Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Key findings about Keeladi Excavation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Keeladi Civilization, Sangam Age

Mains level: Major civilizations


Central idea: Keeladi is an archaeological site that has been excavated by the Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology since 2014. Recent excavations here has pushed the Sangam age further back.

About Keeladi


  • Keeladi is a tiny hamlet in the Sivaganga district in south Tamil Nadu.
  • It is about 12 km south-east to the temple city of Madurai and is located along the Vaigai River.
  • The excavations here from 2015 prove that an urban civilisation existed in Tamil Nadu in the Sangam age on the banks of the Vaigai River.

How is Keeladi linked to Sangam age?

  • The Sangam age is a period of history in ancient Tamil Nadu which was believed to be from the third century BCE to the third century CE.
  • The name is derived from the renowned Sangam poets of Madurai from that time.

Recent findings

  • In 2019, a TNSDA report dated the unearthed artefacts from Keeladi to a period between sixth century BCE and first century BCE.
  • Some samples sent for carbon dating in the US, dated back to 580 BCE.
  • The findings placed Keeladi artefacts about 300 years earlier than the previously believed third century BCE.

Significance of the findings

  • Older than perceived: Recent finding at Keeladi has pushed the Sangam age to 800 BCE based on these archaeological findings.
  • Literary evidences: Keeladi, along with other Tamil Nadu sites which have over a thousand inscribed potsherds, clearly suggest the long survival of the script.
  • Substantial evidence to Sangam Age: It comes across as an industrious and advanced civilisation and has given evidence of urban life and settlements in TN during the Early Historic Period.
  • Another major civilisation: The unearthed Keeladi artefacts have led academics to describe the site as part of the Vaigai Valley Civilisation. It has all the characteristics of an urban civilisation, with brick structures, luxury items and proof of internal and external trade.
  • Filling in the cultural gaps: This could provide crucial evidence for understanding the missing links of the Iron Age (12th century BCE to sixth century BCE) to the Early Historic Period (sixth century BCE to fourth century BCE) and subsequent cultural developments.

Links with Indus Valley

Ans. A lot of digging and study has to be done to establish the links between these two civilisations.

  • The findings have invited comparisons with the Indus Valley Civilisation while acknowledging the cultural gap of 1,000 years between the two places.
  • Till now, the gap is filled with Iron Age material in south India, which serve as residual links.
  • However, some of the symbols found in pot sherds of Keeladi bear a close resemblance to Indus Valley signs.

What has been unearthed so far?

  • Pottery: Unearthing of heaps of pottery suggest the existence of a pottery making industry, mostly made of locally available raw materials.
  • Inscriptions: Over 120 potsherds containing Tamil Brahmi inscriptions have been found.
  • Jewellery: There also existed a dyeing industry and a glass bead industry. Gold ornaments, copper articles, semi-precious stones, shell bangles, ivory bangles and ivory combs reflect the artistic, culturally rich and prosperous lifestyle of the Keeladi people.
  • Import of semiprecious stones: Agate and carnelian beads suggest import through commercial networks while terracotta and ivory dice, gamesmen and evidence of hopscotch have been unearthed revealing their pastime hobbies.

Recent politicization of the excavation

  • The Keeladi site, since its discovery has been shrouded in controversies with several Dravidian and Left ideologues.
  • They claim that the archaeological finds prove that the Indus Valley Civilisation was a “Dravidian” culture and an independent “secular” Tamil civilisation.
  • The attempt to define the finds in narrow and racial terms is ideologically motivated to one, pump up Tamil exclusivist sentiments, and two, and challenge the view that sees India as one— unity in diversity.


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