From Kerala to the world: ASI joining Muziris excavations raises expectations

Pattanam's geographical significance is the main reason why the place once acted as a centre of international trade 2,000 years ago, when there could have been regular floods | All photos by MT Saju

As the stage is set for the 11th season of the Muziris excavations in Pattanam and Mathilakam villages of Kerala, PJ Cherian, director of PAMA Institute of Advancement of Transdisciplinary Archaeological Sciences, who began the excavations in the region during 2006-07 with the Kerala Council for Historical Research, is thrilled. Reason: unlike the past 10 seasons, this season will be conducted with the collaboration of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

“It’s a wonderful feeling, as collaboration is key to the success of any scientific project. We have had collaborations from various institutions and scholars since we started the excavation in the region in 2006, but collaboration with the ASI is significant as it is the mother organisation of India when it comes to archaeology,” says Cherian who is in-charge of the excavations.

The aim of the project is to trace the Indian subcontinent’s trade and cultural transactions, from the coast of Gujarat to Bengal and beyond. Previous excavations in Pattanam have unearthed relics of three dozen cultures linked to diverse geographies and linguistics that extend from Hepu (southern China) to Catalonia (Spain), dating from 3rd Century BC to 5th Century AD. It shows a highly sophisticated and plural culture that flourished in the Periyar (the longest river in Kerala) delta region with its indigenous settlements dating back to 1000 BC.

The third phase of cultural and trade exchanges (3th Century BC to 5th Century AD) was integral to the networking of both maritime and land-route networks
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