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
Sun Oct 16 16:34:59 UTC 2011

Dear Corinna,

you might be interested in seeing what the newspaper wrote
in june 2009, when the discovery was made.

If you examine what K.Rajan said to the newspapers 2 years ago
(in june 2009),


you can see that at the time,
he thought that the grave was dated much later.

You can read in The Hindu
what he wrote
at the time

K. Rajan, Head of the Department of History, Pondicherry University, 
who directed the excavation, about 12 km from Palani in Tamil Nadu, 
called the discovery of Tamil-Brahmi script “very important” because 
it had been found in a remote village and goes to show that literacy 
had spread to even far-flung villages during the early Christian era. 
On palaeographical grounds, the script could be dated between the 
first century B.C. and the first century A.D., he said.

Regarding the nature of the artefact,
it was written in the same article that:

Opinion is, however, divided on whether the three letters are in 
Tamil-Brahmi or they are graffiti marks. Dr. Rajan quoted Y. 
Subbarayalu, Head of the Department of Indology, the French Institute 
of Pondicherry, and epigraphist S. Rajagopal as saying they were 
graffiti marks. However, V. Vedachalam, retired senior epigraphist, 
Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, and S. Rajavelu, senior 
epigraphist, Archaeological Survey of India, agreed with Mr. Mahadevan 
that it was Tamil-Brahmi. Dr. Vedachalam said the symbol of the bead 
had been found on every pot found in the cist-burial.

See also some comments on INDOLOGY at that time

See for instance:




One of the things which seems clear is that K.Rajan was taken by 
surprise by the dating (in the 5th century BC).


-- Jean-Luc

On 16/10/2011 16:38, Corinna Wessels-Mevissen wrote:
> Dear Jean-Luc,
> Thank you very much (I had already replied to you offlist), I shall go 
> through this publication.
> Of course, I am greatly looking forward to know the argument of the 
> eminent archaeologist Prof. K. Rajan in favour of distinguishing this 
> particular piece of evidence from so-called "potter's marks" (which is 
> not a very suitable term since we do not know whether it was really the 
> potter who has applied them).
> Best wishes,
> Corinna
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Von:* Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD <jean-luc.chevillard at UNIV-PARIS-DIDEROT.FR>
> *An:* INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
> *Gesendet:* 11:49 Sonntag, 16.Oktober 2011
> *Betreff:* Re: [INDOLOGY] Porunthal: dating of paddy in the 5th century 
> B.C. and possible consequences on the evaluation of the history of 
> writing in India
> Dear Corinna,
> are you perhaps referring to the kind of "signs"
> which are discussed by K.Rajan in a 2001 article
> (in a volume edited by ye.cupparAyalu and Ce. irAvu)
> The title of the article is
> "paNTai kuRiyITukaLum eZuttukkaLum"
> (ancient signs/symbols and letters)
> I attach it as a scanned PDF
> (it seems to fall within fair use,
> because the volume is difficult to find)
> Since, obviously,
> K.Rajan knows the difference
> between symbols and letters,
> I wonder why he decided in this case (in Porunthal)
> that we have "letters" and not "symbols" (or potters' marks).
> Best wishes
> -- Jean-Luc Chevillard (Pondicherry)
> On 16/10/2011 00:30, Corinna Wessels-Mevissen wrote:
>>  Dear Colleagues,
>>  What I have seen in the circulated picture is just typical "graffiti" 
> we are getting on Iron Age to Early Historical Period pottery in graves 
> (urn burial and/or "Megalithic"). It has been known since the 19th 
> century. Sometimes it comes like a "code" or intentional sequence. One 
> should, of course, analyse it further, but I fail to see a breakthrough 
> in this one. (I had studied such ceramics for my M.A. thesis back in the 
> 80ies and have seen scores of the typical pottery items, all without 
> Brahmi writing.)
> [.....]

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