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Post Info TOPIC: Explained: Keeladi Excavations In Tamil Nadu And Why Racist And Secessionist Forces Are Eyeing It


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Explained: Keeladi Excavations In Tamil Nadu And Why Racist And Secessionist Forces Are Eyeing It

Explained: Keeladi Excavations In Tamil Nadu And Why Racist And Secessionist Forces Are Eyeing It

Explained: Keeladi Excavations In Tamil Nadu And Why Racist And Secessionist Forces Are Eyeing It(Source: @Suthan Colachel/Twitter)

A small village near Silaiman on the border between Madurai and Sivagangai districts in Tamil Nadu has been grabbing eyeballs.

On Friday (19 June), skeletal remains of a child were excavated from Konthagai village, as part of the sixth phase of ongoing excavations. Konthagai village, located around 2 km from Keeladi, is believed to be a burial site.

The skeleton was 75 cm in height and was found 0.5 m buried below surface level between two terracotta urns.

Deputy Director of Archaeology and in-charge of the excavations R. Sivanandam said the gender of the skeletal remains will be determined in two days time, reported The Hindu.

Reportedly, two other skeletal remains of adults were found at Konthagai during this phase. A total of 15 urns have been found till date.

Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department (TNAD) have found a gold coin during the excavation at Agaram dated to 17th century AD.

There is a marking that looks like a ‘naamam’ (religious marking on the forehead), the middle has a marking that looks like the sun and below it is an image of a lion. On the other side, there are 12 dots; below that is an image with two hands and two legs.

Some shells and pots, have also been found during the excavation, in all four sites.


Why is Keeladi in the limelight?

In September last year, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department (TNAD) stated that the artefacts unearthed during Keeladi excavations could be safely dated to a period between 6th century BCE and 1st century CE, about 300 years earlier than previously assigned time of 3rd century BCE.

“The results suggest that the urbanisation of Vaigai plains happened in Tamil Nadu around 6th century BCE, same time as the Gangetic plains,” said Commissioner of Archaeology T Udayachandran.

The report was based on the fourth phase excavation that was done from 2017 to 2018 and had brought out 5820 artefacts.

Over 50 potsherds were recovered from the site with Tamil Brahmi script, which shows that the inhabitants had attained literacy or learned the art of writing as early as 6th century BCE.

Among other Keeladi findings were bones of different animals- cow/ox, buffalo, sheep, goat, nilgai, blackbuck, wild boar and pea****. “This finding suggests that the society in Keeladi had used animals predominantly for agricultural purposes,” Udayachandran was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

The report also talked about existence of weaving industry at various levels of development at the time and described “well-laid floors made of fine clay”, “roof tiles” with “grooves” to “drain water”, joints fastened with “iron nails”, etc, along with 110 dies made of ivory.

The mineral analysis of the pottery specimens showed that the water containers and cooking vessels were shaped out of locally available raw materials.

The report also hinted at script continuity from Indus Valley Civilisation. The 580-BCE inscription contains graffiti marks which are believed to be the link between the Indus script and the Tamil Brahmi.


Why the contention?

The Keeladi site, since its discovery has been shrouded in controversies with several Dravidian and Left ideologues claiming that the archaeological finds prove that the Indus Valley Civilisation was a “Dravidian” culture and an independent “secular” Tamil civilisation.

The attempt to define the finds in narrow and racial terms is ideologically motivated to one, pump up Tamil exclusivist sentiments, and two, challenge the view that sees India as one — unity in diversity.

The thing is that we don’t need to turn to history to appreciate the diversity that is a part of the Indian ethos. Unlike many other countries where diversity was rooted out with brutal violence, India continues to be diverse in cultural, linguistic and ethnic terms.

Many different cultures have dotted the landscape of this country from north to south and east to west, and they all have contributed to the current Indian identity. To define a culture in narrow racial terms, which didn’t define itself so, is cheap politicking.

The Sanatana civilisation of this country is like the mighty range of Himalayas from which the rivers of different cultures with different origin-points and trajectories flow, and we all bathe in them — separated spatially and temporally — but united eternally.



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Indus Civilisation Site In Tamil Nadu?The Keeladi Discovery Shouldn’t Fall Prey To False History

Indus Civilisation Site In Tamil Nadu?The Keeladi Discovery Shouldn’t Fall Prey To False HistoryArtefacts from the excavation site.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recently discovered a Harappa-like site in Sivaganga district, Tamil Nadu. This discovery is important for more than one reason, writes Aravindan Neelakandan.

South India can rightly be considered as the Cinderella of Indian history. While a lot of archaeological excavation and discoveries have been carried out in North India for the last three centuries, comparatively very little has happened in the south.

However, from discoveries of megalithic sites and cave drawings to the occasional unearthing of burial sites and potteries with graffiti, South India has shown a great promise to archaeologists despite no systematic work being conducted here so far.

The Sangam literature (300 BCE to 400 CE) shows a vibrant Tamil life with well laid out towns which are organically related to a colourful village life. Some songs give detailed descriptions of port cities and various settlements. However, there have not been enough archaeological substantiation attempted for the historical data embedded in Sangam literature. Coins have been obtained with the names of some of the rulers.

The news of Keeladi, a village in Sivaganga district in Tamil Nadu, having thrown up large scale urban settlements more than 2000 years old, coinciding with the Sangam age, is good encouragement for Indian archaeology. There have been reports that the urban remains unearthed have similarity to the Harappan civilisation. In fact, the period now suggested coincides with the so-called second urbanisation wave which happened around the same period in the Gangetic plains.

The prevailing notion was that the Harappan civilisation was destroyed or occupied by invading Aryans and subsequently there was a ‘Vedic dark age’. When curtains were lifted, the second urbanisation had started which was not related to Harappan culture. As more and more archaeological sites emerge, the notion of discontinuity gives place to the notion of transformation. For example, DP Agrawal had written in 1971 that after the ‘Aryan invasion’ there was a subsequent discontinuity, and a new Gangetic urban civilisation arose. However, by 2007 Agrawal was listing no less than nine important continuities that archaeology can attest between the Harappan and post-Harappan civilisations.

Colonial Indologists and Marxist historians have always tried to find archaeological evidence for Aryan invasion/migration in the form of discontinuity with the Harappan culture and presence of a new alien non-Harappan material culture. The chosen candidate for this was then Painted Gray Ware (PGW) artefacts.

With Vedic motifs discerned on these potteries, they were seen as the best candidates for the new Aryan culture associated with the ‘second urbanisation’. However, as more and more archaeological sites were revealed these artificially constructed barriers started getting blurred. Archaeologist Jim Shaffer has pointed out that the archaeology shows ‘no cultural discontinuities separating PGW from the indigenous proto-historic [Harappan] culture’.

A case in point is the Alamgirpur site. This Harappan site on the banks of Yamuna, a tributary of Ganges, was discovered by Y.F.Sharma in the 1950s. After a gap of 50 years, the site was opened for excavations and study in 2008. The new excavations by RN.Singh ‘revealed that there is no stratigraphic gap; in fact, it appears that there was an overlap phase of PGW ware and the Harappan’.

Clearly the two-thousand years old site in Tamil Nadu needs to be placed in the same context and continuity between Harappan and the sites belonging to ‘second urbanisation’ wave is to be expected. It is to be viewed in the larger context of pan-Indic phenomenon.

In Indian context there has always been a tension between archaeology and mythical constructs like Aryans. This not limited to colonial Indologists and Marxist historians alone. The Indic side, too, has erred with marine excavations at Dwaraka and allowing themselves to be used by the likes of Graham Han****.

In Tamil Nadu, this acquires yet another dimension with the claim of direct Harappan-Tamil lineage. This could then cut off archaeology in Tamil Nadu from its Indian context and make it an island as well as a tool in the hands of crack-pot racists. Given all these dimensions the archaeological discovery in Keeladi village needs to be treated with all the seriousness it deserves.

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