The Oldest Settlements in South India: The Keeladi Excavations - Storytrails
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The Oldest Settlements in South India: The Keeladi Excavations

How old are the oldest settlements in south India? This video explores the story of the recent excavations at Keeladi, which revealed the existence of a sophisticated Tamil civilisation dating back at least to the 6th century BCE. But did you know that archaeological digs carried out over a 100 years earlier at sites like Adichanallur and Pallavaram had already hinted at human habitation sites in Tamil Nadu dating back thousands of years? How have these path-breaking excavations changed our understanding of ancient south Indian history?

How old are the oldest settlements in south India? What did the recent excavations at Keeladi and other places along the Vaigai and Porunai (Thamirabarani) rivers reveal?

For a long time, it was believed that south India had no ancient urban civilisations like in the north. While the Sangam Period (dated 300 BCE – 300 CE) literature talks of a sophisticated Tamil civilisation, there was no concrete archaeological proof to back it up…until the path-breaking Keeladi excavations that started in 2015. 

A series of digs carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India in a little village near Madurai unearthed artefacts dating back at least to the 6th century BCE. This included pottery fragments with graffiti marks very similar to the Indus Valley script. 

But Keeladi isn’t the first or only place to offer evidence of ancient settlements in Tamil Nadu. Adichanallur, Korkai, Pallavaram, Attirampakkam and many more sites have thrown up an array of amazing artefacts over the last 100 years or so, including the oldest human tool to be ever discovered in India – a hand-axe that was discovered in Pallavaram, part of present-day Chennai. It’s only in recent years that the pieces of the jigsaw have started coming together. Archaeologists believe that many more exciting discoveries, possibilities and answers are waiting to be found at this site. 

This video is brought to you in partnership with Tamil Nadu Tourism and Saint-Gobain

Editing credits: Studio A, Chennai

Music, Sound Design, Mix & Master: Vishwi

  1. Excavated ruins of Mohenjo-daro – By Nikesh chawla – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, <>
  2. Dancing girl of Mohenjo-daro – By Gary Todd – This file has been extracted from another file, CC0, <>
  3. Mohenjo-daro Priest-king – By Mamoon Mengal –, CC BY-SA 1.0, <>
  4. Pashupati seal – By unknown Indus Valley Civilization sealmaker from Mohenjodaro archaeological site –, Public Domain, <>
  5. Meenakshi Temple – view from west side tower – By Mamichaelraj – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, <>
  6. Tamil Nadu village gods – By Kalaiselvi – Tamil Nadu Village God South India – Public Domain, <>
  7. Tiruvanamalai – By Nithi Anand – via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, <>
  8. 1000-pillar hall, Madurai – By SakthiG1977 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, <>
  9. By Alexander Rea – Internet Archive identifier, Public Domain, <>
  10. Catalogue of the prehistoric antiquities from Adichanallur and Perumbair (Page 75) – By Alexander Rea – Internet Archive identifier, Public Domain, <>
  11. Thamirabarani – By Pandiaeee – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, <>
  12. Mosaic – By Giorces – Own work, CC BY 2.5, <>
  13. Pearls – By Abhinaba Basu – Laad Bazaar Pearls, CC BY 2.0, <>
  14. Romtrireme – By Mathiasrex – Own work, Internet Archive Book Image, CC BY 2.5, <>
  15. Illustrated Greek Bodyguard – via Flickr, Internet Archive Book Images, Public Domain, <>
  16. Roman Soldier Sketch – via Freesvg, Public Domain, <>
  17. Damascus Steel Sword – By Tamorlan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, <>
  18. Damascus Steel Sword – By Rahil Alipour Ata Abadi – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., GFDL, <>
  19. Damascus Steel Sword Blade – By Albert Straub, CC BY 2.0, <>
  20. Fire Furnace – By 12995263 – via Pixaby, Public Domain, <>
  21. Madrasian Culture – By Fanny Schertzer – Own work, CC BY 3.0, <>
  22. Robert Bruce Foote – By Unknown author – Madras Government Museum, Public Domain, <>
  23. Geological Survey of India in 1870 – By Herbert Giess, Switzerland. – Original in the Geological Survey of India – copy in Mountain Jade Quarries in the Kun Lun Mountains in Xinjiang, China, Public Domain, <>
  24. Hand Axe 3D Model – via Creazilla, <>



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