Special Correspondent

Excavations carried out in past two weeks on Tamil University campus

They revealed two cultural phases, Palaeolithic and microlithic

THANJAVUR: Clear evidence of the existence of pre-historic humans in Thanjavur region has been identified in the archaeological excavations undertaken by Tamil University here.

The excavations carried out in the past two weeks on the Tamil University campus revealed clinching evidence on the existence of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic cultures in stratified contexts.

University chancellor M. Rajendran, who visited the excavation site, observed that these findings by the Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology under the direction of V. Selvakumar of the department were significant and would shed new light on the way of life of prehistoric human beings.

The excavations were carried out under the major research project titled “Landscape Archaeology of Prehistoric cultures of Southern Tamil Nadu,” funded by University Grants Commission, said a University press release issued here on Friday.

The excavations revealed two cultural phases, namely, Palaeolithic and microlithic. The Palaeolithic artefacts consisted of scrapers and flake tools.

They were found in the laterite rock surface below a sterile layer that underlies the layer that produced Mesolithic artefacts and this signified the chronological gap between these two cultures.

It is important to note that such stratigraphic evidence was found in Thanjavur region for the first time.

The stratigraphic evidence suggests that the paleolithic culture could go back well over 10,000 years and efforts are on to get scientific dates.

The evidence of using microlith tiny stone tools such as scrapers, triangles and points made of quartz suggest that Mesolithic people led a hunter-gatherer way of life about 10,000-3000 years ago. These people did not have the knowledge of pottery or metal implements.

An interesting find is what appears to be a narrow channel dug for water harvesting in the Mesolithic habitation context at the site.

Further research is on to ascertain the nature of the channel.

This excavation clearly proves that the history of Thanjavur region, especially in the Vallam table land, can be pushed back to the Palaeolithic times. These findings have to be seen in the light of Sri Lankan evidence of early human occupation, which extends back to several tens of thousands of years. No such evidence has come from Southern Tamil Nadu so far, although the region around Chennai has produced extensive evidence for Palaeolithic occupation. Based on the typological analysis, the Palaeolithic culture of Thanjavur seems to be later than that of Chennai region.

Earlier excavations by Tamil University under the direction of Dr. K. Rajan, Head of the Department of History, Pondicherry University, brought to light such evidence in Dharmapuri region.

The Mesolithic evidence has been excavated in small scale at Mangudi and Teriruveli by Tamil Nadu State Archaeology Department.

The surface surveys carried out as part of the project during the past one year have revealed more than 100 microlithic sites and five palaeolithic sites in Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Thuthukudy districts.

A team consisting of M.Rajendran, Prof. K. Rajan, Dr. P. Jayakumar, Head, Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology, examined the findings. The students of the department of Epigraphy and Archaeology and Underwater Archaeology were also trained in the excavations.