THOOTHUKUDI: Less than a week after the Central government announced that the Adichanallur archaeological site would be developed and an on-site museum would be constructed there, locals alleged that an earthmover digging near the site has unearthed and damaged at least 10 ancient urns.
An ASI official admitted that an earthmover had been used for site clearing work. Radiocarbon dating on artefacts collected from the site have revealed that date it back to 905 BCE to 696 BCE.
Archaeology enthusiast Kathiravan told Express a JCB machine operator was digging, unsupervised, at the site at around 11.30pm on Thursday night and claimed at least 10 urns were broken. The operator told Express that he worked for a Hosur-based contractor who was hired by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under which the site falls.
A senior State archaeology department official said that ASI had engaged multiple contractors to construct a see-through fence around the 114-acre historical site, following an interim order from the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court in 2018.
Adichanallur: ASI admits using heavy machinery
After multiple attempts to contact ASI Chennai Circle Superintending Archaeologist Dr A M V Subramanyam, his official personal assistant Sankar phoned Express and said Subramanyam had told him to convey that ASI had not used an earthmover as part of its fence work. However, he admitted that the heavy machinery had been used for site clearing. A group of archaeologists had been deputed to inspect the site, he said. While Dr Maheswari, Regional Director for ASI (Southern Zone) declined to comment, State Commissioner of Archaeology T Udhayachandran and Culture Minister K Pandiarajan could not be reached.
The Adichanallur site, which lies on the banks of the Thamirabarani river at Adichanallur village in Thoothukudi district, is a monument of be national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment & Validation) Act, 2010, and defacement attracts a punishment of imprisonment of up to two years and Rs 1 lakh fine. Former ASI Superintending Archaeologist (Chennai Circle) Dr T Satyamurthy, who conducted excavations at Adichanallur in 2004-06, said that heavy machinery such as JCBs are not allowed to dig at archaeological sites. “Digging must be done manually,” he said.
Sources said the fence work was expedited after the Budget announcement that an on-site museum would be built at Adichanallur. On January 31, State Archaeology department began a Ground-Penetrating Radar survey at Adichanallur and Sivagalai archaeological sites to locate structures and urns in the sub-surface of the soil. Excavations at the sites set to begin soon.