Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Expedition to Ram Setu


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Adam's Bridge

Mains level : NA

In possibly a first, Indian scientists will undertake a scientific expedition to date the chain of corals and sediments forming the Ram Setu.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which of the following have coral reefs?

  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  2. Gulf of Kachchh
  3. Gulf of Mannar
  4. Sunderbans

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Ram Setu

  • Also known as Adam’s bridge, Ram Setu is a 48-km long bridge-like structure between India and Sri Lanka.
  • It finds mention in the Ramayana but little about its formation is known or proven, scientifically.

What is the underwater archaeological project at Ram Setu?

  • The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) will undertake a three-year scientific project.
  • The idea is to see whether Ram Setu is a man-made structure or not.
  • The most important aspect of the project is to establish its age, scientifically.
  • The explorers will apply a number of scientific techniques while attempting to date the Ram Setu, study its material composition, outline the sub-surface structure along with attempting to excavate remnants or artefacts, if any, from the site.
  • Once it is known, the information can be verified and co-related with its mention in the Ramayana and similar scriptures.

How is the project planned?

  • An initial survey will make use of underwater photographs to check if any habitation remains inundated in the area. A geophysical survey will be performed to understand the structure.
  • Over the years, several kinds of depositions, including sand, have covered the actual structure. Initially, only physical observation, and no drilling, will be done.
  • NIO operates two oceanographic vessels – RV Sindhu Sankalp (ability to go up to and remain 56 metres underwater) and RV Sindhu Sadhana (ability to go up to and remain 80 metres underwater).
  • For collecting core samples at greater depths and for bathymetry purposes, Sindhu Sadhana will be deployed for the Ram Setu project.

Two of the planned tests:

  1. Side-scan SONAR — Will provide bathymetry which is similar to studying the topography of a structure on land. Soundwaves signals will be sent to the structure which will provide an outline of the physical structure of the Ram Setu.
  2. Silo seismic survey – Mild earthquake-like tremor shocks will be sent at shallow depths close to the structure. These energized shockwaves are capable of penetrating into the structure. The reflected or refracted signals will be captured by instruments that will provide sub-surface structure.

Significance of such exploration

  • India has a vast coastline of over 7,500 kilometres.
  • Oceans are a treasure trove of the past records — climate, evolutionary changes of the underwater fauna, coastal lives, habitations, settlements and civilizations.
  • Of these, the sea-level changes remain the most significant of all with respect to climate studies.
  • History has records of sailors who set out on unknown voyages to later discover new lands and islands.
  • They ventured into deep seas even before the advent of the Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Using such underwater exploration studies, scientists say that it is possible to trace numerous ship-wreckages and remains from the past.
  • Studies of ship wreckage, artefacts or remains could reveal a lot of information.

Recently a 60000 YO submerged forest was explored off the Alabama coast in the USA.

Has India undertaken underwater archaeological explorations?

  • A part of Dwarka, along with coastal Gujarat, is underwater, confirming the sea-level rise.
  • The NIO has been studying this site, and so far, traced large amounts of scattered stones which were retrieved at the depth between three to six metres beneath.
  • Stone anchors, too, were found at the site, suggesting it to be part of an ancient harbour.
  • In the past, NIO had initiated studies to trace the missing shore temples of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu.
  • Presently, several ship wreckage studies, including the one-off the Odisha coast, are going on.

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