With the sixth phase of the excavations at the Keeladi cluster and the excavations at other sites to come to a close in September for the year, the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology released an interim status report on Monday. The finds range from semi precious stones like carnelian, agate, amethyst, to terracotta seals, skeletons, Microlithic tools such as blades and scrapers coins, iron objects and swords and roofing tiles.
Key among the finds are carbonised rice grains and the microlithic tools found at Agaram. While the carbonised rice was found on the surface during excavations at Agaram, in Sivagalai this was found in an offering pot. Both will be sent to a lab for carbon dating to identify the time period.
Releasing the report to the media, Minister for Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture MaFoi K. Pandiarajan said a total of 3,959 artefacts have been found during the excavations at the Keeladi cluster and Erode till July across all seasons. So far 128 carbon samples have been collected in Keeladi and its clusters. The report was earlier released on Monday morning by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami.
In the current season of excavations, a fine variety of red-slipped ware containing Tamizhi letters reading Ka-y was found embedded in the soil at Keeladi, apart from semi-precious stones, weighing units and terracotta seals. A spinal cord with ribs of a bovine having a length of 0.80 metres was also found.
At Kondagai, a burial site, 40 urn burials, one pit burial and 16 surface burials were identified. Also, 17 human skeletons and two animal skeletons were unearthed with bowls of red-ware, red-slipped-ware and black-and-red ware. Of particular interest to the archaeologists are the finds at Agaram, where the first season of excavations was initiated. These include Microlithic tools such as blades and lunate found in association with fluted core indicating that these tools were produced at the site.
Carbonised rice grains
Carbonised rice grains were recovered at a depth of 1.75 metres. Polished stone axe, ceramic wares were also found. Manalur excavations which started in May 2020 threw up smoking pipes, terracotta wheels, hop-scotches and traits of architectural activity.
At Adichanallur too, Microlithic tools were found, consisting of blade, point and scraper made of chert. A total of 10 urn burials were also exposed and 438 antiquities were collected. Iron objects and roofing tiles were also found.
The excavation at Sivagalai, being undertaken to know the Iron Age burial culture and locate the earliest settlement of the region, yielded finds such as potsherds, Mesolithic tools and other artefacts. Kodumanal excavation reaped Tamizhi inscribed potsherds and structures built of stone masonry.
Mr. Pandiarajan said the department has tied-up with nearly 10 institutions to scientifically analyse the excavated material. Madurai Kamaraj University has taken steps to establish an ‘ancient DNA lab’ at a cost of ₹3 crore and this would help in faster turnaround times of identifying the artefacts’ antiquity, he added.