Azhagankulam was in the big league

Renewed excavation in the T.N. village provides fresh evidence.

June 30, 2015 03:05 am | Updated 03:14 am IST - CHENNAI:

A Roman potsherd (left) and broken pieces of an amphora found during the excavation under way at Azhagankulam in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu.

A Roman potsherd (left) and broken pieces of an amphora found during the excavation under way at Azhagankulam in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu.

Renewed excavation from May at Azhagankulam village in Ramanathapuram district, Tamil Nadu, has thrown up fresh evidence that it was an important trading post between the Sangam Pandyas and the Romans from circa 50 BCE to circa 500 CE.

Archaeologists from the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology, who are taking part in the excavation, said Azhagankulam, Arikkamedu in Puducherry and Pattanam (Muziris) in Kerala formed a troika of trade centres between Rome and the Tamil country during the Tamil Sangam age.

Azhagankulam is about three km from the sea, near the area where the Vaigai river enters the sea.

The State Department of Archaeology had earlier excavated the site in 1986-87 and again for five seasons in the 1990s. Those excavations revealed the trade link between the ancient Tamil country and the Mediterranean region.

The excavation under way now at Azhagankulam has yielded broken Roman Amphora jars, Mediterranean pottery, embossed Roman potsherds, copper coins, Chinese Celadon ware, rouletted ware, potsherds with Tamil Brahmi letters, a potsherd with a swastika symbol and so on. Beads made of carnelian, quartz and glass were found.

Of the five trenches, four were laid in the Kottaimedu area. They yielded Roman amphorae (jars for storing wine), two copper coins, roofing tiles, black and red potsherds. A trench dug at Parithikaadu near the seashore yielded three corroded copper coins.

Archaeologist’s delight

Archaeologists emphasised that the Roman antiquities thrown up from the renewed excavation at Azhagankulam proved once again the trade contacts between the Pandya rulers and the Romans. Madurai was the capital of the Pandya country and Ramanathapuram came under the Madurai region. Roman gold coin hoards had been found at Utthamapuram, Nathampatti and Karivalamvandha Nallur.

“From circa 50 BCE, the Roman context occurs at Azhagankulam. The Pandyas had trade contacts with the Yavanas. The Romans bought pearls from the Pandya country. The contacts lasted till 500 CE,” said an archaeologist who had taken part in the earlier excavations at Azhagankulam.

Those excavations yielded three Roman coins. The legend on them showed that Roman emperors Valentine II (regnal years 383 CE to 395 CE) and Arcadius (regnal years 395 CE to 408 CE) issued them. Square copper Pandya coins were also found. The Mauryan context at Azhagankulam was revealed, with the occurrence of the northern black polished ware (elite tableware used by the wealthy) and punch-marked coins.

Azhagankulam, Arikkamedu and Korkai in the Tamiraparani basin on the east coast and Muziris on the west coast saw flourishing trade between the ancient Tamil country and the Romans, the archaeologist added.

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