12,000-year-old artifacts: Vadakkupattu Sangam era Excavation – The Core IAS

12,000-year-old artifacts: Vadakkupattu Sangam era Excavation


  • At Oragadam on the outskirts of Chennai, an ancient stone tool making place must have functioned about 12,000 years ago, an Archaeological Survey of India team has reasons to believe.
  • The team found in the same pit layers of artefacts from at least four civilizations separated by hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
  • For many years, history students, researchers and archaeology enthusiasts have been doing field studies at Vadakkupattu, a nondescript village near Oragadam, after an ancient burial site was found at Guruvanmedu, about a kilometre away.
  • Once they decided to excavate Vadakkupattu, the 20-member team of surveyors, researchers and labourers looked for signs to start the process. Sand mounds and the presence of rivers Cheyyar and Palar close to the site helped them locate the probable spots. The sand mounds of Vadakkupattu were largely disturbed as the locals had dug up the topsoil (which, as the team later realised, must have destroyed some surface objects).


  • The most important of the finds at Vadakkupattu village include hand axes, scrappers, cleaver and choppers from the Mesolithic period. They were found just 75cm below the surface, along with hundreds of stone fragments. This looks like a place where ancient people made stone tools for hunters and gatherers.
  • Archaeologists were astonished to find, at an upper layer of the same 10mx10m pit, Sangam era (more than 2,000 years ago) artefacts and rouletted ware, Roman amphora sherds and glass beads indicating active trade with Rome.
  • They also found gold ornaments, terracotta toys, beads, pieces of bangles, pot sherds and coins. In the surrounding area, on the surface, the team discovered sculptures ranging from the early Pallava era (275 CE) to the late Pallavas (897 CE).
  • As per typological study, the tools may have been made roughly 12,000 years ago. Carbon dating and thermoluminescence (TL) dating will reveal the exact age of the tools. It is unique to find stone tools, artefacts and ornaments belonging to four different eras at a single place.
  • Researchers said the small size and sharpness of the tools, which ancient people made by removing flakes from stones, indicated the settlement was of the Mesolithic period.
  • The other finds the Pallava-era sculptures, were made of sand stones and have been eroded by time.


  • Vadakkupattu finds show continuous habitation for several thousand years. The new evidence shows it is a culturally and archaeologically important site.
  • Besides the Teri sites at Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts, Vadakkupattu is the only place in Tamil Nadu where evidence of tools of the Mesolithic period has been found.
  • Now, Vadakkupattu is ready to burst into the archaeological limelight not just for what was unearthed there, but the layers of history – and prehistory – found to have been preserved just inches below the surface. The excavation team had hardly gone a few centimetres down, when out came gold ornaments, beads, broken bangles, pot sherds, coins and terracotta toys.
  • The deeper they went, the older the pieces got. At a depth of 75cm, they found chiseled stone tools – telltale signs of a Mesolithic civilization. And, hiding in plain sight on the surface were sculptures and stone carvings of the early and late Pallava eras.
  • It is significant that at the same site the team found handmade roof tiles belonging to the Sangam era. “They are different in shape compared to the ones found in places such as Keezhadi and Kodumanal.
  • The team found statues of Vishnu, and a Shivalinga, suggesting the existence of a temple in the medieval period.
  • The first set of trenches exposed some structures including roof tiles that appeared to be of the Sangam period. The team found Mesolithic stone tools and more of Sangam era artefacts in pits dug 100m away from the first dig.

Reference: TOI

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