First ring well with design unearthed at Keeladi site

Terracotta ring well has thumb impressions carved on a band

Updated - July 14, 2021 02:46 am IST

Published - July 14, 2021 01:06 am IST - Madurai

The first terracotta ring well with a design unearthed during seventh phase of excavation at Keeladi near Madurai on Tuesday.

The first terracotta ring well with a design unearthed during seventh phase of excavation at Keeladi near Madurai on Tuesday.

Every season of excavation at Keeladi archaeological site has unearthed ring wells, an indicator of the advanced water conservation technology that existed more than 2,000 years ago. But the recovery of a terracotta ring well with thumb impressions creatively carved on a band around its surface, ushered in a wave of excitement among the staff at work.

“So far we have excavated a dozen plain ring wells and this is the first one with an intricate design,” said M. Ramesh, one of the four Archaeological Officers (AO), who has been assigned to the Keeladi site from round one.

The ring well was traced at a depth of 126 cm in one of the eight pits dug for the seventh phase of excavation that resumed last month after the lockdown restrictions were lifted.

On Tuesday, three layers of the ring well were exposed. The height of the first ring is 44 cm with a diameter of 77 cm. The overall height of the ring well with a 2.5 cm thick rim is 79 cm. The second ring has a slightly differently designed band around the structure. It has depressions in the shape of small squares.

Aesthetic sense

Deputy Director of Archaeology and the director of Keeladi excavations R. Sivanandam said that the ring well with designs is a new find, indicating the aesthetic sense of people living in those times. “It is interesting to see how they used their creativity even on things of basic needs and necessity,” he said.

“We will dig up to a depth of 4.25 metre to see how deep the well is and if there are more such designs visible,” said Ajay Kumar, another AO. In the last phase, one ring well was excavated and fifth phase unearthed the highest at three.

The Keeladi ring wells also testify the science behind the structures. Each ring is designed with a locking system and they sit tightly one on top of the other, to prevent sand from getting in, considering Keeladi’s proximity to Vaigai river and the sandy terrain of the region, said Mr. Ramesh. He said that it can be presumed that the ring wells helped the settlers to store water for the drought months.

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