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"Discovery of a century" in Tamil Nadu

T.S. Subramanian

Stone axe with Indus Valley script found near Mayiladuthurai

CHENNAI: A Neolithic stone celt with the Indus Valley script has been discovered by a school teacher, V. Shanmuganathan, in a village called Sembian-Kandiyur near Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu. The celt, a polished hand-held stone axe, has four Indus Valley signs on it. The artefact with the script can be as old as 1500 B.C., that is, 3,500 years old. The four signs were identified by epigraphists of the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology, according to its Special Commissioner, T. S. Sridhar.

Iravatham Mahadevan, one of the world's foremost experts on the Indus script, called the find "the greatest archaeological discovery of a century in Tamil Nadu." The discovery proved that the Indus script had reached Tamil Nadu. He estimated the date of the artefact with the script to be around 1500 B.C. "I have cautiously and conservatively put it between 2000 B.C. and 1500 B.C.," Mr. Mahadevan said. It was in the classical Indus script. He ruled out the possibility of the celt coming from North India because "the material of this stone is clearly of peninsular origin."

Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, where hundreds of seals with the Indus script were discovered, are in present-day Pakistan. Neolithic means New Stone Age and it is datable in India between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C.

According to Mr. Mahadevan, the first sign on the celt depicted a skeletal body with ribs. The figure is seated on his haunches, body bent and contracted, with lower limbs folded and knees drawn up. The second sign showed a jar. Hundreds of this pair have been found on seals and sealings at Harappa. Mr Mahadevan read the first sign as "muruku" and the second sign as "an." In other words, it is "Murukan." The earliest references in Old Tamil poetry portrayed him as a "wrathful killer," indicating his prowess as a war god and hunter. The third sign looked like a trident and the fourth like a crescent with a loop in the middle.

Mr. Mahadevan commented that the latest discovery was very strong evidence that the Neolithic people of Tamil Nadu and the Indus Valley people "shared the same language, which can only be Dravidian and not Indo-Aryan." He added that before this discovery, the southernmost occurrence of the Indus script was at Daimabad, Maharashtra on the Pravara River in the Godavari Valley.

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