Friday, October 14, 2011

Porunthal in The Hindu - Monday, Jun 22, 2009

Rare archaeological finds near Palani

S. Annamalai and K. Raju
The glass bead-making unit is the first of its kind in State

— Photo: S. James

An Iron Age burial site found by archaeologists near Porunthal in Dindigul district .
PALANI: A team of research scholars and students of archaeology have unearthed a glass bead-manufacturing unit and an Iron Age graveyard in two places around Porunthal. It is 12 km from here on the ancient east-west trade route, connecting Tamil Nadu with Kerala. The first excavation made on ‘paasi medu’ (bead mound), spread over an area of five hectares, has revealed the presence of a glass bead-manufacturing unit. Thousands of beads in green, red, black, yellow, white, blue and maroon colours were unearthed from an area of 50 sq m, along with over 30 identical red ware bowls, triangular terracotta pieces and two furnaces.

According to K. Rajan, Professor of Archaeology, Pondicherry University, who leads the excavation team, these “Indo-Pacific beads” could have been exported through Musiripattinam in Trichur district of Kerala, though there is no literary evidence to substantiate this claim. But the glass bead unit is the first of its kind in Tamil Nadu, he said.

The beads found at Porunthal are waste products and the good ones would either have been used or exported. A brick wall found in the third trench at the site reveals the importance of Porunthal as a trade centre. The brick pattern followed in the wall, which in later years came to be referred to as “English bond,” is testimony to the technical skill of ancient people who lived in this region.

Other finds include an ivory dice, earrings, Sangam Age Chera square copper coin, hopscotches and a terracotta figurine. A figurine of a bull is another rare find. The terracotta figurine of a male, with a prominent face, broad shoulders and short legs, is dated 1st century AD.

The team of research scholars and students from Pondicherry University, Tamil University, Mangalore University and Sri Venkateswara University found several Iron Age burials near the foothills of the Western Ghats abutting Chinna Gandhipuram. Each of these megalithic graves is encircled by boulders.

These cist burials are of simple, according to V. Vedachalam, senior epigraphist.

A burial with 12.5-metre diameter reveals the rich culture of the people of the region. The bicameral cist has two decks and two port holes. Its southern chamber yielded four-legged jars and pots of red polished ware, bowl of black and red ware and plates of black slipped ware. More than 3,000 beads of semi-precious stones were also recovered around the skeletal remains.

The “grave goods” found in the cist suggest a kind of ritual performed by people, said Dr. Rajan. Porunthal, on the banks of the Porunthalar, is one among the 175 archaeological sites surveyed by V. P. Yatheeskumar, research scholar of Pondicherry University, in the Amaravathi valley. The excavation is conducted with support from Pondicherry University, under the guidance of J. A. K. Tareen, Vice-Chancellor, Central Institute of Classical Tamil and Archaeological Survey of India.

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