A project, Discovering Idukki, has been launched to explore and document the rich heritage of the district.

In the first phase, a heritage museum will be opened at the district headquarters at Painavu by April this year.

The project is being implemented by the district panchayat and archaeological explorations will be conducted at various sites of dolmen at Marayur and the megalithic sites, where the ‘nannagadies' (burial urns) had been excavated, at the high ranges.

T.Rajesh, who is in charge of the project, said the study may open new chapters of Kerala spice trade during the Stone Age and later.

He said the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) would provide technical support for the project.

Mr. Rajesh said Muziris heritage had a strong link to the high ranges as cardamom was indigenous to the hill tracts. In 1341, the water bodies in the Periyar river basin underwent a major transformation.

“The prosperous city of Muziris at the mouth of the Periyar overlooking the Arabian Sea suddenly dropped off the map due to a flood or earthquake or both,” he said. Muziris was silted over and its site was left to conjecture.

Excavations by the KCHR in 2007 and 2008 unearthed valuable information on its location and more. The archaeological and historical data gathered on Muziris provided more evidence to show it was a veritable business and cultural centre with wide international associations.

Mr. Rajesh said it was through the Muzaris trade channel, people of southern India were afforded connections with various civilisations of West Asia, Near East, and Europe.

The excavations provided a wealth of information not only on the port but also on its hinterland, the whole Periyar basin and the historical towns of Kodungalloor, Pattanam, and Paravur.

“Many important finds such as human bones, storage jars, gold ornaments, and utilitarian objects made of stone, copper, and iron were discovered. The structures indicated a vast urban settlement. The excavations suggest that the site was first occupied by the indigenous Megalithic people.”

He said the excavations in Idukki would provide valuable data on the life during the Megalithic period. The items collected would be made available at the heritage museum.