Archaeology in Auroville's International Zone

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Archaeology in Auroville's International Zone (excerpt)
Poppo Pingel, CIRHU Papers 5 (1997)


In the course of large-scale re-afforestation in the Auroville area during the 1980s, the hard earth-crust was punctured by thousands of holes for trees. In the process many pottery sherds and limestone fragments were unearthed. Although sherds are the geiger counters of archaeologists in the field, for the layman they hold little significance. But when crowbars hit hard granite at the bottom of several holes however we became alert – for the nearest granite hills are about 25 kilometres away.

This first discovery was a large granite slab weighing two tons, along with hundreds of potsherds and an iron axe. A carefully dug test pit next to the slab revealed the first complete terracotta item: a huge pot standing on six legs, measuring 80x120x90 centimetres, ornamented with two pairs of horns like those of a ram. It faced due west.

From relevant literature we learned that similar artifacts had been found earlier in the region, and were remains from the Megalithic Age. 'Megalithic Age' refers to a time when people buried their dead in simple structures incorporating massive stones. Megaliths are widely spread in India, and differ in time and form from their counterparts in Europe and other parts of Asia, showing amazing variety and character from region to region.

Within the area of the Auroville township, more than sixty additional archaeological sites have been found, concentrating in an area of twelve acres in the International Zone between Bharat Nivas and the Matrimandir. These contain a high concentration of potsherds, capstones, and cairn circles of 8 to 12 metres in diameter. Artifacts unearthed from these excavations include red-black pottery tumblers, bowls, plates, cups, lids; iron knives, axes, sickles, ladles, daggers and a sword; glass beads, and one golden bead. On one occasion bones were found in a simple urn. On another occasion some large bricks were found, which were dated to 100 BC.

The period around 100 BC is known to have been one of flourishing international trade. Arikamedu, twelve kilometers from Auroville, was once a an Indo-Roman trading centre. Roman merchant ships brought gold, wine and slaves in return for beads (manufactured in a huge factory area at Arikamedu), spices, silk and timber.


See also