K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, Superintending Archaeologist, Excavations Branch (Bangalore), Archaeological Survey of India, who has been overseeing excavation work in Keezhadi near Madurai, has been transferred to Guwahati Circle of the ASI.
P.S. Sriraman, Superintending Archaeologist (in-charge), Jodhpur Circle, has been transferred to Excavations Branch (Bangalore), which is responsible for archaeological excavations in the southern States.
The transfer has come at a crucial juncture when the third phase of the excavation in Keezhadi is all set to begin as the Director General, ASI, granted permission for it in February after considerable delay and the initial funding for the third phase was sanctioned last week.
The delay in approval, which ought to have happened in October last year, and the alleged reluctance of the Central government in continuing the excavation kicked up a controversy and evoked widespread condemnation by various political parties, writers and film personalities in Tamil Nadu.
Sources in the ASI said the transfer had been made as per a recent policy change, which necessitated transfer of officials in the rank of Superintending Archaeologists every two years.
Mr. Amarnath has been serving in his present position for around three years and has been involved in Keezhadi excavation ever since the work began in 2015. In the two phases of excavation in 2015 and 2016, as many as 5,800 artefacts were unearthed from the site.
The results of the carbon dating of charcoal excavated from Keezhadi indicated that the settlement belonged to 200 BC, thereby providing strong evidence of the existence of a thriving urban settlement on the banks of the Vaigai since the Sangam age.
Expressing concern over the transfer of Mr. Ramakrishna, an archaeologist closely following the developments in Keezhadi said, “Such transfers are not generally made during ongoing excavations, particularly in the initial phases.”
“It is not merely an administrative work but rigorously academic. The archaeologist develops a keen understanding and knowledge of the artefacts being unearthed and consequently the associated culture, which is crucial for further excavation,” he said.