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Archaeologists unearth remains of ‘Sangam Age’ in a city near Madurai, Tamil Nadu

An eye-opening discovery by Archaeologists of a habitat, equal in size and importance to Mohenjo-daro.

Excavation site. Image Source:
  • A team of 10 archaeologists has been working in Keeladi since 2013 to unravel the remains of a habitation site
  • Keeladi,a small village with a population of around 5,000 people lies in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu
  • Archaeologists have tentatively estimated that it dates back to 200 BCE, and believe it might be even older

“I could not believe my eyes when I saw all that came out of the ground. It has made Keeladi famous” exclaims Theiyvamma, a local women from Tamil Nadu. Archaeologists and researchers have unearthed the crumbling remains of a civilization, a civilization that stands parallel to Mohenjo-daro in size and importance.

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Keeladi,a small village with a population of around 5,000 people lies in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu, 12 km from the city of Madurai. With the excavation of the site, which will eventually be referred to as the Vaigai River Valley Civilisation in the future, for the first time there are findings that will provide evidence that South India is a promising land for discovering ancient roots.

“It’s an eye-opening discovery, there’s no doubt that this was once a prosperous trade centre where elite people lived and worked,” said V Vedachalam, retired senior epigraphist of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department to Hindustan Times. Carbon dating is yet to be carried out in Keeladi but based on the script found in the areas, archaeologists have tentatively estimated that it dates back to 200 BCE, and believe it might be even older.

Madurai; Tamil Nadu; 16/06/2015. A well found at the ASI's excavation site at Keezhadi near Madurai on Tuesday. Photo; G. Moorthy
A well found at the ASI’s excavation site at Keezhadi near Madurai, Tamil Nadu on June 28. Image source: G. Moorthy

A team of 10 archaeologists has been working in Keeladi since 2013 to unravel the remains of a habitation site that provides evidence for the way of life described in ancient Sangam literature. There were a long list of challenges that the archaeologists had to face to reach the apex they stand at today such as securing permission to excavate parts of the zeroed in 8-10 potential sites for their excavation, lacking the resources to excavate indiscriminately and ameliorating the doubts of the landowners about property damage. By overcoming these and various other difficulties, the explored area today presents a rather startling sight to the first time visitor with 96 precisely cut square pits called quadrants, each 4 metres deep.

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Amongst the artifacts unearthed there are quaint chess pieces, a portion of an oven or a furnace, an enclosure which may have been used as a water tank, stone dice, quaint chess pieces, jagged chunks of semi-precious gems and some grooves in stone that appear to be an ancient drainage system. “One of the most remarkable discoveries that we’ve made are the remains of brick homes,” says Rajesh. “Being prohibitively expensive, bricks were not normally employed in civic structures in early history. They’re usually restricted to public spaces or houses of worship. This is a rare finding, especially significant when you consider how most other excavations in these parts have revealed only gravestones and cemeteries.”

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There have been many potshards that have been found on the site. Their inscription has been giving an insight to age-old history, there is one with an image of a fish inscribed, many of them have a design with ringed borders and then there are some with names. The fish has been predicted to depict the badge of a Pandya ruler whereas one of the names has been linked to trades with Sri Lanka. Similarly, the shards with ringed borders point towards trade with foreigners.

Discoveries of excavation. Image source:
Discoveries of excavation. Image source:

Currently, such significant discoveries have been kept on display in a tent just by the corner of the site hence ASI has now applied for permission to establish a site museum. Two phases of excavation are almost completed with the 2nd phase ending in September. Looking at all the progress that unlocked century old history, the project might extend into a third phase. With astonishing new finds that deepens the understanding of our history, the Heritage and history of Keeladi, a tiny village is now under the spotlight.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.


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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This is so rare! Plus the fact that it might be as huge as Mohenjo-daro makes it more special

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10 Indian Sites That Got UNESCO World Heritage Tag

Maharashtra now has a total of five sites – more than any other state in India

10 Indian sites that got UNESCO World Heritage tag
10 Indian sites that got UNESCO World Heritage tag. IANS

— By Sonali Pimputkar 

Mumbai’s rich bunch of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in the Fort and Marine Drive precinct on Saturday, June 30, got the UNESCO World Heritage tag, giving India its 37th site. The precinct was added to the global list at the 42nd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Manama, Bahrain. It covers an area of 66 hectares with Oval Maidan at the centre and includes a row of 19th-century Victorian buildings on one side while the 20th-century art deco structures on the other. There has been a universal praise for the team who represented Mumbai’s case to UNESCO. With this Mumbai gets its third UNESCO heritage tag – joining the Elephanta Caves and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (headquarters of the Central Railway). Maharashtra now has a total of five sites – more than any other state in India – including the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad. India is home to 37 World Heritage Sites approved by UNESCO which brings cultural and natural glory to the country. Here’s a look at 10 heritage sites of India that got the UNESCO world heritage tag before the Mumbai Art Deco buildings.

  • Capitol Complex of buildings, ChandigarhChandigarh Capital Complex is a government compound designed by the architect Le Corbusier and is spread over an area of around 100 acres. It comprises of three buildings, three monuments and a lake, including the Palace of Assembly, Secretariat, the signature Open Hand Monument, Geometric Hill, Tower of Shadows and Punjab and Haryana High Court building. The site got the UNESCO World Heritage tag in 2016.
  • Rock Shelters at Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

    Located 45 km South of Bhopal at the Southern edge of the Vindhya hills, the area is covered with thick vegetation, natural shelters and rich flora and fauna. The shelters were discovered in 1957 and were added to heritage list in 2003. The name ‘Bhimbetka’ has been associated with ‘Bhima’, the hero-diety of Mahabharata and the name literally means ‘sitting place of Bhima’. The place is a magnificent repository of rock paintings within natural rock shelters. These paintings depict man’s experimentation with creativity and belong to different prehistoric periods, including Late Paleolithic Period i.e. Old Stone Age that consists of large representations of rhinoceroses and bears. Paintings from Mesolithic i.e. Middle Stone Age consists of animals and human activities, Chalcolithic i.e. early Bronze Age consists of agriculture, early historic and medieval consists of religious motifs and tree gods.

    Bhimbetka. IANS
  • Rani ki Vav, Gujarat

    Located on the banks of Saraswati river, Rani ki Vav (Queen’s step well) was built in 11th century AD in memory of King Bhimdev I. Stepwells are a distinctive form of water storage systems that have been in existence since the 3rd millennium BC. Rani ki Vav is designed into seven levels of stairs with more than 500 principle sculptures and over thousand mythological and religious works. The site has also been felicitated with the ‘Cleanest Iconic Place’ title by the Indian Sanitation Conference (INDOSAN) in October 2016.

  • Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat

    Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is located around the Pavagadh hill and is known for its archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties. The history of this site dates back from the 8th to 14th centuries. The park is studded with eleven different types of buildings including temples, mosques, tombs, wells, walls and more.


  • Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka

    The heritage site is named as ‘Group of Monuments at Pattadakal’ by UNESCO as it houses nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary that portrays an amalgamation of architectural features of Northern (Nagara) and Southern (Dravida) India. Eight among the nine temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and the ninth is Papanatha Temple, a Shaivite sanctuary. Apart from the major temples, several small Shiva shrines are seen here.

    Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka
    Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka. IANS
  • Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya PradeshKhajuraho Group of Monuments are popular for its artistic magnificence rather than religious aspects. The site comprises of 22 temples. It is said that initially there were about 82 temples built. The temples belong to the Hindu and Jain community and have an amazing fusion of sculpture and architecture. Every evening the Khajuraho temple complex organises a light and sound show in the open lawns in English and Hindi. Besides, The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every year in February that features classical Indian dances.
  • Khangchendzonga National Park, SikkimKhangchendzonga National Park (former Kanchenjunga National Park) also known as Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is the first ‘Mixed Heritage’ site of India. Located in the Himalayan range, the park is home to plains, glaciers, lakes, and valleys. Animals like snow leopard, red panda, and musk deer are spotted here regularly. Besides, the park is home to several rare and threatened plants and animals.
  • Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara, BiharThe ancient Nalanda University or a large Buddhist monastery located in the Southeast of Patna was a centre for learning in the seventh century. The site comprises of stupas, shrines, viharas and several artworks in metal and stone. The site stands out as the most ancient university in the Indian subcontinent. It is also said that the site was an organised mediation of knowledge for over 800 years. The historical development of the site proves the development of Buddhism into a religion and its educational traditions.
  • Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand

    Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand
    Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand. IANS
  • The heritage sites comprise of two core areas -Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park -about 20 km apart. The Valley of Flowers is popular for its natural beauty and endemic alpine flowers. While the Nanda Devi National Park is known for its wilderness and spectacular topographical features including glaciers and moraines. Both the parks are blessed with a high diversity of flora and fauna, with a notable number of globally threatened species including Himalayan musk deer and various plant species.

    Also read: Indian Railways Will Promote Heritage Tourism By Preserving Its Metre-Gauge Tracks


  • Jantar Mantar, Rajasthan
  • Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734, Jantar Mantar got the World Heritage tag in 2010. The cultural property has been inscribed as ‘an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.’ Jai Singh II had constructed five Jantar Mantars at different locations – New Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, Varanasi, and Ujjain.