The latest excavations confirm that Kodumanal was a prosperous industrial and trade centre that made iron and steel, textiles, bangles out of shells and exquisite beads

They were trenches from which you could not take your eyes off. In one trench, a big quartz block jutted out of the wall while smaller ones lay here and there. A few feet away was a stone anvil where these quartz blocks were cut into smaller sizes. Around the anvil lay scattered quartz chips glittering in the sun.

In the second trench, superbly cut barrel and disc-shaped quartz pieces lay in heaps. There was pottery jutting out of the trench wall. Two big circular kilns lay exposed on the third trench’s floor, where beads and pendants were made out of semi-precious stones such as quartz, carnelian, beryl, agate and black-cat eye. Near the kilns was a grooved stone where these rough-outs were rubbed and polished.

A superbly crafted pot — a russet-coated ware — with wavy patterns cried for attention nearby. Stone blocks, and quartz rough-outs and chips lay around in the fourth trench.

Kodumanal in Erode district, Tamil Nadu, never stops surprising archaeologists. In the seventh season of excavation in April and May this year, these four trenches have unravelled a complete gemstone industry, showcasing the stages involved in the manufacture of beads out of quartz, carnelian, agate, jasper, garnet, soapstone etc.

About 100 metres away, five more trenches have been dug, which have laid bare copper-smelting furnaces. The five trenches themselves yielded a bonanza of pottery with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions.

Significant discovery

K. Rajan, Professor of History, Pondicherry University, and Director of Excavation at Kodumanal, called the unravelling of the gemstone industry, through the various stages of manufacture, “a significant discovery of this year’s excavation.” The discovery confirmed the findings of the previous excavations that Kodumanal prospered as an industrial and trade centre that made iron and steel, textiles, bangles out of shells and exquisite beads.

Dr. Rajan said: “The occurrence of gemstone, iron, steel, copper-smelting, conch-shell and textile industries suggest that this site survived as one of the important trade-cum-industrial centres from fifth century BCE (Before the Common Era) to first century BCE. The bustling industrial activity brought traders, artisans and skilled labourers from different parts of India to Kodumanal.” Charcoal samples collected from depths of 60 cm, 80 cm and 120 cm from different trenches at Kodumanal and sent for accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating were dated to 275 BCE, 330 BCE and 408 BCE respectively, he said. “Cultural deposits available this year from a depth of 180 cm may push back the date by a century.”

Keywords: quartzpotteryKodumanal

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