THOOTHUKUDI: Excavations in Adichanallur and Sivagalai, which the Tamil Nadu Archaeology department had commenced on May 25, concluded on September 30, and the trenches dug up for the purpose were closed on Wednesday. The pivotal moment in this phase of excavations was the discovery of a habitation site at Adichanallur, according to exavation director J Baskar, who described it as a milestone discovery.
From the 72 trenches in the Adichanallur site, several urns, earthenware, black and red-coloured pots, stone objects, copperware, iron objects, terracotta materials, bone pieces and other antique materials were unearthed. They were later deposited at the Government Archaeological Exhibition Centre, adjacent to the site. A skull unearthed from Sivagalai and bones from Adichanallur were sent to the Madurai Kamaraj University for genetic testing, said a senior official.
The discovery of an ancient habitation site and unearthing of Tamil Brahmi scripts, roofing tiles and over 500 graffiti marked a milestone in the history of the Adichanallur excavations, said excavation director J Baskar. Experts consider the discovery of the habitation site, a “breakthrough” in the 150-year excavation history in Adichanallur. Earlier surveys in Adichanallur -- from the first excavation by Jagor of Germany (1876) till the 2004-2006 survey by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Superintending Archaeologist Dr Thiyaga Sathyamurthy – had yielded only urn burials and associated artefacts, said writer Kamarasu.
The habitation site, located east of the burial site, had terracotta pipes for drains, potsherds with scripts, and another 500 with graffiti, Baskar said. Another key discovery was the circular-patterned lime kiln, confirming industrial activity at the site, he said, adding that a heap of oyster shells, corals and reefs were found over them, which could have been burnt to manufacture lime mineral.
“The interesting fact,” Baskar said, “is the discovery of articles belonging to three different ages, layered on top of each other in the order of Sangam-era (early historic period), iron age and stone age.” While potsherds engraved with Tamil Brahmi scripts belonged to the Sangam era, a number of iron objects belonging to the iron age and microlithic tools belonging to the stone age were found, he added.
Mumbai-based Palmyra Mission Organiser Reverend Godson Samuel, who was on an excursion to find ancient antiquities in the State, visited the Adichanallur site on Tuesday. He told reporters that he had collected “lime-coated potsherds” in Authoor in Thoothukudi district and it was “interesting to find an ancient lime kiln in Adichanallur.” These monuments should be protected and the Centre should ensure that the announcement of establishing a world-class onsite museum in Adichanallur is implemented, he added.
‘Release excavation reports’
Stating that the department had only carried out excavations on private lands this year, Kamarasu urged the ASI to permit excavations at the 114-acre archaeological site under the agency’s protection. He also urged the State to release reports on the excavations, including from the 2004-2006 survey.
In connection with a case filed by Kamarasu, the Centre had submitted the 2004-2006 Adichanallur archaeological report to the Madras High Court in 2019 but the reports have not been made public yet.