Marine Archaeological Investigations on Tamil Nadu Coast, India: An Overview

Dublin Core


Marine Archaeological Investigations on Tamil Nadu Coast, India: An Overview


Session 2

Nautical (Ship and boat) Archaeology of South Asia


Ancient ports such as Kaveripattinam, Nagapattinam, Korkai, Alagankulam, Periyapattinam, all on Tamil Nadu coast have played a dominant role in the transoceanic trade and commerce with many countries since the beginning of the Christian Era (CE, starting from year one on the Georgian Calendar). Many such port towns that existed on the coastal region vanished or were submerged in the sea probably due to coastal erosion, sea level changes and neo-tectonic activity and other causes.

Poompuhar, a flourishing port town, played a major role in maritime activities in the beginning of the Christian Era. The Sangam literature vividly describes its location, habitation and town planning. The marine archaeological explorations around Poompuhar brought to light the remains of terracotta ring wells, brick structures, and storage jars in the inter-tidal zone. The brick structures, stone structures, and pottery from offshore explorations support the existence of the ancient settlement.

Mahabalipuram is said to have been a seaport right from the beginning of the Christian Era. Geophysical survey and underwater exploration revealed structural remains including a fallen wall running about 10 metres (m) in length, scattered dressed stone blocks, a few steps leading to a platform and many other structural remains at various locations between 4 and 8 m water depth. The available data confirms that a large area comprising of a building complex have been submerged. These remains could be part of submerged structures and caused by severe coastal erosion in this area.

The data collected at the above sites support the literary evidence to prove their existence as ports. The major cause for the submergence of these port towns was due to shoreline changes caused by coastal erosion.


A.S. Gaur


November 2011



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