Tamil Nadu Dig Strikes Gold, Re-Writes Indian Pre-History
After four months of digging, almost 1000 artifacts were unearthed during the 5th phase of excavations in Keezhadi village in Tamil Nadu’s Sivagangai district. According to a report in New Indian Express, the team of archaeologists created “51 trenches” during phase 5 of explorations, which was brought to completion last Sunday, revealing numerous pots, inscribed ceramic shells, and semi-precious stones engraved with pigs, not to mention gold jewelry.
Ancient Surprises Galore at Tamil Nadu
A 2018 DTNext article says the Keezhadi site had thrown up “many surprises” in the first three phases of excavation and so far over 6000 artifacts have been found. After the second phase, various Tamil organizations had demanded that the state Archaeology Department undertake excavations at Keezhadi - alleging that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had been “biased” and covered up the true history of ancient Tamil Nadu.
Archaeologists found a carnelian bead engraved with a wild boar during the fifth phase of excavations at the site in Tamil Nadu.(Jothi Ramalingam)
The reason phase five of the excavations are being called “crucial” is because scientists have long speculated that people from the Indus Valley Civilization had moved southwards around 1500 BC, and that the language of the people in Indus Valley Civilization, Indus Script, might have been Dravidian; these new discoveries show further links between the two cultures.
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An Advanced Ancient Civilization
Responding to increasing demands and protests, the Archaeology Department united with the ASI during the 4th phase of excavations in April 2018 and together they unearthed a “landmark discovery” - the existence of an urban civilization located on the riverbed of Vaigai that was thought to be contemporary to the Gangetic plain civilization.
Around 3,000 artifacts have been unearthed: including coins, weapons, a large ring well, brick stoves, pottery, and beads. Evidence of trading with Rome was found, as were extensive water holding facilities pointing to an advanced society. What’s more, for the first time at the site large quantities of gold ornaments were unearthed and news about this caused a spike in the number of visitors to the site, with “40 incidents” of drones being flown over the site videoing and photographing the structures.
A ring well found at the dig site. (M Suganth)
The remains of cows, goats, and peacocks were also discovered - which link the society with agriculture. And pottery samples were found to have been made from local materials dating to the 6th century BC, which include distinctive ‘Tamil script.’ This establishes that these ancient people had developed advanced written and linguistic skills.
A News Minute report says the State Archaeological Department has now released news on the Keezhadi excavations, which they say “might” prove “possible links” between the scripts of Indus Valley Civilization and the Tamil Brahmi script, which is a precursor to the modern Tamil script.
A pot sherd with a ‘Tamizhi’ inscription found at Keezhadi, Tamil Nadu. (Jothi Ramalingam)
Fighting for Archaeology in Schools
With huge amounts of evidence coming from this site there are plans to include research in school curriculums in Madurai, said acting-director Sasikumar to reporters at New Indian Express. And having made his case to the State government to include archaeological research on Keezhadi in the school curriculum, he spoke earlier this year at a conference about the Vaigai River Civilization; suggesting the government set up a world-class museum in Keezhadi.
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Two layers of terracotta pipelines found in the 5th phase of excavations at Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu. (ma23terracotta pipelines Keeladi)
Yesterday, an article in News Minute featured Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami inaugurating the new public exhibition of artifacts excavated at Keezhadi during the 4th and 5th phases.
Of the “6,200 items” that have been excavated to date, the ASI will be displaying about 70% of the items - which includes all of the gold jewelry, pots, and human faces crafted in clay. The exhibition also includes replicas of excavation scenes at the ancient settlements and their round wells. It will be open to the public from 11 am to 7 pm every day.
What all the discoveries suggest is that the Sangam era, which is considered Tamil Nadu’s golden age, in fact began much, much earlier than archaeologists had believed - and with five excavations behind them at Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu expectations are high for what might be found at the spot at the end of January 2020 when phase 6 unfolds.
Top Image: Aerial view of the excavations at Keezhadi, an archaeological site in Tamil Nadu which is re-writing Indian pre-history. Source: Jothi Ramalingam
By Ashley Cowie