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Excavations – Important – Pondicherry


Arikamedu (11°55′; 79°50′), Pondicherry (UT)
Arikamedu is located 3 km. south of Pondicherry, situated on the bank of a river named Virampattinam it has been identified with the port of Podouke of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and Ptolemy. Wheeler excavated this site with an objective to find out the remains of maritime contacts between ancient India and Rome and also to establish a datum line for the Indian antiquities (Wheeler, 1946).

The site had been under occupation before the introduction of the Arretine Ware in C. A.D. 25, i.e. towards the end of the 1st century B.C. or beginning of the 1st century A.D. Most of the structures post-date the Arretine Ware; a terminal date of A.D. 200 has been suggested by the excavator.

Besides other things he excavated an oblong building, which was identified as a warehouse, over 45 m in length, with a single partition wall and a side chamber towards the east was exposed in the northern sector. Its brickwork was externally rendered watertight by a tough lime plaster.

He also identified three different categories of imported Roman pottery were identified here by Wheele which helped to establish a clear chronology: (i) Arretine Ware belonging to the class of ware known as terra sigillata (stamped pottery) originating in the 1st century B.C. and driven out of the west market by A.D. 50. (ii) Amphorae, high-necked handled jars, used in the Roman world as containers of wine or oil, found in fragments in all strata. (iii) Rouletted Ware, a dish with an incurved and beaked rim which has a faceted edge. The flat inner base has two or three concentric bands of rouletted pattern. The body is usually black-to-grey in colour

The local pottery is usually grey and represents various shapes; it has little in common with the Megalithic pottery. A particular type is characteristic: it represents a special form of cup of small bowl of grey, grayish pink or black-and-red ware or fine fabric with a black slip inside and pink outside.

While terracotta figurines are rare, beads of the usual types and material, including three gold ones, are profuse in number. Metal objects include iron nails and a copper rattle. An ivory handle, a wooden toy boat a roughly fashioned block of wood with its central portion scooped out.

The excavation carried out by Vimala Begley of the University of Ohio and K.V. Raman of the Madras University during 1991-92 and 1992-93 helped in revising the chronology and functions of many of the structural activities at the site. Six prominent periods were established here and new types of Roman Amphorae were identified which were helpful in arriving at the concrete dates.

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