MADURAI: To trace the origins of maritime trade during the ancient Pandya Kingdom of the Sangam period, the Tamil Nadu State Department Archaeology has started marine offshore exploration at Korkai, which’s once known as the principal centre of trade and important seaport of the Pandya Kingdom.
Korkai remains in existence as a small village in Srivaikuntam taluk of Thoothukudi district.
The programme organised on the premises of VOC Port in Thoothukudi was flagged off by Thangam Thennarasu, Minister for Industries, Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture and Archaeology.
As per the advice of Chief Minister MK Stalin, the first phase of offshore exploration would be taken up opposite the river mouth of Tamirabarani and it could certainly yield a wealth of archaeological information about the extent of ancient trade voyages.
“It was during 1968, the state government undertook excavations on land surface reaching a depth of two and half meters from where artifacts were exposed sequentially. The excavations discovered brick structures and potsherds bearing ‘Tamilzhi’ inscriptions. Carbon dating determined that the age-old Korkai culture flourished in 785 BC,” Thennarasu said.
To trace its origins of the ancient seaport, the experts would adopt ‘Multibeam Echosounding Sidescan Sonar and Subbottom Profiler’ with the advent of scientific archaeology. To execute the task, the Chief Minister has set aside funds of Rs 15 crore.
Moreover, Thennarasu said lands were acquired to set up ‘Porunai museum’ in Tirunelveli.
“A unique feature of Korkai was its pearl fishery, which attracted the Roman royalty, particularly, the celebrated queen Cleopatra,” said S Bose, former Head, Department of Tourism.
“Many gained exposure to the ancient international pearl trade and relationship between the Pandya kings in India and merchants in Rome,” he said.
Social Welfare Minister P Geetha Jeevan, Fisheries Minister Anitha K. Radhakrishnan, Director of Tamil Nadu Archeology Department, R Sivanandan, Thoothukudi Collector K Senthil Raj, Chairman of VOC Port Authority, TK Ramachandran, Mayor of Corporation P Jegan and others were present.