CHENNAI: Following criticism from certain quarters, particularly Tamil enthusiasts and activists, over the slow progress in the excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) held at the promising site of Keezhadi located in Sivagangai district, the Tamil Nadu government has come forward to carry out parallel excavations.
The alleged inordinate delay in granting nod for the third season of excavations and the en masse shunting of the team of excavators engaged in Keezhadi, including excavation director Amarnath Ramakrishna, had led to an outcry from Tamil organisations over the Centre’s deliberate moves to slow down, if not stall, the process of digging the site to bring out more evidence to prove the existence of an urban civilisation in the Sangam Age in Tamil Nadu.
Considering the significance of the site and the artefacts unearthed so far, the Tamil Nadu government has approached the ASI for permission to hold excavations through the State Archaeological Department.
Secretary for Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments Apurva Varma recently dispatched a letter to the Director General of the ASI in this regard.
“The State government has sought permission from the ASI to carry out excavations at Keezhadi by involving the State Archaeology Department. The secretary for Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments wrote a letter regarding this to the Director General of the ASI in July,” a top official told Express. He added that the government was yet to get response from the national body.
The Tamil Nadu government has been showing keen interest in Keezhadi excavations. Seventy two cents of land had already been allotted to the ASI for constructing an onsite museum to exhibit the artefacts found at Keezhadi and later offered to provide three acres for setting up the museum as requested by the Central agency. However, the ASI is yet to furnish acceptance of the plot.
This apart, Minister for Education KA Sengottaiyan announced in the State Assembly during Budget session a sum of `1 crore for construction of the onsite museum, the official noted.
During the two seasons of trenching at Keezhadi during 2014-15 and 2015-16, the ASI unearthed 5,600 artefacts from 102 trenches including semi-precious stones, beads, pearl beads, ivory, iron, copper implements, terracota figurines, ivory dice and Tami Brahmi-engraved pottery.
The Union Minister for Culture, Mahesh Sharma, recently informed the Rajya Sabha, while replying to a question from DMK MP Kanimozhi that radio carbon dating suggested that the samples collected from Keezhadi date back to 2,160 years and 2,200 years (plus or minus 30 years).