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September 30, 2023

Tamil Nadu Launches A 7-Day Underwater Survey Of The Sangam-Era Port

MADURAI: In collaboration with the National Institute of Oceanography and the Indian Maritime University, the State government has begun a seven-day underwater archaeological study to look for relics of the Sangam-era port of Korkai in the Tuticorin sea. To conduct the reconnaissance survey, a ship outfitted with Multibeam Echo Sounding, Sidescan Sonar, and a Sub-bottom Profiler arrived at Thoothukudi VOC port.

Korkai, a port town that is currently situated eight kilometres from the shore and three kilometres north of the river Thamirabarani, close to the Bay of Bengal was the port city of the early Pandyas. The 2300 years old port city benefited greatly from trade with the ancient Roman and other foreign civilizations. The nautical handbook “Periplus of the Erythrean Sea,” which was composed in the first century AD, references Korkai as well as other port cities in Tamil Nadu. An archeological survey of Korkai port is being conducted as part of explorations of the Porunai (Thamirabarani) river valley civilization.

The research is expected to determine the precise site of the Pandiyan kingdom’s historic Korkai port, a well-known harbor on the east coast of the southern Indian peninsula during the fifth century CE. The research vessel will examine the seafloor for any artifacts, antiques, shipwrecks, or other structures that may provide proof of the existence of the Korkai port, its size, and its commercial activities.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology had previously undertaken offshore surveys in Poompuhar in 1981 and Mamallapuram in 2005, respectively.

At a ceremony on Saturday at Thoothukudi VOC port, Thangam Thennarasu, the minister of Industries, Tamil official language, Tamil Culture, and Archaeology, Geetha Jeevan, the minister of social welfare and women empowerment, and Anitha R. Radhakrishnan, the minister of fisheries and fishermen welfare, flagged off the research ship in the presence of the collector, Dr. K. Senthil Raj, Mayor NP Jegan, Corporation Commissioner T Charushree, port chairman Dr T Ramachandran, archaeology department director Sivanandan and other experts.

From Tuticorin harbor, ministers Thangam Thennarasu, Anitha Radhakrishnan, and Geetha Jeevan flagged off the Sagar Tara, a research vessel for NIOT.

The offshore reconnaissance, according to Minister Thangam Thennarasu, would be concentrated around the mouth of the Thamirabarani in the seas between Thoothukudi and Tiruchendur because it is anticipated to contain more artifacts.

The ship’s cutting-edge equipment would survey both the sea’s top and bottom. Buried artifacts will be collected based on signals returned by the technology, he said. The search will be focused on locations where big portions of artifacts have been discovered, he added.

He further continued, ‘Based on the results of this reconnaissance investigation, future excavations will be planned, and then a thorough survey will be conducted.’ ‘The preliminary survey would be extended if necessary. We are in a very important position to support the existence of Korkai port right now because the archaeological study has been ongoing since 1968,’ he stated.

‘The archaeological surveys at seven locations in the district—Keezhadi, Sivagalai, Gangaikondacholapuram, Mayiladumparai, Vembakottai, Thulukkarpatti, and Perumbalai—will cost a total of Rs 15 crore’, according to Chief Minister MK Stalin. He stated, that a location for the Porunai museum has been chosen, and work is currently being done on a thorough project report. R Nagaswamy, the director of the State Archaeology Department at the time, began archaeological excavations at Korkai in 1968.

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