ASI report on Keeladi announces a new date for its existence (2023)

The fertile nature of the Keeladi land played a crucial role in its development as an animal economy centered on the grazing of cattle, sheep and goats, paving the way for excessive rice production and maritime trade by the inhabitants during the archaeological period. between the 8th century BC. C. and the 3rd century AD c.

In a detailed 982-page report, the Archaeological Survey of India says it is based on stratigraphic results of cultural deposits found at Keeladi during the first two phases of excavation between 2014 and 2016, along with AMS data for the said period reached. .

Read too:ASI releases 982-page report on Keeladi dig

The report was submitted to ASI DG V Vidyavathi on Monday by K Amarnath Ramakrishna, the senior archaeologist who led the excavation before it was relocated in 2017, but has yet to be released. However, DH safely learned that the extensive report consists of 12 chapters with detailed analyzes of, among other things, phytoliths and pollen by experts in the field.

More than 18,000 artifacts, including 5,800 from the first two phases, have been excavated so far in Keeladi, where excavations are expected to enter their ninth season this month. The report also says that the settlement deposit on the hill suggests that Keeladi is a unicultural site with different stages of cultural unity, the sources said.

AMS dating and site period.

While accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating of 23 artifacts established their age at 300 AD. C., archaeologists have also relied on other datable source materials, such as layered cultural deposits and associated materials, such as floral phytoliths and animal remains, to arrive at the extent. Keeladi chronological sequence, 12 km southeast of Madurai.

“We have the Keeladi period between the eighth century B.C. C. and the 3rd century AD,” Ramakrishna told DH, declining to reveal details of the account.

“The report's findings come from just 2% of the area we excavated out of the 110 hectares of land identified for excavation. Keeladi may have been there long before the period before, but we need to investigate further. Continued excavation at Keeladi is key to rebuilding Tamil Nadu's ancient past and historicity," added Ramakrishna.

The findings are of great importance as the period of Keeladi's existence reached by ASI predates the 6th century date, at least two centuries from the AMS dating of an artifact found in the fourth phase of the excavation by ASI, Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Tamil Nadu. Archeology 2018.

The ASI report aims to reignite the debate over whether Keeladi is linked to the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), although experts outside of Tamil Nadu exclude any connection between the two. Archeologists in TN say they date back to 585 BC. C. in Keeladi and 1155 AD in Sivakalai by TNSDA, the gap between IVC and Tamil settlement has narrowed and will continue to narrow as large scale excavations are carried out in southern India.

Read too:Tamil Nadu is planning archaeological digs at 8 sites this year

Arabian horse and surplus rice production

Another significant find, sources say, is the identification of a native Keeladi horse, hard to find in southern India, and the report suggests it may be an Arabian horse imported by the ancient Tamils ​​through maritime trade. , which is an abundant reference to him.

Pollen analysis of Keeladi's samples found that excessive rice production contributed to the city's urban growth, while the fertile soil "played an active role" in the development of settlements. The overproduction of rice led the settlers to sail across the seas to distant lands described in several publications: The main objective of the excavation is to find archaeological evidence of the Sangam corpus.

Citing an analysis by Dr. K. Anupama of the French Institute, Pondicherry, states in the report that the palm was found at the lowest excavation level (4.5 meters), making it the native cultivar of the region, and notes that oyzoid shells and barnggrass were the highest. compared to other varieties.

In his findings, Dr. Arati Deshpande of the renowned Deccan College in Pune said that the identification of the domestic horse is important as it has hardly been reported in historical sites in South India and was recently identified in the Gottiprolu historical site in Andhra Pradesh.

dr Deshpande, after studying the whole, considered that Keeladi was a strong animal economy centered on the grazing of cattle, sheep and goats, which revealed a wide variety of animals exploited by the inhabitants, such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and pigs and dogs, the sources added.

Composition of the report

The period was determined not only on the basis of AMS dating, but also on other datable auxiliary materials such as pottery, floral phytoliths, artifacts, structures and animal remains.

The results of the ASI team, led by Ramakrishna and including analysis by domain experts, carry a lot of weight, as it was the same agency that explicitly announced in 2017 that the third phase had not produced "significant results". At this point, Ramakrishna was transferred to Assam and only after an intervention by the Madras High Court of Madurai was TNSDA asked to carry out the fourth phase excavations.

The ASI report includes detailed photographs and diagrams of the trenches and contains 12 chapters that explain the historical context and purpose of the excavation, dealing with structural remains, pottery, graffiti fragments, terracotta objects and various types of coins that were found during the trenches. excavations from 2014 to 2016.

More than a dozen types of pottery and decorated pottery were unearthed during the excavations, including black and red pottery, red slip pottery, perforated pottery, appliqué decoration, jackfruit design and incised decoration, along with terracotta beads, glass, shell beads, and ivory beads. and pearls.

Terracotta objects such as human and animal figures, pendants, ivory objects, metal objects, glass objects and stone objects were also found buried deep in the earth. The sources also said that the report also includes scientific studies and the characterization of silver coins and copper coins found at the site are also included in the extensive book.

Keeladi and why does the IVC link appear?

Archaeologists who have worked at Keeladi at various times say they have collected overwhelming evidence of terracotta industries and beads that have existed at Keeladi for the past eight years. These artifacts, in the form of coins and other items, provide ample evidence of trade relations between the Keeladians and other lands.

Keeladi's discoveries over the past eight years have ended a long-held belief that the Tamil country lacked ancient urban civilization, with the discovery of coins marked with a silver matrix featuring sun, moon and bull designs, leading to connections commercials. between the inhabitants here and present-day North India. AMS dating in 2019 had contemporary Keeladi from the Gangetic Plains civilization.

The theory postulating a Dravidian connection with CVI is not new. The notable epigrapher and former official Iravatham Mahadevan opined that the IVC was inhabited by Dravidians who spoke a Dravidian language who had migrated southwards, although his views are widely disputed due to lack of sufficient evidence.

As early as 1939, the then Director General of ASI, KN Dikshit, wrote that he believed that a "thorough investigation" in the Tirunelveli district and adjacent regions would one day lead to the discovery of a place that would be "contemporary or even shortly after the Indus Civilization ." .

Indology expert R Balakrishnan also discusses a possible link between IVC and Tamil settlements in his acclaimed book Journey of a Civilization: Indus to Vaigai, published in 2019. The book explains what may have happened to the culture and language of the Civilization of the Indus Valley (IVC) after its decline.

Balakrishnan believes that Keeladi has "striking similarities" with IVC, not just in terms of long-distance business relationships, but far beyond, linked to core ideologies and attitudes towards life.

However, several archaeologists disagree with this theory, saying that there was a "huge gap" between Keeladi and IVC and that there is absolutely no connection.

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