11th season of excavations begins at Pattanam

Relics found up to a depth of four metres

The 11th season of excavations has begun at Pattanam in the Ernakulam-Thrissur border, as part of the endeavour to unearth more mysteries about the ancient port of Muziris that is said to have been located in the region around 1,000 years before Christ.

The area is a treasure trove of ancient history, with the excavation at every 10 cm depth leading one to relics that date back to another 100 years. The sedimentation process during the past 3,000 years has led to relics and other items of yore accumulating at different levels, up to a depth of around four metres, says P.J. Cherian, Director of Pattanam excavations.

He served as Director of the Kerala Council of Historical Research. “The relics that date back to 1000 BC show the history of human settlements in Pattanam and the maritime trade that the locale witnessed.”

Fragments collected over the years have proved beyond the shadow of doubt that this was indeed the port of Muziris. As proof, there were items that were used by 40 different language groups – from what is now Spain, to South China. Excavations which led to unearthing of 11 productive samples of DNA — sourced from teeth and bones which could not be identified as male/female — were put to mitochondrial tests and compared. They point to a plural cosmopolitan life that existed in Kerala, well before Christ, says Mr. Cherian, who led the excavations during the first nine seasons.

They provided the springboard for the Muziris Heritage Project, which resumed after a lull during the 2015-2020 period, when the PAMA Institute for Advancement of Transdisciplinary Archaeological Sciences came into the picture in 2020.

Interestingly, there was little to suggest of any religious activity during the Muziris era. Trade was not at all in the modern sense, what with barter system being the norm. The discovery of wine containers of different shapes, used in 11 places in the Mediterranean, is proof that foreign traders paid back for spices and other commodities procured from Kerala with gold and wine, he says.

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