Porunthal: dating of paddy in the 5th century B.C. and possible consequences on the evaluation of the history of writing in India

Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD jean-luc.chevillard at UNIV-PARIS-DIDEROT.FR
Sat Oct 15 09:14:33 UTC 2011

The members of this list may have heard of the following news item


It is often said that the "letters" found
are to be deciphered as "va-ya-ra". In Tamil discussion lists they are 
often presented as the equivalent of வயர (or 

One of the points which is discussed
is which language this might belong to.

I would be interested in comments
by those who can provide additional light on this discovery,
as I feel quite ignorant in these matters.

Best wishes

-- Jean-Luc Chevillard (Pondicherry)


15 10 2011


New results from the analysis of paddy grains found in the Porunthal 
graveyard archaeological site prove that writing systems in India were 
in existence in the 5th Century BC, predating the arrival of Asoka, 
according to history professor at the Pondicherry University and 
director of the excavation project at Porunthal K. Rajan.

Rice paddy samples that were contained in an engraved pot found inside 
one of the graves were found to be from 450 BC when analysed using 
Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) by the Beta Analytic Lab, USA, he 
said, addressing a private gathering organised by the Manarkeni 

Earlier, paddy sample from another grave was dated at 490 BC, but many 
scholars were unwilling to accept evidence obtained from only one 
sample. The analysis of the second sample proved that Tamil-Brahmi 
writing existed in the 5th century BC and was not invented in the 3rd 
century BC as was previously believed by scholars, he said. This was 
also the first time anyone had discovered Tamil-Brahmi script along 
with rice in any archaeological site. Scholars were still debating on 
the exact letters that were written and its meaning, he said.

Another significant discovery from the gravesite is that the paddy 
samples obtained in the graves in Porunthal were cultivated paddy of 
the Orissa Satvaika variety, he said.

The Porunthal site is located 12 km South West of Palani and was 
discovered to have archaeological value in 2006. In 2009-2010, Mr. 
Rajan and his team of 80 students started excavation at the site, 
which was divided into two sections – one area for habitation and one 
area with a graveyard. There were over 100 graves in the region, but 
with modernisation of the area, several graves have been destroyed and 
now only 30 graves are still intact, he said.

In the graves that were studied, it was found that while most of the 
containers found in the graves were made after the person's death, 
there was one container that showed signs of use. The team also found 
a pot with around 2 kilos of rice paddy, which had been sealed in 
airtight containers. These graves also contained a large number of 
beads, which were predominantly glass. The pottery in the grave was 
also engraved with Tamil-Brahmi script, he said. In two of the graves, 
the team found over 11,000 beads, which were made from glass or paste. 
The beads were originally made in the Vidarbha region, indicating a 
trade relationship between the two regions, he said.

The team had also unearthed a skeleton adorned with a necklace of 
beads in one of the graves, but they had not yet analysed the bones, 
he said. The excavation team also found pottery with a peacock design 
on it.

In his speech at the event, editor of the Manarkeni journal D. 
Ravikumar expressed distress at the destruction of various 
archaeological sites in the Porunthal region by quarries. History 
scholars T. Subramaniam, K. Vijayavenugopal and Raj Gouthaman spoke.

Retrieved from 

Copyright & Thanks to The Hindu Update 15 10 2011

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