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An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

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Treasures from Keeladi: People from across the country are lining up to catch a glimpse of the life of ancient Tamils in the State Government’s exhibition of precious findings from the excavation site

P Sukanya from Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Sivagangai, cannot take her eyes off the beautiful orange coloured stone encased inside a glass box. Her mouth wide open, she lines up with her classmates in front of the tiny oval Carnelian ring stone. Her questions, “What is it?” and “How did they find it?” express a curiosity that may not have otherwise surfaced in the classroom.

An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

Clearly, the exhibition of items excavated at Keeladi and kept on display at the World Tamil Sangam in the city evoke interest in students like Sukanya. She steps back in time to explore with her friends and teacher the history of a civilization from the past, the way its people lived, the tools and utensils they used, things they made and wore. “I have never been to such an exhibition before,” she says amazed at the 2,600-years-old stone glistening under studio lights.

An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

Archaeological Officers (AO), researchers, and volunteers at the venue are guiding visitors like Sukanya to interpret the story of the past. AO Asai Thambi explains that the stone may have travelled from Gujarat to Rome and then to Keeladi when trade flourished, keeping the economy of ancient Tamil country running. He asks students to take a closer look at the incised wild boar on the ring and infers that the ring was perhaps used as a stamp for some purpose.

An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

Hundreds of students visit the exhibition daily and ‘walk-through’ the Keeladi findings. “Visitors get the experience of the site,” says Asai Thambi adding, “Ever since the exhibition was inaugurated on November 1, more than 30,000 people have come in to see and understand the artefacts.”

“Such rich learning outside classrooms are always exciting for students and help to up the academic interest,” says R Vidhya, a city school teacher, who was there with her students.

An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

The team of 15 AOs along with half-a-dozen researchers and two artists from Chennai spent sleepless nights to get the three exhibition halls ready; there are 6,980 items on display and they were set up in 18 days. “It is satisfying to see an enthusiasm for art, culture, history, archaeology, antiquity and its legacy among youngsters,” feels AO Thanga Durai.

What is also making people in the city swell with pride is the fact that finally, after three years of gross under-use, the imposing World Tamil Sangam building has become what it was originally meant to be — a head-turner.

An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

“In the last one month, not a single day has passed when the road outside was not lined by school and college buses and vehicles,” says L Meenakshi, who lives a stone’s throw away from the building.

Step back in time Artefacts from Keeladi on show

Step back in time Artefacts from Keeladi on show  

People from all over the State and even neighbouring Kerala and Karnataka, tourists from the North and abroad, as well as senior citizens are coming to see the rich haul of material that is indicative of a thriving urban civilisation on the banks of river Vaigai in 6th Century BC to 2nd Century AD. “This is much before what was considered the Sangam Era,” says Asai Thambi.

An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

“The feedback we are receiving is heart-warming,” chips in Thanga Durai. People now want this place to be converted into a permanent museum of Keeladi’s precious findings. The State Government, of course, has a proposal to build a museum at the excavation site. Till then, which is expected to be at least two years, the exhibits will remain on display here.

An exhibition of findings from an excavation site throws light on the life of ancient Tamils

“This is the first time people have open access to the archaeological findings,” said Asai Thambi. “Usually, such artefacts are accessible only to the archaeologists, barring very few.”

The exhibition is open every day from 11.30 pm to 7 pm.

Past perfect

Models of underground irrigation techniques, ring wells and trenches

Jewellery made of gold, semi-precious stones, glass and beads and shell bangles, to board games like chess with ivory pieces

Different types of black and red ware, perforated pottery, pots with spouts in different shapes bearing Tamil Brahmi graffiti

Iron tools, terracotta toys, spindle whorls

An entertaining virtual room especially for children to understand how the excavation was done

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 3:22:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/people-from-across-the-country-are-lining-up-to-catch-a-glimpse-of-the-life-of-ancient-tamils-in-the-state-governments-exhibition-of-precious-findings-from-the-keeladi-excavation-site/article30117542.ece

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