Madurai: With the completion of phase- three of the excavation at Keezhadi archaeological site near Madurai, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials on Monday closed it in view of the impending rains.
The fourth phase of the excavation is expected to commence in January 2018, as the Director General of the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI), New Delhi, is processing the application for license renewal, said an officer, overseeing the closing work at the site.
When the issue of stopping third phase of the excavation at the site was raised during the court hearing last month, P S Sriraman, present superintending archaeologist, ASI, Keezhadi site said for the fourth phase, for which permission is yet to come, will begin only in January. The DG, ASI, New Delhi was processing their application, he had said.
Justices MM Sundresh and Sathish Kumar of the Madras High court's Madurai bench here passed an interim order on September 22, directing the ASI to renew the license for the fourth phase of excavation within two weeks and also to grant license to the Tamil Nadu Archaeological department to also start excavation at the site.
On the question of closing the site, Sriraman also clarified that it was a standard procedure they followed to protect the site during the rainy season. When the judges had inspected the site on September 19, he had explained to them that they would cover the trenches with plastic sheets before closing it with soil so that it would be intact during the rains.
However the continuation of excavation at the same site during the fourth phase will be decided only by the site superintendent, said the ASI sources.
Commenting on this, renowned archaeologist C Santhalingam told DC that similar practice was followed at the same site even in 2014-15. "The excavated sites will be covered with loose soil so that it could be opened again for further excavations," he said and added that in each trench, the site superintending archaeologist would make marks during the excavation.
It is possible to unearth even minute artifacts like beads only if they conduct the excavation in normal weather. "We will put the dry soil through sieve to identify the artifacts," he added.
About 5,300 artifacts were unearthed at Keezhadi during the first two phases of the excavation which showed the world that an urban civilization had existed in Tamil Nadu since the Sangam Age....