Unearthing an Ancient Civilisation- Keeladi Excavations
An urban civilisation existed in Tamil Nadu in the Sangam era on the banks of the river Vaigai has been ascertained by carbon dating, a widely accepted tool to ascertain the age of archaeological and historical remains. The Lab has found that the cultural deposits unearthed during the fourth excavation at Keeladi would be safely dated to a period between 6th century BCE and 1st century CE.
Findings over the years
- The first round of excavations yielded antiquities that provide Crucial evidences to understanding the missing links of the Iron age (12th century BCE to 6th century BCE) to the early Historic Period (6th century BCE to 4th century BCE) and subsequent cultural developments of a Tamil civilisation that had trade links with other regions in the country and abroad.
- This civilisation has been described by Tamil poets belonging to the Sangam period.(Tamil Sangam, an assembly of poets, had its seat in Madhurai between 4th century BCE and 2nd century BCE. The works of this period are collectively called Sangam literature).
- In the fourth round (2018), 5820 antiquities were found. These included brick structures, terracotta ring wells, fallen roofing with tiles, golden ornaments, broken parts of copper objects, iron implements, terracotta chess pieces, ear ornaments, spindle whorls, figurines, black and redware, rouletted ware and a few pieces of Arrentine ware, besides beads made of glass, terracotta and semi-precious stones.
- We know that Tamili the Tamil-Brahmi script) was dated to 5th century BCE. But the recent scientific dates obtained from the Keeladi findings push back the date by another century.
- The SDA plunged into “guided excavation” using the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Survey, the Magnetometer Survey and the Ground Penetrating Radar Survey. “We wanted to blend technology with traditional wisdom in Keeladi.
The Vaigai Valley Civilisation
- The Keeladi findings have led academics to describes the site as part of the Vaigai Valley Civilisation. There are similarities in urban planning between the Indus Valley and Keeladi.
- The Graffiti marks encountered in Iron Age sites of south India serve as the only residual links between the Indus Valley Civilisation and south India.Graffiti marks are found in earthenware, caves and rocks in or earth in or near the excavation sites of Tamil Nadu .
- it reflects all the characteristics of an urban civilisation, with bricks structures, luxury items and proof of internal and external trade.
- An interesting feature of Keeladi is that it has not revealed any signs of religious worship in all the five rounds.
- Recent finds, include seven gold ornaments, copper articles, gem beads, shell and ivory bangles, and brick structures that point to the existence of industrial units.
- The SDA report concludes that the “recent Excavations and the dates arrived at scientifically clearly suggests that the people were living in Tamil Nadu continuously and the Keeladi excavation (has ) clearly ascertained that they attained literacy or learnt the art of writing ion as early as 6th century BCE during Early Historic Period.”
A sophisticated urban settlement
- It has given evidence of urban life and settlements in Tamil Nadu during the early Historic Period. It was around this time that evidence for a second urbanisation started appearing in the Gangetic Valley.
- The most significant find it the continuous brick structure that runs over 340 metres.
- Artefacts from the fourth round proved that Keeladi was indeed an urban habitation. Out of Seventy samples of animal skeletal fragments which were tested , 53% of them belonging to oxen, cows, buffaloes and goats. This indicates that the habitants were predominantly cattle rearing people.
- The hump of the Bos indicus species is referred to as imil in Tamil literature, which later came to known as timil. The grandeur of this species, which was also present in the Indus Valley, lies in its hump.
- Bos indicus is also the icon of the ancient sport eru thazhuvuthal or eru anaithal was prevalent in villages around Keeladi. In this sport, now practised as jallikattu, the contestant is supposed to hold on to the hump of the bull inside the arena for a particular distance or period of time.
- More significant are the letters engraved on pots that clearly demonstrate the “high literacy level of the contemporary society that survived in 6th century BCE”.
- A few pottery samples of 2nd century BCE do contain earth content similar to that of other regions, thereby suggesting that they exchanged goods with neighbouring regions, probably through traders, craftsmen and visitors.