Excavations At Arikamedu

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Location: 4-km South Of Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu
Significance: Archaeological Site
Main Findings: Remains Of A Trading Port Dating Back To 2nd Century


Arikamedu, the ancient Roman trade centre is 4-km south of Pondicherry on the Right Bank of Ariyankuppam River. Arikamedu is of special importance in South Indian archaeology and it is best known for its stone bead production. It has a long history that dates back to the 2nd century BC. Excavations in the Arikamedu area have brought to light the remains of a trading port, which had connections with the Greco-Roman world more than a century before the down of the Christian Era.

An Exquisite Blend Roman, Freanch & Indian Influence
Romans, Cholas and French who left their mark on this wonderful place inhabited the port town. Discovered in the 1930s, quickly linked with Roman trade, it was excavated three times in the 1940s. The first excavation was an amateur French endeavour; R.E.M. Wheeler conducted the second and best-known campaign and J.M. Casal conducted the third.

Arikamedu, a fishing colony was used as a port for trade with the Romans and Greco-Romans. An ancient Chola coin dating back to 1st BC suggests involvement of Cholas in various port related activities. Few names on seals that were found here have been mentioned in the Sangam literature as well.

Excavations Conducted By Jouveau-Dubreail
Jouveau-Dubreail identified Arikamedu as Poduke in the Periplus Maris Erythraei. The excavations by Jouvean Dubreuil in 1937 at Arikkamedu revealed hitherto unknown facts about the grandeur of the Dravidian Civilisation. It is a matter of regret that his discoveries are now in the French School of Museum at Hanoi. Later the site was divided into two sectors northern and southern, as they were perceived to have been inhabited by different ethnic groups. It is also known as "Yavanas" in Tamil literature.

Excavations Conducted By M.Wheeler
The British Director General of Archaeology M. Wheeler excavated many things at Arikamedu which are lodged at the Archaeological Survey of India. But now only fragments of the bulk of archaeological discoveries are at the Roman Rolland Museum, Pondicherry. Wheeler discovered the remnants of a factory owned by Romans belonging to the reign of Augustus.

Textile exports especially muslin cloth from Arikamedu area stands archaeologically proven by the discovery of series of tanks or dyeing vats. Graeco-Roman gem cutters habituated here had left gems carved with intaglio design as proof. Chinese ports of the 10th and 11th centuries had trade links. Even today if one looks carefully, after about of heavy rains, one can find beads on the bank of the river. The Romans must have used the Red Sea to come to India as traces of beads have been found in Alexandria and other Red Sea ports.

Arikamedu In Medieval Times
Formerly it was considered that Arikamedu was abandoned after 200 AD but during excavations few fragments of Amphoras and a copper coin of Constantine I minted between 306-324 AD found suggest that Arikamedu was occupied from 300 AD to 700 AD. There is also considerable evidence to suggest that the site was occupied during medieval Chola times. Finds of Chola coins, Chinese Celadon pottery and other East Asian glazed ceramics suggest occupation of the site and some involvement in the Medieval East-West maritime trade as well.

During excavations they came across pottery, which is very similar to the 11th century pottery of "Gangaikondacholapuram". Decorated spouts of water jars and clay lamps of the medieval period are also present. Two perpendicular walls were accidentally laid open and it was suggested that the bricks of this wall and that found in Gangaikondacholapuram are similar, though one cannot be sure. Therefore it is not possible to place the walls in any specific time period yet.

Arikamedu In Modern Times
The remaining walls of the seminary built between 1771-73 Monsieur Pigneau de, designated Bishop of Adran Behaine clearly indicate the use of mixed style of bricks, some of them, probably pilfered from ancient structures. The mission house has been the point of reference for all excavators viz. Wheeler, Casal and Vimala Begely and co. There doesn't seem to be evidence of any other structure belonging to this French period.

But now one can see a few fragments of decorative ceramic tiles and reliefs, pieces of pottery and glass in the Pondicherry Museum. Except for the perpendicular walls and mission house there is not much that can be seen on the surface as the excavated trenches have been filled up.

HOW TO GET THERE

Air:The nearest airport from Arikamedu is Chennai.
Rail:There is railway station at Pondicherry but only few trains pass through it.
Road:Tourist can take buses run by the government and private operators from Pondicherry. Auto rickshaws are also available for local transportation.



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