In a significant observation on ancient Tamil culture and civilisation, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday confirmed that carbon dating of artefacts from the Adichanallur excavation site in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu place them between 696 to 905 BC. In scathing remarks reserved for the central government-run Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the court said that the samples excavated between 2004 and 2006 had not been sent for carbon dating for a long time.
A bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar exclaimed, "At last, the age of the Adichanallur archaeological site is revealed!" The judges’ reaction was over the 15-year delay in assessing the date of the ancient site. Between 2004 and 2006, then Superintendent Archaeologist of the ASI, Chennai Circle, Prof T Satyamurthy had unearthed nearly 169 clay urns containing human skeletons. The discovery of the prehistoric settlement was a significant one.
The court said, “Even after passing of 15 to 16 years, the samples were not sent for carbon dating and the report was not made ready. In spite of many efforts taken by intellectuals, literates, historians, political leaders, archaeologists, nothing has been done by Archaeological Survey of India, for reasons best known to them, to send the Adichanallur samples for carbon dating.”
The carbon dating was performed at the Beta Analytic Testing Laboratory, in Florida, United States, and a report was submitted by the lab’s director on March 18 this year.
As per the lab’s findings, “samples taken from Urn-No.58 are aged between 696 – 540 cal BC [viz., 2645 – 2489 years], 791 – 701 cal BC [viz., 2740 – 2650 years] and Urn-No.105 is aged between 905 - 806 cal BC [viz., 2854 – 2755 years]. Hence, Adichanallur is proved to be the earliest ancient site in Tamil Nadu.”
The court had directed the ASI to fence the area and to put up a police outpost at the 114-acre site to prevent any damages. Dr Sathyabhama Badhreenath of the ASI's Delhi circle has been nominated for preparing the fourth report on the excavation. With three earlier reports having been prepared by Prof Sathyamurthi, the court noted that the Assistant Solicitor General of India, V Kathirvelu was to get instructions regarding the time required for preparing the report.
Further, the court said that the ASI was to decide 'whether it is going to excavate on its own or the Central Government is going to permit the State Government in this regard' based on the carbon dating report.
A report on the carbon dating from the Alagankulam excavation site in Ramanathapuram district found it to be from 345 BC. Seeking a report from the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department, the court said, "Since many potteries found at the site have Tamil inscriptions, it will prove that the age of Tamil is more than 345 BC and much older than Dhamma Lipi (Prakrit in the Brahmi Script) of Ashoka Edicts, which is stated to be dated from 268 BC to 232 BC."
The matter was adjourned to April 11.