A team of archaeologists in Telangana have unearthed a 40-tonne capstone, believed to be the largest discovered in South India. The discovery was made at a prehistoric Menhir megalith burial site in Siddipet’s Neremetta village. A crane was used to remove the stone – 6.70 m long and 4 m wide – in a four-hour operation, Deccan Chronicle reported.

Officials have found at least 50 megalith burial sites, which have been classified as Menhir, Cairns and Dolmens. Scientists said capstones were used to protect corpses from predators as prehistoric people believed that the soul continues to live even after death.

“We cannot say it is the world’s largest as there could be much larger ones...But we can safely say this is the largest capstone found in South India and one of the largest in the country,” D Ramulu Naik, assistant director of Telangana Archaeology and Museums Department, told Deccan Chronicle.

The excavation began a week ago after megalith burials were discovered in the neighbouring village of Pullur Banda. It was led by the department’s director NR Visalatch. “First they may have dug a grave near the huge capstone, filled it with gravel, and then moved the capstone by rolling it over round stones or logs of wood. Or they could have dug the earth beneath the stone and buried the dead under it,” Naik told Deccan Chronicle.

The capstone was lifted at the excavation site on March 21, department officials told PTI. Naik added that it was a “stunning discovery”. Some of the smaller bones discovered at the site have been dispatched for DNA testing to the Deccan College of Post Graduate Research in Pune.