Saturday, March 9, 2024
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Early Historic Age Collection


Early Historic Age Collection

This section of the museum consists of archaeological materials excavated from the Pattanam archaeological site(N. Lat. 10°09.434’; E. Long. 76°12.587’), which is located in Vadakkekara village of Paravur Taluk, about 25 km north of Kochi in the Ernakulam District in Kerala,India. This is a coastal site located in the delta of the Periyar River and is now about 4 km from the Arabian Sea coast. The Paravur Todu, presently a distributary of the Periyar, flows about 1 km south of the site. The site is surrounded by palaeo channels, a backwater, lagoons and streams. Though the site is surrounded by marshy areas with saline water, the Pattanam mound has sweet water suitable for drinking, which may be one of the reasons for the ancient settlement there. The Pattanam mound is 3.32 m high above Mean Sea Level and is spread out over about 70 hectares. However, being a densely populated village, the site is considerably disturbed. The Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) presently owns about 5 acres of the site and is striving to develop it into a model archaeological site.

The eight seasons of excavations by the KCHR have unearthed a large volume and array of Indian and non-Indian artifacts belonging to different cultures and cultural periods. The chronology of the Pattanam site spans three millennia from circa 1000 BCE with evidence of habitation across the Iron Age, the Early Historic, the Medieval and the Modern cultural periods. The Early Historic period (3rd century BCE to 5th century CE) seems to be the most active phase of the site. The KCHR has so far excavated 60 trenches at the Pattanam mound, covering less than 1% of the 70 hectares of the mound.

The Pattanam excavations have unearthed 1,29,083 artifacts, 5,16,676 diagnostic potsherds, 1,40,165 non-Indian pottery sherds and 4.5 million local body sherds. The botanical remains include rice, black pepper, cardamom, frankincense, peat, bark, charcoal, leaves, roots, seeds, wood and pulses. The zoological remains are bone fragments and teeth. The geological remains consist of a range of local and non-local rocks and stones. The architectural features and allied finds such as well-made burned bricks, toilet features, roofing tiles, ring wells and the spatial orientation of structures, all indicate urban living at the site some 2000 years ago. The industrial character of the site is suggested by the scale and range of specialisation in technology—metallurgy, lapidary industries, cotton-weaving and terracotta production. The location of Pattanam, as well as the material evidence unearthed here, point to the possibility that Pattanam could have been an integral part of the long lost, legendary port of Muciri Pattinam or Muziris, copiously mentioned in Indian and European classical sources.

Pattanam throws light on Kerala in the period before the 9th century CE, on which there was scanty evidence until now. The research on Pattanam was able to attract global academic attention, and KCHR now has over two dozen collaborators or partners from all parts of the world. It has, of late, initiated a ‘Green Archaeology Project’, adopting a pro-people, eco-friendly approach to the conservation of the site, which is envisaged as a heritage zone.

Here, all the exhibited archaeological materials in this pattanam section of the museum, belongs to the early historic period except for one habitation pottery which belongs to megalithic period. The most important and significant ones among them are:

  1. Amphorae fragments: Amphorae are large storage jars that were used to transport products such as wine, olive oil and fish products throughout the Roman Empire. All three of these foodstuffs were vital to the Roman way of life for culinary reasons, as well as serving medicinal and religious purposes. The amphorae found in India, and their contents, are likely to have been for resident merchants and traders from the West, as well as for local elites.
  2. Broken glass beads: Most of the glass beads are found from the Early Historic layers though through erosion, these reach the surface. The term muthuparambu is commonly used in the Pattanam village to denote the beads that dot the surface. There is a strong likelihood that glass beads were not made at Pattanam but reached there from Arikamedu on the east coast. Arikamedu shows ample evidence for glass bead production.
  3. Torpedo jar fragments:  Torpedo jars are of Mesopotamian origin and have a body resembling a torpedo. They look like amphorae without handles and probably had similar uses. The majority of the torpedo jar sherds found in Pattanam have an off-white powdery fabric and a black coating of bitumen on the inner surface.
  4. Triple grooved tile: The most common Early Historic roof tile is a variety, with three grooves along the length on one side and a single groove on the edge of the other side. It is this single groove with which the tile was fixed on a roof. Some of these tiles had a hole, for fixing them to wooden rafters with nails.
  5. Four legged Quern:  The four legged quern (bench) is a stone bench with four legs carved out of a single stone.


Other archaeological materials exhibited in this section are fragments of a ring well, a rim sherd, fragments of a jar, red ware pottery, stone objects, glass beads and chips of bead making.