Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Sangam era older than previously thought, finds study


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sangam Age, Literature

Mains level : Sangam Age

Sangam era is much older

  • In a major turning point in the cultural historiography of the ancient Sangam Age, the TN Archaeology Department found that the cultural deposits unearthed during excavations at Keeladi are dated to a period between 6th century BCE and 1st century CE.
  • This is the first time the date has been officially announced.
  • The new findings in the report place Keeladi artefacts about 300 years earlier than previously believed — 3rd century BCE.
  • The results from the fourth excavations suggest that the “second urbanisation [the first being Indus] of Vaigai plains happened in Tamil Nadu around 6th century BCE as it happened in Gangetic plains.”

 Tamil-Brahmi Script

  • The recent scientific dates obtained for Keeladi findings push back the date of Tamil-Brahmi script to another century, i.e., 6th century BCE.
  • These results clearly ascertained that they attained literacy or learned the art of writing as early as 6th century BCE.

Tamil-Brahmi potsherds

  • Fifty-six Tamil-Brahmi inscribed potsherds were recovered from the site of excavation.
  • Pottery specimens from Keeladi confirmed that water containers and cooking vessels were shaped out of locally available raw materials.
  • Recovery of 10 spindle whorls, 20 sharply pinpointed bone tip tools used for design creations, hanging stones of the yarn, terracotta spheres, copper needle and earthen vessels to hold liquid clearly attest to the various stages of weaving industry from spinning, yarning, looming and weaving and later for dyeing.

Standard of living

  • Apart from the matter of the settlement’s age, the report highlights the supposedly high standard of living in the Sangam era.
  • The document describes “well-laid floors made of fine clay”, “roof tiles” with “grooves” to “drain water”, joints fastened with “iron nails”, etc.
  • Archaeologists also unearthed 110 dies made of ivory, and attributed them to the Sangam people’s alleged participation in sports and other recreational activities.
  • The report additionally discusses evidence of cattle-rearing, structural engineering, handicrafts, a local weaving industry, household utensils, and ornaments and terracotta figurines.


Sangam Age

  • The ‘Sangam’ describes a period from the sixth century BC to the third century AD encompassing today’s Tamil Nadu, Kerala, the southern parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and northern Sri Lanka.
  • The Tamil Sangams or Cankams were assemblies of Tamil scholars and poets that, according to traditional Tamil accounts, occurred in the remote past.
  • It is named for scholarly congregations in and around the city of Madurai, located about 400 km southwest of Chennai.
  • The period is noted for its Tamil literature and its literary output is closely associated with a significant politico-literary movement in early 20th century TN, which held that the Dravidian people could be descended from the people of the Indus Valley civilisation.
  • The Sivaganga discovery is the first major one of its kind in the state that claims to attest to the presence of an ancient urban civilisation in the subcontinent’s south, a civilisation that has often been pooh-poohed as political rhetoric.
  • It also strengthens the purported connection between the Indus Valley settlers and the ancient residents of Keezhadi.
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