Chennai@2019: The year in retrospect

When Keeladi revived interest in Sangam era

The government plans to set up a three-storey museum with a live excavation site to give the 'Keeladi experience' within a year.

The government plans to set up a three-storey museum with a live excavation site to give the 'Keeladi experience' within a year.   | Photo Credit: R. Ashok

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In a 20-day period between September and October this year, more than 1.10 lakh people visited an excavation site – Keeladi, near Madurai – after carbon dating tests of artefacts unearthed from the site in a previous excavation placed the cultural deposits to a period between 6th Century BCE and 1st Century BCE.

The findings also placed the Tamil Brahmi script to 6th Century BCE. The findings marked a landmark moment for the archaeological community and the State in 2019. The findings at Keeladi put the spotlight on Tamil Nadu and officials involved in the fifth phase of excavations had to make arrangements for the influx of visitors to the excavation site as public interest surged.

Interestingly, the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department used various scientific and technological tools before earmarking places to be excavated during the fifth phase. The department undertook satellite imagery analysis, geophysical survey using magnetometer and thermo mapping, and also used ground penetrating radar surveys, to cut down on time and also to excavate only specific areas instead of a large area. It yielded good results yet again as the team found a number of terracotta pipes, stone wells, beads, pot shreds with Brahmi inscriptions, and a number of other artefacts.

The government plans set up a three-storey museum with a live excavation site to give the ‘Keeladi experience’ within one year and the State plans to declare the site as a protected site once the excavations are complete.

In the meanwhile, the State Archaeological Department also announced plans to undertake underwater excavations along the coast of the Bay of Bengal to unravel trade links of the ancient Tamils. The plan proposes to undertake underwater excavations in port cities and towns that existed during the Sangam and medieval era.

The Archaeological Survey of India, in October, accepted the State government’s request for excavations to be undertaken at four sites – sixth phase at Keeladi, Kodumanal in Erode, Sivagalai in Tirunelveli and Adichanallur in Thoothukudi. These are set to be completed by September 30, 2020.

Meanwhile, Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture Minister Ma Foi K. Pandiarajan, pitched in for setting up a music museum in the State, possibly at the Egmore Museum, hopefully with collaboration from A.R. Rahman. But it has not made any headway this year.

An attempt by the department to rope in corporates to adopt certain sections of the Egmore Museum also ended in failure as the corporates did not evince much interest. Work on the National Art Gallery, which was under renovation, is also likely to end and opened to the public soon, while the Museum Theatre too is set to be revamped with additional seating and better acoustics.

While the State’s archaeological pursuits are throwing up a large number of artefacts, the capacity of its museums and its poor infrastructure, coupled with a shortage of staff will have to be addressed as another year rolls by.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 2:04:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/when-keeladi-revived-interest-in-sangam-era/article30412716.ece

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