Nagapattinam coast

Undersea probe to seek out lost port city

By Jaya Menon - The Times of India

Encouraged by the zeal witnessed at the recent world classical Tamil conference, the DMK government has decided to fund an undersea expedition to excavate the remains of a 2,000-year-old town, Poompuhar or Kaveripoompattinam, submerged under the sea off the Nagapattinam coast in Tamil Nadu.

The marine archaeology wing of the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) will be assigned the task. The expertise of the underwater wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which was involved in past explorations of the ancient sunken towns of Dwaraka and Mamallapuram on the east and west coasts, will also be used.

Reams and reams of ancient Tamil literature and even early geographers and historians like Ptolemy and Pliny have described the early Chola period town of Kaveripoompattinam as a vital maritime port that had trade links with the Roman empire and China until it was washed away by tidal waves, now recognised as a tsunami.

A few onshore and offshore excavations since the 1960s have given archaeologists an exciting glimpse of this once flourishing port town and capital of the Chola kings ring wells, brick structures, semi-precious stones and amphora pieces. Some artefacts and remains are displayed in the museum at Poompuhar town and preserved in the NIO.

Confirming the proposal, state minister for school education and archaeology Thangam Thennarasu told TOI that the government-sponsored excavation would be a significant step towards preserving Tamil culture.

"We have initiated talks with the NIO and are exploring the scope of such an excavation, not just off Poompuhar but also other ancient ports," he said.