In what may be a major archeological finding, artefacts found in excavations carried out at Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu’s Sivagangai district have determined a possible link between the scripts of the Indus Valley Civilization and Tamil Brahmi, which is the precursor to modern Tamil. Another major discovery is that there was an urban civilisation in Tamil Nadu that was contemporary to the Gangetic plain civilisation.
The Indus Valley Civilisation was situated in the north-western part of India between 5,000 BCE and 1,500 BCE. Around 1500 BCE, the civilisation collapsed and some have speculated that its people may have moved south. The script that was used by the people of this civilisation has been termed the Indus script.
Samples featuring graffiti discovered from Keezhadi date back to 580 BCE. This graffiti is believed to be the link between the Indus script and the Tamil Brahmi.
Speaking about a report released by the Tamil Nadu Arheolgical Department, Archeological Commissioner T Udhayachandran said:, “It’s an initial finding.
Researchers note there is a gap between the Indus script and Tamil Brahmi script and this graffiti could fill that gap. We have to position this graffiti marks in that gap. We found 1000 different marks. We have chosen a few that distinctly relate to the Indus. Research is going on.”
The report released by the Tamil Nadu Archeological Department on Thursday explains the significance of the finding. “Among the available scripts of India, the Indus scripts are considered to be the earliest, 4500 years old. One kind of script that survived between the disappearance of Indus script and the emergence of Brahmi script is called as graffiti marks by the scholars. These graffiti marks are the one evolved or transformed from Indus script and served as precursor for the emergence of Brahmi script. Therefore, these graffiti marks cannot be set aside as mere scratches. Like Indus script, this also could not be deciphered till date,” it states.
The findings indicate that an urban civilisation was thriving on the banks of the Vaigai River in Tamil Nadu in 6th Century BCE, around 2500 years ago. What this suggests is that the Sangam era - considered Tamil Nadu’s golden age - began much earlier than what was once thought.
“Earlier Sangam period was considered to start from 300 BC and so this is a major finding. This completely changes our perception of Indian history so far,” Udhayachandran says.
Keezadi excavation findings also show that people in the Sangam period were literate as early as the 6th Century BCE. The finding was based on potsherds which had names of people - like Aadhan and Kudhiranaadhan - written in Tamil-Brahmi script.
According to the report, “The recent scientific dates obtained for Keezhadi findings push back the date of Tamil-Brahmi to another century i.e. 6th century BCE. These results clearly ascertained that they attained the literacy or learned the art of writing as early as the 6th century BCE.”
In Keezhadi, we have found what looks to be a pottery industry here is based on an analysis of 17 pottery specimens of water containers and cooking vessels sent to Pisa University, Italy.
Also found in Keezhadi are gold ornaments, copper articles, beads of gems, more than 4,000 beads of semi-precious stones, glass beads, shell bangles and ivory bangles. “These jewels and well-crafted household utensils show economic prosperity.
The report also suggests that 70 samples of skeletal fragments of faunal remains were collected from the site. The remains had been sent to Deccan Collect, Post Graduate and Research Institute in Pune for analysis, and species such as cow and ox, buffalo, sheep, goat, Nilgai, black buck, wild boar and peacock were identified. It’s noted that while some animals were used for agriculture purposes, cut marks on other animals such as the antelope, goat and wild boar suggest that they were consumed.
The findings are based in the fifth phase of the excavations at Keezhadi which began in June this year.