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Significance Of The Findings in Keeladi


Keeladi is a tiny hamlet in the Sivaganga district in south Tamil Nadu. It is about 12 km south-east to the temple city of Madurai and is located along the Vaigai river. The excavations here from 2015 prove that an urban civilisation existed in Tamil Nadu in the Sangam age on the banks of the Vaigai river.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How is Keeladi linked to Sangam age?
  2. Are there links to Indus Valley?
  3. Unearthing of Keeladi Artifacts

How is Keeladi linked to Sangam age?

The Sangam Age and its Historical Significance
  • The Sangam age is a period in ancient Tamil Nadu, which was previously believed to have occurred between the third century BCE to the third century CE.
  • This time period was characterized by the emergence of the Sangam poets of Madurai, who were known for their literary works. However, recent excavations have pushed this time frame even further back.
The Role of Keeladi in Understanding the Sangam Age
  • In 2019, the Tamil Nadu State Archaeology Department (TNSDA) conducted an excavation in Keeladi, a small village located in the Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu.
  • The findings of the excavation were astounding, as it revealed artefacts that date back to the sixth century BCE, which is about 300 years earlier than the previously believed third century BCE.
The Importance of Carbon Dating in Understanding Keeladi’s Historical Significance
  • One of the six samples collected from a depth of 353 cm in Keeladi was sent for carbon dating in the United States, which revealed that the artefact dated back to 580 BCE.
  • This discovery further supported the TNSDA report and pushed the Sangam age even further back in time.
The Cultural Significance of Keeladi
  • The discovery of Keeladi artefacts provides crucial evidence for understanding the missing links of the Iron Age (12th century BCE to sixth century BCE) to the Early Historic Period (sixth century BCE to fourth century BCE) and subsequent cultural developments.
  • The ASI report by K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, the Superintendent Archaeologist who discovered Keeladi in 2015, has pushed the Sangam age even further back to 800 BCE based on these archaeological findings.

Are there links to Indus Valley?

  • The unearthed Keeladi artefacts have led academics to describe the site as part of the Vaigai Valley Civilisation.
  • The findings have also invited comparisons with the Indus Valley Civilisation while acknowledging the cultural gap of 1,000 years between the two places.
  • Till now, the gap is filled with Iron Age material in south India, which serve as residual links. However, some of the symbols found in pot sherds of Keeladi bear a close resemblance to Indus Valley signs.
  • A lot of digging and study has to be done to establish the links between these two civilisations. TNSDA affirms that Keeladi has all the characteristics of an urban civilisation, with brick structures, luxury items and proof of internal and external trade.
  • It comes across as an industrious and advanced civilisation and has given evidence of urban life and settlements in Tamil Nadu during the Early Historic Period.
  • Keeladi has also added to the credibility of Sangam Literature.

Unearthing of Keeladi Artifacts

Excavation Rounds and Artifact Count:
  • The Keeladi site has undergone eight rounds of excavations, including the first three by the ASI, and over 18,000 artifacts have been unearthed from the site.
  • These unique artifacts will be displayed in a museum, which will be opened soon.
Pottery Making Industry:
  • The heaps of pottery found at Keeladi suggest the existence of a pottery making industry, mostly made of locally available raw materials.
  •  Over 120 potsherds containing Tamil Brahmi inscriptions have been found, along with other Tamil Nadu sites which have over a thousand inscribed potsherds, suggesting the long survival of the script.
Weaving, Dyeing, and Glass Bead Industries:
  • Spindle whorls, copper needles, terracotta seal, hanging stones of the yarn, terracotta spheres, and earthen vessels to hold liquid suggest various stages of a weaving industry.
  • There also existed a dyeing industry and a glass bead industry.
Artistic and Prosperous Lifestyle:
  • Gold ornaments, copper articles, semi-precious stones, shell bangles, ivory bangles, and ivory combs reflect the artistic, culturally rich, and prosperous lifestyle of the Keeladi people.
  • Agate and carnelian beads suggest import through commercial networks.
Pastime Hobbies:
  • Terracotta and ivory dice, gamesmen, and evidence of hopscotch have been unearthed, revealing the pastime hobbies of the Keeladi people.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023