Muziris excavations: PAMA to partner with Archaeological Survey of India

An exhibit about the excavations at Pattanam, the hisorical city of Kodungallur. File/Manorama

PAMA Institute for the Advancement of Transdisciplinary Archaeological Sciences, an offspring of a nonprofit multidisciplinary third-sector educational trust, would continue the excavations at Pattanam village in Ernakulam district and Mathilakam in Thrissur.

The Pattanam excavations, which began in 2006-07, would be entering the 11th season in 2021. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the prominent partner in the 2021 excavations.

Prof. R V G Menon is the chairman and Dr. PJ Cherian is the director of the Pattanam-based PAMA Institute.

Besides promoting multi-pronged evidence-based research, PAMA aims to transform Pattanam village into a knowledge hub and a model world heritage site with civil society support. PAMA centre located at Pattanam offers short and long term research internships to students across disciplinary, age and nationality borders.

One of the main objectives of the Muziris Research Project is to gather evidence and analyze ancient India's trade and cultural transactions from the coast of Gujarat to Bengal and beyond. So far, the excavations undertaken at Pattanam have unearthed relics of three dozen cultures linked to diverse geographies and linguistics that extend from Hepu site in Southern China to Catalonia in Spain, dated broadly from 5th century BCE to 5th century CE. They point towards a highly sophisticated and plural culture flourishing in the Periyar delta region with its indigenous settlements dating back to 1000 BCE.

Fossils of an old canoe is seen at an exhibition on Muziris. File/Manorama

The excavations of the 10th season had unearthed important artefacts, including a seal-ring with the image of Greek She-Sphinx closely resembling the seal ring of Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor and a Greco-Roman head statuette reiterating the brisk Muziris connections with the Mediterranean world.

The ASI has named Dr. K P Mohandas (Head of the Thrissur circle of ASI), Dr. Linto Alappat (Head of Geology Department, Christ College, Irinjalakuda), Dr. Rajesh C V and Dr. Abhayan G, (faculty, Department of Archaeology, Kerala University), Prof. Veenus Jain (Head of History, Amity University) and Dr. Deepak P (faculty, Department of Computer Sciences, Queen's University, Belfast) as co-directors.

Dr. P J Cherian, who led the Muziris excavations since 2006-07 is the director of the project. The field research would commence at Pattanam and Mathilakam once the Covid situation is under control.

Pedestrian surveys at Periyar Valley

PAMA Institute is also planning ward-based pedestrian surveys in the jurisdictions of local self-governments situated on both banks of the Periyar River to document the material surface remains and associated memories/information of the local communities.

The project titled “Periyar River Valley: Mapping Materials and Memories” aims to discern the role of Pattanam hinterland in the making of the legendary port of Muziris adorned once as the “Queen of Oceans”.

PAMA has created a digital group of the LSG ward members of the Panchayats/Municipalities on both banks of Periyar River to be the patrons of the scientific exercise. PAMA hopes this would familiarise them with digital modes of investigations and longue durée understanding of the human-geography of Periyar from its origins in the Western Ghats to the Indian Ocean.

Opportunity for students and science enthusiasts

Students and science sensitive public can become part of this project by registering and paying Rs 200 online. They should be residents of the ward in a particular LSG along the river course, proficient in using smartphones and committed to following scientific methods. They will be treated as PAMA interns and will be given methodological training. Those who successfully complete the 21 days of Pedestrian survey will be given Internship certificates.

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