Excavation in TN’s Keezhadi to enter 5th phase

Sources told DH that trenches would now be dug in eight villages – Konthagai, Agaram, Maranadu, Allinagaram, Thavalaikulam, Sakkudi and Manalaur, Pallisanthai Pudur – all located within 20 km radius of Keezhadi. DH photo

Four rounds of excavation by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the state Archaeology Department in Keezhadi village, 15 km from here, unearthed large remains of an urban civilisation dating back to 2,200 years ago on the banks of River Vaigai.

To dig deeper into the civilisation that thrived in the land of Pandyas, the kingdom that ruled Madurai and parts of present-day Tamil Nadu, the Archaeology Department has decided to expand the excavation exercise to more than half-a-dozen villages close to Keezhadi.

Sources told DH that trenches would now be dug in eight villages – Konthagai, Agaram, Maranadu, Allinagaram, Thavalaikulam, Sakkudi and Manalaur, Pallisanthai Pudur – all located within 20 km radius of Keezhadi.

“These villages have been identified and the Archaeology Department has written to the state government seeking enough funds for carrying out the excavation. The fifth round is expected to throw up more evidence since the excavation would be spread to other areas as well,” a source aware of the developments told DH.

Since the fourth phase, concluded in October 2018, also ending in success, the government decided to continue the excavation and has even received mandatory permission from Central Advisory Board for Archaeology (CABA) to dig deeper into the civilisation, which could throw up interesting facts.

Since the excavation is planned to be done in several villages apart from Keezhadi for the first time after the work started in 2012, archaeologists are of the view that more evidence of the urban civilisation that existed on banks of Vaigai would tumble out.

The fourth phase which went for five months yielded tremendous results -- six gold objects, a huge-sized black and red ware bowl, large collections of terracotta objects, Tamil Brahmi scripts on earthen potteries and huge numbers of drawings of ‘Fish’ – which was the emblem of the Pandian Dynasty that ruled Madurai.

“It was during the fourth phase, archaeologists found out that not just an urban civilisation, but an industrial civilisation, existed on the banks of Vaigai. So, the fifth phase would be much more interesting,” another source said.

Keezhadi has been the cynosure of all eyes for a couple of years now as the excavation rain into several controversies with the ASI even transferring its official who oversaw the project, Amarnath Ramakrishna, to far-away Assam. Opposition parties accused the BJP of transferring Ramakrishna to suppress information about excavation coming out in the open.

After the ASI threw up its hands, the state Archaeological Department began from where ASI left and stumbled upon more concrete evidence in the form of artefacts to prove that not just human civilisation, but an industrial civilisation existed along Vaigai during the Sangam Era.

During the fourth phase, archaeologists also unearthed huge numbers of terracotta objects, including human figurines, glass beads, iron objects, bowls, plates and some machine-type artefacts.

360 beadings, roof tiles made of hand, iron, copper and ivory objects were also found during the fourth phase. Archaeologists said they found graffiti in the lower layer and Tamil Brahmi script inscribed on potteries in the upper layer.

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Excavation in TN’s Keezhadi to enter 5th phase

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