Seventh phase of Keeladi excavation to wrap up soon

New items unearthed include big storage jar and double-ringed well

With six weeks left to wind up the seventh phase of excavations at Keeladi archaeological site, the place is abuzz with activity. There have been new finds almost every week this month. The new items unearthed include a big storage jar with unique features and a double-ringed well.

“The site is an absolute treasure trove of history. Everybody has worked hard at the site and the Keeladi findings have established the existence of a civilisation older than the Sangam era,” said B. Chandramohan, Secretary (Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments).

“Unearthing an ancient Tamil civilisation dating between the 6th century BCE and the 1st century CE is interesting and intriguing,” he added.

The huge storage jar was found at a depth of 360 cm. Made of red slipped clay and grooved with a coir-like band, it has an in-turned two-cm-thick rim, not seen in the other storage jars that have been recovered till now, with outward rims and a coarse texture.

The red slipped wares are of extremely fine quality as the sun-dried pottery is dipped in purified liquid clay for a glazed coating and further polished for the gloss. The red slipped pottery is commonly used all over India but mostly as small earthen table wares. “The residue analysis has to be done to find the use of this jar in early civilisation,” said R. Sivanandam, Commissioner (FAC), Department of Archaeology.

So far, half of the jar had been exposed at 30 cm. Its smooth texture and the banded rope designs were unusual for this size, said Ajay Kumar, the archaeology officer on site.

The 45-cm-high ring well was covered with compact clay. Its second ring was found crumbled. Broken pieces of pottery were also found embedded in the soil inside the well. It indicated that groundwater might have dried up and the inhabitants used the ringwell for dumping items, he said.

Only one quadrant remains to be excavated at Keeladi. In the other eight quadrants of 15×18 feet size and 4.5 metres depth, the archaeologists have reached the ground level of natural soil, with no further trace of antiquities. The seventh phase conducted by the Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology was started on February 13. The excavation has so far yielded 1,100-odd artefacts that project Keeladi as a flourishing trading hub.

The documentation of recovered items will begin after September 30.

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