The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Tuesday refused to commit a time period within which it would begin the next phase of excavation at Pallichanthai Thidal at Keezhadi in Sivaganga district. The excavations conducted so far on just one out of 100 acres of identified land at the spot had led to discovery of 4,125 artefacts pointing to the existence of an ancient Tamil civilisation that could have thrived on the banks of Vaigai.
Appearing before a Division Bench of Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan that was seized of a public interest litigation petition related to the excavations, ASI counsel N. Shanmuga Selvam said that the next phase excavation would begin only after completion of ‘record writing’ with respect to the artefacts collected so far. He said that it was a laborious process which involved subjecting the antiquities to chemical examination.
Additional Advocate General B. Pugalendhi told the court that the Commissioner of State Archaeological Department had taken stock of all the artefacts that were excavated by the ASI in the first phase and recorded all of them on video as ordered by the court on November 24. He also pointed out that the ASI had so far taken away 1,800 artefacts to its laboratories in other parts of the country for ascertaining their age through carbon dating.
After hearing them, the Division Bench adjourned the hearing of the case by a week. Though the PIL was filed to restrain the ASI from taking the artefacts out of the State and seeking a direction to it to establish a site museum at Keezhadi, the court had, on November 24, permitted the ASI to take the excavated antiquities to the Laboratory of Archaeological Chemist in Dehradun in Uttarakhand or any other lab in the country for chemical examination and record writing.
The permission was granted since the ASI informed the court that shifting the artefacts to its laboratory in Chennai would not serve any purpose since the latter lacked the facilities required for scientific cleaning, analysis and documentation. The judges, however, ordered that the Commissioner of the State Archaeological Department must take stock of the antiquities by noting down the details of each artefact besides shooting videos and taking photographs before they were moved out of Keezhadi.
“After the scientific analysis, the excavated materials should be brought back and kept in Keezhadi or in the Sivaganga district museum or any other suitable building,” the court had ordered.