Unearthing an advanced and vibrant civilisation at Keezhadi

Second phase of excavation throws up evidence of a huge urban settlement, a rarity in the State

Updated - May 16, 2017 02:15 pm IST

Published - June 04, 2016 09:00 am IST - MADURAI

More artefacts unearthed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the second phase of its ongoing excavation at Pallichanthai Thidal of Keezhadi in Sivaganga district point to an ancient civilisation that thrived on the banks of the Vaigai. Further excavation could establish it as Vaigai Valley civilisation, similar to the Indus Valley civilisation.

Archaeologists at the site opine that the brick structures and antiquities conform to the parameters that describe a civilisation.

This will dispel the popular theory that ancient Tamils lived as tribals and urbanisation happened much later. In the first phase of excavation, done in 43 quadrants from February to September 2015, brick structures and Rouletted and Arretine pot shreds that suggested trade links with other parts of the country and abroad were unearthed.

Significant finds

Among the significant finds in the second phase, which began in January, are two big-sized storage jars placed one above the other and connected to an underground terracotta pipeline and a two-layered furnace. “We have dug up 53 trenches in this phase to look at continuity and nature of structures. This is definitely a huge urban settlement, a rare one in Tamil Nadu. Its character as Vaigai Valley civilisation can be brought out through large-scale excavation over a decade,” says K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI.

A clear picture of the sophisticated habitat is emerging now with stone structures, oriented in cardinal directions, suggesting systematic urban planning. Pot shreds with Tamil Brahmi inscriptions point to the presence of a highly literate society. Graffiti of the sun and moon demonstrate that they had “astronomical sense” too. “The level of sophistication can be gauged from luxury and pastime items like the ivory dice, a game of an elite society,” says M. Rajesh, Assistant Archaeologist.

An in situ find of an engraved pot clearly places the site between second and first century BC. However, field experts are of the view that it cannot be compared to Harappa, except in terms of size. Harappa and Keezhadi are separated by time and distance of 1,200 years and over 2,000 km respectively. Senior epigraphist V. Vedachalam, who is the domain expert for the excavation, says that though Tamil Nadu had a unique culture during the Sangam period, micro-level variations have to be established through archaeological evidence, and antiquities found at the site will eminently serve the purpose. Keezhadi, according to him, is a site of abundant social, political and commercial significance. Existence of river valley civilisations in Tamil Nadu can be established by undertaking large-scale excavations on both the banks of major rivers.

Archaeologists are confident that Keezhadi will emerge as an “index site” to determine the culture of people living between Sangam and post-Sangam periods.

The ASI team has sent a proposal for extending the excavation into the third phase.

Further excavations could put ‘Vaigai Valley civilisation’ on a par with Indus Valley civilisation

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