographic sheets call this kind of landscape stony waste (Figure 5). After five days of explorations in 40 - 45° celsius heat and dry wind, I did not find even a single site. Finding granules of various coloured stones amidst sand of granite origin on the surface gave me some relief in the heat! They were of light green, dark green, white and red colour with patination on their surface, suggesting that they were water worn gravels of chert, chalcedony and quartz material. Finding such rocks is not a surprise since they are frequently found in Indian peninsular rivers. Finding such materials in the granitic denudation indicates that someone must have carried them from the rivers Krishna, Tungabhadra or Bhima. The closest is the river Krishna 10 km away and they have a load of gravels on its bed and banks, which are known as high-level gravels .
Figure 4: Plotted with green dots are the sites studied across the study area during 2016. They range in age from Middle Palaeolithic to Iron Age. Map generated by author through Garmin maps.
Figure 5: Lowland denudational landscapes in the granitic regions of Devadurga. Photo by author.
Over seven days of survey, I covered five square kilometres of this stony waste landscape around Devadurga. On the last two days, I identified numerous microliths (datable between 8000 BCE and 3000 BCE) and cores, flakes and blades  (Figures 6 and 7) from five primary sites. With timely help from my students, I was able to divide the site into a grid and collect a sample of the entire microlithic assemblage from one of the clusters (Figure 8). This took five of us about four hours of work. After my short research period, I thus concluded that the study of the communities that carried the materials from the riverbanks and adapted to such semi-arid conditions was a subject that needed a serious long-term research project followed by metrical analysis of the microlithic assemblages.
Figure 6: Chert core found in the middle of the stony waste landscapes of Devadurga. Photo by the author.
Figure 7: Cortex backed blade on chert with striation marks from Bairappamaradi site complex, Devadurga. Photo by author (Arjun 2018).
Figure 8: Microlithic assemblage at a cluster was collected through a systematic grid sampling method. The sampling grid measured 10 x 5 m, which was further divided into 25 blocks, each measuring 1 x 2 m. Photo by author (Arjun 2018).
I examined many vertical sections of exposed soil that were exposed by sand or rock miners, and not much of archaeological significance was found from those sections except one, indicating at a possible settlement (Figure 9). A layer of rammed stone blocks and potsherds and an intact saucer probably dating to the medieval period (800 CE-1800 CE) was found. This section represented recent geological formations, where there was exfoliation and decomposition of the granitic rocks into pea size gravel spread across the landscape. The subsurface soil is compact due to aridity and hard to loosen, such that I had to employ a hammer to remove the artifact.
Figure 9: Author working on exposing ceramic from the hard and compact section of the granitic hilltop.
The most interesting thing was that all these microlithic sites were associated with axe grinding grooves (Figure 10). Although the blade technology itself is not related to the grooves, the types of blades found at these sites helps us to identify different chronological periods (see table above). These grooves are shallow depressions on the bedrock and stone boulders which were created when stone tools were sharpened or ground. I observed that no artifacts were found associated with the grooves, not even the stone tools that caused the grooves. Axes made on dolerite stones (Figure 11) are characteristic of early agricultural communities (Neolithic; 3000-1200 BCE) and they continued to be used during the Iron Age (1200-300 BCE), although perhaps for shorter time. On the other hand, microlithic blades are found in Mesolithic and Neolithic contexts. In this case, pre-Neolithic microlithic producers were able to adapt to this arid landscape, and by the time of Neolithic period, the site was limited to axe grinding. Now the next question running in my mind was what led people to select such a landscape and limited their activities to the making and processing of stone tools?
Figure 10: Axe grinding grooves on the granitic boulders, datable to the Neolithic and later. Photo by author.
Figure 11: Archaeologist at work, posing with a large dolerite axe from Bilamrayanagudda.
To understand this sequence of cultures future micro level studies are required, and the area needs to be explored systematically. My focus then shifted from the area around Devadurga to the riverbank plains of the Krishna 8-10 kms north and I aimed to cover a distance of 65 kms along the river. It is widely accepted that great civilizations are found on major riverbanks, but this is subject to the vagaries of regional cultural phases and ecological adaptations. For example, Iron Age and Early Historic sites are found on the lower reaches of the Kaveri in Tamil Nadu and not on its upper or middle reaches. Early Historic (300 BCE - 500 CE) towns, forts and religious complexes are found on the middle reaches of the river Krishna in Andhra Pradesh and not its lower reaches. Hundreds of Neolithic and Iron Age sites in the central and southern Deccan plateau are not located close to its rivers but depended on smaller springs and streams.
The riverbank landscape at middle reaches of Krishna is of rolling plains of alluvial black cotton soil, often with minor granitic knobs on riverbanks. The width of the river often reached a maximum of 1 km (Figure 12), and it used to give me a great feeling standing amidst the dry, sandy, silty, gravel channel bed and looking towards incoming water from the Narayanapura dam located 70 kms upstream. My exploration was designed such that I walked along a zigzag route to cover both of its stream banks and an area along the riverbank. After twenty days of explorations covering 80% of the 65 km river discharge, a good number of sites were recorded on my GPS and maps. These sites included Middle Palaeolithic and microlithic sites, as well as two localities with potential Neolithic and Iron Age evidence in a secondary context .
Figure 12: General view of the river Krishna at Devadurga, captured just a few minutes after the water flowed into its course. The channel width is about 900 - 1000 meters here. Photo by author.
New questions were added to my set of old questions about the granitic hills of
Devadurga. I ambitiously anticipated finding a range of prehistoric sites on the riverbank of the Krishna at Devadurga. I continued to find a similar pattern of the absence of Lower and Upper Palaeolithic sites and settlement sites of the Neolithic and Iron Age. The microlithic sites were again associated with axe grinding grooves, and this time I was lucky to find a single dolerite axe. Nevertheless, they were not particularly helpful in identifying original settlement sites since they were found from a poor secondary context. The first seasons exploration at Devadurga during February 2016 was a very successful venture in bringing to light new sites in a specific regional geological and ecological settings, but fell far short supplementing data for my PhD. In the granitic hills, I was finding evidence of foragers, hunting and gathering communities through the evidence of the microliths.
The second season of fieldwork initiated during June 2016 furnished data on ashmounds, rock art, ceramics, stone tools and other artefacts and added impetus to my questions about the landscapes and settlement systems of the region. For the second season I decided to move 20 km south off the river Krishna to explore a different geography characterised by dolerite swarms, granodiorite tors and gold bearing schist hills near the Hutti gold mines.
British mining engineers and geologists serving under the then Nizams of Hyderabad were very active in the western part of Raichur Doab as there were hundreds of gold and copper mining companies functioning here (Figure 13). The Raichur Doab was a contested area between the Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas, and later under the Vijayanagara and Bahmani empires due to the rich gold deposits found in the area. It has been hypothesized that the quartz reefs and quartz schist of the Dharwars were one of the early gold supplying regions for the Indus valley civilization in the northwest frontier of the Indian subcontinent and that the region was exploited for gold later, during the Neolithic-Chalcolithic and Iron Age. However, these early gold mining sites have not been identified and gold artefacts are underrepresented in the limited excavation of sites dating to this early period.