Pattanam excavation

First-ever human image at Pattanam

Print edition : October 09, 2020

The obverse and reverse of the Graeco-Roman head of a miniature statue (2020) with a coiffure popular in the Roman Empire times. Photo: Photograph courtesy: PAMA and KCHR

A Graeco-Roman head of a miniature statue from the same trench that produced the Sphinx was another significant artefact of the 2020 season. This happens to be the first-ever human image excavated at Pattanam. It was retrieved from among the huge volume of pottery assemblage from locus 3. Like the intaglio, this one is also small in size with a (maximum) height of 2.6 cm, width of 1.7 cm and thickness of 2.2 cm. But for the vigilance of PAMA intern Swagata Boruah of Assam University, the artefact, covered with muddy soil, could have been mistaken for the hundreds of similar looking stone and pottery fragments from the sieving net.

The allied finds from both loci include Mediterranean Amphora and South Arabian Torpedo Jar fragments, besides different types of precious stone debitage, cameo blanks, and stone and glass beads.

It is not clear what could have been the function of the terracotta or limestone male head, perhaps the fragment of a very small statue like the votive ones.

The coiffure, with the hair combed on the forehead forming a fringe, was popular in the Roman Empire in the Augustan and Julio-Claudian age (40-30 BCE-68 CE), under the emperor Trajan (98-117 CE) and then in the 4th century CE (from the Constantinian age onwards), but the head is too small to be more exactly dated. From the stratigraphic inferences of the Pattanam trenches, both finds are from the Early Historic layers, which are assumed to be from 3rd century BCE to 5th century CE.