Sembiyankandiyur megalithic pottery with graffiti marks (hieroglyphs?)
Megalithic period pottery found
T.S. Subramanian (The Hindu, April 27, 2008)
Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department leads excavation
— Photo: M. Srinath
Significant finds: Pottery with graffiti marks found at Sembiyankandiyur village in Nagapattinam district.
CHENNAI: Pottery items including bowls, dishes and urns, from the Megalithic period, have been excavated at Sembiyankandiyur near Kuthalam in Mayiladuthurai taluk of Nagapattinam district by the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department.
An important finding: eight urns aligned in a particular manner, three of them with human bones inside. These might be of members of one family, according to department officials. The pottery included black-and-red ware, black ware and red ware.
The site yielded a rich collection of pottery with graffiti marks. A few iron pieces were also found.
Archaeology Department officials estimated that the pottery belonged to the Megalithic period or the Iron Age, which can be dated between 300 B.C. and A.D. 100.
The discoveries were made at the site where in 2006 school teacher V. Shanmuganathan found a polished Neolithic celt (tool) that had engravings resembling the Indus script. This celt caused a stir in archaeological circles. It was T.S. Sridhar, then Special Commissioner of Archaeology, who noticed the engravings on the polished celt. A semi-polished celt was found nearby without engravings.
The Archaeology Department decided to excavate the Sembiyankandiyur site to find out its antiquity and fix the chronology. The excavations began on February 6. Four trenches were laid at the place where the celt with the engravings were found. The first trench was laid in the garden of Mr. Shanmuganathan, the second trench at Thoppumedu which belonged to Shanmugam, a retired physical education teacher, another in the backyard of the house of Muthappa and the fourth at Padayachi Kollaimedu.
Important findings from the trenches were bowls, dishes, broken urns, full-size urns and so on. Eight urns were found to be aligned in a particular manner, three of them with human bones. Some urns had ritual pots inside. Some pots and sherds have thumb-nail impressions on them.
Designs and markings
Full-shape pots had the graffiti depicting a fish, a ‘damaru’, sun, star and a swastika. Geometric designs and marks depicting fish, sun and star and graffiti marks are often found on black-and-red ware and black ware, with the symbols sometimes repeated.
The excavations at Sembiyankandiyur were done under the guidance of Dr. S. Gurumurthi, Principal Commissioner of Archaeology; Dr. S. Vasanthi, Archaeologist; M. Muthusamy, Curator of Tranquebar Museum; S. Selvaraj and P. Gowthamaputhiran, Archaeological Officers of Thanjavur and Coimbatore respectively.