THOOTHUKUDI: Owing to the alleged illegal mining of red sand, gravel, and stones from the foothills of the Uzhakudi hills, the historic monuments and archaeological remains from Stone Age in the area are now endangered. Uzhakudi hill, located in Seevalaperi Reserve Forest, shares the district boundary with Kaliyavoor panchayat of Thoothukudi district and Seevalaperi panchayat of Tirunelveli district.
The Uzhakudi hill has imprints of prehistoric human settlements corroborated by the historic monuments of menhirs, archaeologically significant cupules, urn burials, stone circles, cairns, and iron smelters. The site is yet to be excavated to unravel its rich archaeological heritage.
Villagers said an unlicensed brick kiln, located on the slopes about 200 metres from the archaeological remains at the Uzhakudi hills, has been plundering red soil. Moreover, several hundred loads of stones and gravel are quarried by windmill operators, they added.
Sources said illegal mining of the red sand, gravel, and stones happens at both Uzhakudi and Seevalaperi during late hours, which has caused extensive damage to the monumental site. "The practice often goes unchecked despite the recent GO which prohibited mining activities within the 500-metre radius of archaeological sites. The miners have uprooted the boundary stones of the Reserve Forest as well," sources added.
Arumuga Masana Sudalai, a researcher hailing from Uzhakudi said the site has remnants from the Paleolithic Age, Iron Age, and Megalithic Age. The miners unlawfully excavated the gravel close to a boundary stone marked with "Tirusulam", called Soolakal, which belongs to the 12th century. "The hill has more than 12 menhirs with the tallest menhir being 14.5-ft high. Menhirs indicate the burial of a king or the ruler of the region. The archaeological evidence of stone circles and cairns found on the rock surface belongs to the Megalithic Age. The stone circles and the cairns may contain several urn burials underneath. The rock cupules, supposedly belonging to the Mid-Paleolithic Age, are man-made depressions," he said.