Hooligans hunt ‘treasure’ at historical site

Vasavappapuram archaeological site is at risk as the gravel sand there is allegedly being illegally transported for various projects, including government works.

Published: 19th September 2021 04:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2021 04:35 AM   |  A+A-

Land dug for a housing project at the Vasavappapuram site | EXPRESS

Express News Service

THOOTHUKUDI: Vasavappapuram archaeological site is at risk as the gravel sand there is allegedly being illegally transported for various projects, including government works. On top of that, the residents said the site has not been excavated yet by the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology and that anti-social elements are breaking open many an ancient urn hoping to find treasure in it.

The site, spread over several hundreds of acres, is an elevated mound running along the borders of Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli districts. Located about 9 km west of Adichanallur site, Vasavappapuram is home to various antiques such as ancient stone circles, cairns, cupules, stone arts, iron pieces, potsherds and urn burials.

Tamil Murugan, an archaeological enthusiast, told TNIE the urn burials come to light when the gravel sand is scooped away illegally. “At least 18 urns were broken in the recent past. The officials know about the incidents, but only a few urns have been unearthed carefully for preservation”, he said.

The urns contain iron and copper objects and gold ornaments, which were offered to the dead ones. “Instead of taking it to the officials, they break the urns hoping to find these valuables,” said Murugan.


Protection sought for archaeological sites

Ironically, the Thoothukudi district administration had constructed 23 houses for transpersons on the eastern slopes of the mound and had issued free land pattas, despite the site being earmarked as an archaeologically important one.

Expressing concerns on the treasure hunt at such sites, an archaeological enthusiast Muthalankurichi Kamarasu, told TNIE the earlier excavations carried out by German archaeologist Andrew Jagor (1876) and British India’s Superintending Archaeologist Alexander Rea Alexander Rea (1899-1902) at Adichanallur had unearthed the largest number of iron and copper artefacts in any iron age sites in India.

However, the present day excavations find no metal artefact, perhaps because of the lapses in protecting the sites, he said, while pressing to protect the site as per the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.

Vasavappapuram is one of the 37 villages featured in the reports of Alexander Rea published in 1902 and was set to be excavated along with Thamirabarani river valley, presently portrayed as Porunai civilisation.

Mining done on quartz rock
A research article by author B Sasisekaran and other co-authors published in the Indian Journal of History of Science stated the Krishnapuram- Vasavappapuram site situated on a quartz rock has amphibolites patches similar to that of Adichanallur.

“It is obvious that prehistoric people carried out mining activity here for various types of ores,” researchers opined. A senior official attached to Porunai (Thamirabarani) river valley exploration project of the State Archaeological Department told TNIE they have identified 450 sites along the river Porunai (Thamirabarani),including Vasavappapuram.

Metal activity?
According to archaeology enthusiasts, the presence of several stone circles and cupules indicate prehistoric settlements. Iron ore pieces, smelting, charcoal and burnt ashes hint at a busy metallurgical activity

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