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Archaeology

Keezhadi, a new Sangam Age site

The ASI’s excavations at Keezhadi near Madurai, its largest in Tamil Nadu, have unearthed hard evidence of the city’s existence in the Sangam Age of the Early Historic period.
Potsherds with inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi script found in trenches dug by the ASI at Keezhadi near Madurai on the banks of the Vaigai river in Tamil Nadu. The inscriptions were of Tamil names such as Eyyan, Udhiran and Aadhan, but an unusual find was a Prakrit name, "Tissa", which pointed to the existence of trade links between Keezhadi and Sri Lanka.
Potsherds with inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi script found in trenches dug by the ASI at Keezhadi near Madurai on the banks of the Vaigai river in Tamil Nadu. The inscriptions were of Tamil names such as Eyyan, Udhiran and Aadhan, but an unusual find was a Prakrit name, "Tissa", which pointed to the existence of trade links between Keezhadi and Sri Lanka.Photo: R. Ashok
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Two brick walls that meet were revealed when an earthmover went to work in a coconut grove at Keezhadi. To the archaeologists this provided firm clues about the existence of a Sangam Age site there.
Two brick walls that meet were revealed when an earthmover went to work in a coconut grove at Keezhadi. To the archaeologists this provided firm clues about the existence of a Sangam Age site there.Photo: R. ASHOK
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A black and red ware bowl of the Sangam Age found in situ in one of the 40-odd trenches.
A black and red ware bowl of the Sangam Age found in situ in one of the 40-odd trenches.Photo: ASHOK RAMACHANDRAN
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A deep terracotta ring well with 13 rings found in association with a Sangam Age brick structure with the floor paved with bricks. This is a rarity because ring wells excavated elsewhere, such as Arikkamedu near Puducherry and Vasavasamudran in Tamil Nadu, were not found in association with brick structures.
A deep terracotta ring well with 13 rings found in association with a Sangam Age brick structure with the floor paved with bricks. This is a rarity because ring wells excavated elsewhere, such as Arikkamedu near Puducherry and Vasavasamudran in Tamil Nadu, were not found in association with brick structures.Photo: R. ASHOK
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A Sangam Age earthen pot with a decorated spout.
A Sangam Age earthen pot with a decorated spout.Photo: R. ASHOK
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A rare decorated earthenware pot found in one of the trenches. Another big, broken pot is seen in the background.
A rare decorated earthenware pot found in one of the trenches. Another big, broken pot is seen in the background.Photo: G. MOORTHY
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A big pot with a lid.
A big pot with a lid.Photo: R. ASHOK
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A beautifully crafted black and red pot and
A beautifully crafted black and red pot andPhoto: R. Ashok
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A big twin pot. A spectacular variety of pottery, including perforated dishes, white-painted black pottery and Roman arretine ware, was found in Keezhadi.
A big twin pot. A spectacular variety of pottery, including perforated dishes, white-painted black pottery and Roman arretine ware, was found in Keezhadi.Photo: G. MOORTHY
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A section of the 80-acre archaeological mound in a coconut grove where excavation is under way. "This was a habitation site. It was purely a Sangam Age site," says the ASI's Amarnath Ramakrishna, who is leading the excavation.
A section of the 80-acre archaeological mound in a coconut grove where excavation is under way. "This was a habitation site. It was purely a Sangam Age site," says the ASI's Amarnath Ramakrishna, who is leading the excavation.Photo: G. Moorthy
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A big potsherd inscribed with a beautiful fish symbol.
A big potsherd inscribed with a beautiful fish symbol.Photo: R. ASHOK
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More potsherds inscribed with fish symbols.
More potsherds inscribed with fish symbols.Photo: R. ASHOK
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Copper coins.
Copper coins.Photo: G. MOORTHY
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Iron spearheads.
Iron spearheads.Photo: G. MOORTHY
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Shell bangles.
Shell bangles.Photo: R. ASHOK
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A terracotta figurine of a human head.
A terracotta figurine of a human head.Photo: R. ASHOK
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Exquisite beads.
Exquisite beads.Photo: G. MOORTHY
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A breathtaking variety of pottery was found, including big pots, twin pots, bowls, dishes, lids, dish-on-stand, and so on.
A breathtaking variety of pottery was found, including big pots, twin pots, bowls, dishes, lids, dish-on-stand, and so on.Photo: R. ASHOK
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Sangam Age black and red ware.
Sangam Age black and red ware.Photo: R. ASHOK
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Remnants of furnaces with soot and ash confirmed that Keezhadi was a centre for manufacturing beads out of quartz, carnelian, glass, agate, and so on.
Remnants of furnaces with soot and ash confirmed that Keezhadi was a centre for manufacturing beads out of quartz, carnelian, glass, agate, and so on.Photo: R. ASHOK
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A dying vat or an antechamber of a house built with the characteristic fired big bricks.
A dying vat or an antechamber of a house built with the characteristic fired big bricks.Photo: G. Moorthy
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A 13th century temple of the later Pandya period.
A 13th century temple of the later Pandya period.Photo: R. Ashok
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The remains of a 17th century choultry, which the ASI documented during its survey of the Vaigai river valley in 2013-14.
The remains of a 17th century choultry, which the ASI documented during its survey of the Vaigai river valley in 2013-14.Photo: R. ASHOK
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V. Vedachalam, veteran epigraphist, reading the inscription of the Pandya king Amravarman Kulasekara Pandya I (regnal years 1268 to 1311) inscribed on the plinth of the Siva temple at Keezhadi. Standing beside him is the ASI's K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, Director of the Keezhadi excavation.
V. Vedachalam, veteran epigraphist, reading the inscription of the Pandya king Amravarman Kulasekara Pandya I (regnal years 1268 to 1311) inscribed on the plinth of the Siva temple at Keezhadi. Standing beside him is the ASI's K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, Director of the Keezhadi excavation.Photo: R. ASHOK
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