A punch-marked silver coin that was dug out during the seventh phase of excavation at Keeladi last week has sent a wave of excitement among archaeologists, as they are further able to collate and establish trading activity of the civilisation believed to have flourished on the banks of Vaigai river more than 2,500 years ago.
The finding of a single punched-mark silver coin so far is stated to be unique. However, a similar semi-circular silver coin was excavated earlier, at a depth of 162 cm, during the fourth phase of excavation at Keeladi. The two coins suggest commercial activities belonging to the middle of the 4th century BCE, according to the director of Keeladi excavations, R. Sivanandam.
The latest coin was found at the base of layer three of the YP44/1 quadrant, almost touching the ground and was covered in thick green sediment. “Only after the coin was treated and we learnt the material is silver with figurines on one side and minor marks on the other, we came to know of its importance,” said Ajay Kumar, the archaeology officer at the site.
The designs on the coin, according to Mr. Sivanandam, who is also the Deputy Director, Department of Archaeology, are of the sun, moon, a bull, taurine, and another animal that resembles a dog on one side and a semi-circle with two small geometric L-shaped marks on the obverse. “It is proof that there was trading with north India, where such coins were in use in the 6th Century BCE,” he said and added, “The evidence is opening up the entire working system of the country in those times.”
The coin measuring 2.1 x 1.7 x 0.1 cm and weighing 2.2 g, was found at a depth of 146 cm. The shape, which is partly oval with rectangular edges on two sides, looks like a magnified drop. It indicates the time period of the Mauryan Empire. The chronology of punch-marked coins also vary from region to region.
Copper coins with markings were found at Kodumanal and Alagankulam during past excavations as well. “Each finding and information helps bridge the connection between the north and the south in the Gangetic valley,” Mr. Sivanandam told The Hindu .
According to C. Santhalingam, retired archaeology officer, the excavation of beads, copper objects, northern black polished ware, semi-precious stones and punch-mark coins indicate that skilled people were importing raw materials, maybe from Gujarat and Afghanistan, and a flourishing making and cutting industry for jewels and other artefacts existed here. Any trading activity strongly establishes an urban civilisation,” he added.