Little protection for archaeological sites in Kerala

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Archaeologist and University Grants Commission scientist P. Rajendran has said that archaeological sites from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Megalithic eras are facing neglect in the State. 

A rock-cut Buddhist temple inside an RPL rubber estate near the Kallupacha Adivasi settlement in Kulathupuzha [Credit: C. Suresh Kumar]

He said many of these sites had the potential to provide rich information about the people more than 3,000 years ago. 

“There is no earnest attempt to identify new archaeological sites by the authorities and the sites discovered by archaeologists out of personal interest are not taken seriously,” Dr. Rajendran said. Many such sites brought to the attention of the authorities remained unprotected. 

Dr. Rajendran said at first sight these sites may appear to be insignificant but from the archaeological perspective these were goldmines. 

He said the Aryankavu- Thenmala- Kulathupzuha- Arippa belt in Kollam district had several fascinating cultural remnants of the prehistoric era, especially from the Iron Age. There were several Buddhist ‘vestiges’ all over the area that were lying totally neglected. He said excavation was discouraged in these areas. 

Dr. Rajendran had discovered hundreds of Iron Age implements from the Arippa area. Most of them had now been stolen and those left over were not being protected and taken up for study at the formal level. 

At Kulathupuzha, he discovered evidence of iron smelting probably dating back to 1400 BC. 

He said the iron ore smelted was deposits in laterite stones. Smelting was done in vessels for removing the slag and refining it. The blacksmith then re-smelted the refined product for making implements. Hundreds of these refined products at many areas of Kulathupzuha were being mistaken as laterite stone blocks. 

Dr. Rajendran said these were not stones but refined blocks containing more than 75 per cent iron. Compared to laterite stone blocks, they were very heavy too. Scrapings from these blocks got attracted to magnets establishing the heavy iron deposits in them. 

“It is the laterite stone with a chocolate hue which have heavy iron deposits and is mined for smelting iron,” he said. 

At the Kulathupuzha belt, Dr. Rajendran identified two rock-cut Buddhist temples dating back probably more than 2,000 years. 

One at the Kallupacha Adivasi settlement inside the rubber plantation of the public sector Rehabilitation Plantations Limited (RPL) and the other inside the forests at Kattallapara. Prior to 1972, the RPL plantations were forests. 

“The former temple is a completed one and is at present used as a place of worship by RPL estate labourers and Adivasis. The latter is incomplete. Both look similar.” 

Dr. Rajendran said that a portion of the granite flaking off from the right upper portion of the Kattalapara temple during construction could have made people think it was inauspicious, which made them leave it halfway. The temples were carved out of a granite boulder. 

He said fine quality granite was selected for the purpose. The Kattalapara area also had fish motif rock carvings indicating Buddhist presence in the area since carvings with animal motifs were part of the Buddhist tradition. 

Author: Ignatius Pereira | Source: The Hindu [June 01, 2011]

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