Hopes to find evidence of Roman trade links from 1st century BCE in 400-year-old structure

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is set to excavate a 400-year-old fort in Pulicat, located about 60 km north of Chennai.

It hopes to unravel not only evidence of 17th century Dutch presence in Pulicat, but also that of possible Roman trade links dating back to 1st century BCE. This would make Pulicat a significant archaeological site.

Pulicat was a Dutch settlement and an active trading centre in the past. The Dutch built the fort in the early part of the 17th century, and named it Geldria. The fort was used until the 19th century when the British demolished it.

At present, the fort, which is spread over 23 acres, is inaccessible and hidden by overgrown bushes.

The ASI will clear the site completely and then commence excavation.

They will first uncover the fort and moat in full, and then dig trial trenches to find out the entire chronological sequence of the site.

“In my initial exploration I found a few pieces of Rouletted ware (a type of decorated pottery) and also Chinese ceramic shreds. While Chinese ceramic shreds belong to the 15th/16th century CE, the Rouletted ware is from the early historic period. It would date back to the 1st century BCE when there were active Roman trading links in the east coast,” explained G. Maheswari, superintending archaeologist, ASI Chennai Circle.

The ASI proposal to excavate the site was recently cleared by the standing committee of the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology. Excavation will begin in December once the rainy season ends.

The government of Tamil Nadu owns the 23-acre site. The ASI has written to the State asking for a temporary transfer of the land for excavation purposes. Once the archaeological work is over, ASI will return the site to the government.

“We are awaiting the State government’s reply and hope to get it soon,” said Ms. Maheswari

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