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Updated: June 6, 2013 13:30 IST

Rare artefacts on display reveal the ancient history of city

A. Srivathsan
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Potteries of megalithic period on display at the exhibition. Photo: S. Thanthoni
The Hindu
Potteries of megalithic period on display at the exhibition. Photo: S. Thanthoni

Three rare artefacts are on display at the special exhibition ‘Roots of Madras' at the Egmore Museum.

These objects illustrate the long history of Chennai that stretches up to the Paleolithic period, about half-a-million years ago when tools of stone and bone were used for hunting.

The stone axe discovered by Bruce Foote in Pallavaram in 1863, the cleaver discovered by Foote and William King Jr. in Attrampakkam also in 1863 and the potteries of megalithic period excavated at Kilpauk Garden in 1934 by T.G. Aravamuthan and M.D. Raghavan of the Madras Museum are pick of the objects in the exhibition and demonstrate that this region was a site of habitation long before the British arrived.

The axe discovered at Pallavaram was the first Paleolithic relic to be found in India.

Foote, who was with the Geological Survey of India, pointed out that the stone tools of the Madras area has distinct marks of craftsmanship and reflected a conscious choice of colours. He even classified them as the `Madras type' to distinguish it from the others.

Bruce Foote was the first person in India to undertake a systematic research on such ancient artefacts in India. The Madras Museum acquired his collection in 1904 and Foote himself catalogued it.

The prehistoric cemetery in Kilpauk was first studied by L.A. Cammiade in as early as 1922. Ancient potteries were found by E.R. Prudhomme when he was laying his garden at his house named `Fontenoy' located on Halls Road. He collected them and shared it with L.A. Cammiade.

However, in 1934, Aravamuthan and Raghavan felt that this collection requires a systematic study and excavated the area. They found cinerary urns, black potteries and a six-feet-long sarcophagus standing on six pairs of short legs. Writing in the ‘Current Science' in 1934, they pointed out that the Kilpauk site was rich in a rare black-tipped pottery and the figurines found here have not been seen elsewhere excepting the Nilgiri cairns.

The other object of interest, displayed in the exhibition, is the unexploded ammunition fired at the city from the German warship Emden during the First World War. The exhibition is open till August 25.

Keywords: Madras Museum

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