Salvaging remnants of antiquity

Archaeologists rue the fact that many crucial prehistoric sites have been lost, as foundation stones for concrete structures obliterate the precious threads of human evolution.
Salvaging remnants of antiquity
Representative Image

Chennai

Much of prehistory has been lost over the years, especially as rapid development and lack of awareness are erasing these ancient sites from existence, paving way for concrete jungles.
Archaeologists rue the fact that many crucial prehistoric sites have been lost, as foundation stones for concrete structures obliterate the precious threads of human evolution.
Shanti Pappu and Kumar Akhilesh, using satellite remote sensing, developed a heritage management plan for prehistoric archaeological sites in Tamil Nadu, in partnership with ISRO.
“Salvaging is so important to save the prehistoric evidence,” said Pappu, narrating a recent incident when they could carry out an excavation before the foundation trenches were laid. “This was a Korean company near Sriperambudur, which was about to construct at a site which had prehistoric value. We requested them and on surveying the site, found a rich yield. They stopped work, so we could salvage the evidence. When we find out about these places, we document the section, and excavate, after which construction can take place,” said the expert.
How do experts know where to look? “In the project with ISRO, we devised a model to predict such sites, using expert knowledge, satellite remote sensing and field work. We generated maps around Poondi, which has so many prehistoric sites, but lost to construction.
We have suggested remedial measures, where we salvage in these sites, before they are used for constructing buildings,” she added.
Eminent archaeologist K Paddayya said that legislation is required to protect such sites. “Documentation should be undertaken before developmental projects. In countries like US, UK and Australia, heritage is religion. They have a legislation that whenever a major developmental project is proposed, the builders need to get a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the Archaeology department, stating that the land has no heritage value. If there is, five percent of the total outlay should go to protecting the heritage, with a team of experts, who will document and even, excavate if needed. Only then foundations can be laid. In our country, we have been fighting for such a legislation for two decades now,” he added.

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