ALAPPUZHA: The Archaeology Department’s initiative to protect the remnants of the centuries-old wind-powered ship excavated at Thyckal in Kadakkarappally panchayat near Cherthala remains a non-starter. The Department purchased more than one-acre land from a private owner where the ship was spotted. The partially excavated ship is covered with weed and shrub and will slowly be buried in the depths of oblivion if the Department continues to soft-pedal and doesn’t take immediate measures to preserve it. The Department constructed an iron fencing around the compound decades after its excavation. The declaration of the Department to convert the excavation site into a ‘museum site’ is a promise that still remains on paper.
The Department initiated steps for preserving the 1000-year-old ship, which was spotted by local agrarians in 1994 when they were working on the marshy land. Later in 2002, large-scale excavation work was carried out by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and a carbon dating test detected that the ship was about 1000 years old. The ship spotted about 2 kms away from Thyckal beach became a subject of interest for archaeologists to learn more about the origin and history of the coastal areas of the district.
After one year of excavation, work was halted in the area after the place was waterlogged and the wood started to shrink. So archaeological experts recommended the state government to preserve the ship as a museum site. G Premkumar, director of the Archaeology Department said, “The state government allotted ` 30 lakh and we have constructed a fence using metal tube piles in the 1.7 acre area. The construction work of the security cabin and information counter is nearing completion.”
He said that a proposal in this regard was submitted to the state government and the government has given the project the go-ahead. “We will soon prepare a detailed project report and then we can get details about the total funds needed for the project,” said the director. As part of the project, we intend to have a building with a functional office space of the Department. It will also have a hall, with adequate seating arrangement where visitors can see and know the details of the ship. The Department will also display information about various monuments in the state in this building. He expressed optimism saying, “We expect funds to be allocated in the 2015-16 financial year which can be utilised for the construction of the museum site.”
The presence of the ship was first detected in 1994 by agricultural labourers who were dredging the place for a canal. In 1999, the ASI had granted license for conducting excavation at the site. In April 2002, the Archaeology Department began excavation. It confirmed the presence of a ship under the sand. The excavation continued for three months and the ship was located. It was in 2007, the state government declared this spot as a protected monument. Later, the Archaeology Department took over the protection of this place.
Kadakkarappally panchayat president K P Aghoshkumar said that the panchayat was planning to develop the region into a heritage site. “The consent of the Archaeology Department is mandatory in bringing about development in the region. Thyckal was adopted by Vayalar Ravi MP as a village under the ‘Pradhan Manthri Adarsh Gram Yojana.’ So we have plans to present a proposal to the Central Government to develop the heritage site under that project,” he said.
The president said, “We are ready to clean up the area with the help of National Rural Employment Guarantee Project workers. The approval of the Archaeology Department is needed for it,” he added.