Artefacts with Tamil-Brahmi script unearthed at Keeladi to find a special place in museum

The first floor has been earmarked for artefacts that justify the high level of literacy prevailing during the Sangam age

February 19, 2023 08:57 pm | Updated February 20, 2023 12:32 am IST - Madurai

Potsherds with graffiti unearthed at Keeladi excavation site in Sivaganga district

Potsherds with graffiti unearthed at Keeladi excavation site in Sivaganga district | Photo Credit: ma20Potsherds

The upcoming museum at Keeladi would house various artefacts with Tamil-Brahmi scripts and graffiti engraved on them similar to that of Indus Valley script. These artefacts were unearthed during the many seasons of excavations.

The sixth block is designated for showcasing artefacts that fall under the lifestyle category. The first floor has been earmarked for the artefacts that justify the high level of literacy prevailing during the Sangam age, said R. Sivanantham, Commissioner (in-charge), State Archaeology Department.

They include the many path-breaking findings such as potsherds inscribed with graffiti – which is a preliminary writing expression of the Iron Age people, undeciphered signs similar to that of the Indus Valley script as well as names in ‘Tamili.’

“For the naked eye, it may be a mere scratch mark but it holds much more value”, say archaeologists.

According to the State Department of Archaeology’s (SDA) publication in 2019, Keeladi: An Urban Settlement of Sangam Age on the Banks of River Vaigai, ‘Tamili’ – the Tamil-Brahmi script – was dated to the 5th century BCE before the Keeladi findings pushed it back to another century – 6th century BCE.

The report includes a comparison of five Keeladi graffiti and Indus signs that are quite similar. Graffiti marks were prevalent between Indus script and Brahmi script. Mr Sivanantham noted that over 1,500 and 60 artefacts with graffiti and Tamili inscriptions respectively have been unearthed so far in Keeladi excavation clusters.

The graffiti on pots, earthenware, urns, bone tools, iron weapons, and in caves and rocks near the excavation sites are crucial findings which induces debate of the date of Tamil-Brahmi.

Many graffitis may be indicative of the urns belonging to the same family, say archaeologists. The fish symbol which was both an art and as a ‘sign representing a clan, has been unearthed as well. Many post-firing graffiti sherds were unearthed as well which indicate they were engraved by the owners or individuals after purchasing the pots, since they differ largely.

Common Sangam era names such as Aadhan, Eyyan, Udhiran, Thisan, Sathan, Senthanavathi on potsherds have been unearthed. A six-lettered Tamili word that reads as kuviraṉ-āta etched on the shoulder portion of a broken black-and-red ware could be a name of a person with an ṉ at the end. A surprise find of a Prakrit name gives way to explore the possible existence of trade links between Keeladi and Sri Lanka as well.

According to the SDA report, “One of the sherds carries the vowel ‘o’ at the beginning of the name which is rarely found in both cave and pottery inscriptions.”

Mr Sivanandam said that a methodical study or research by a Chennai-based research library in alliance with SDA is underway to establish a link between Tamil Brahmi script and Indus valley script.

Potsherds with graffiti unearthed at Keeladi excavation site in Sivaganga district

Potsherds with graffiti unearthed at Keeladi excavation site in Sivaganga district | Photo Credit: ma20Potsherds

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