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

Corinna Wessels-Mevissen corinnawessels at YAHOO.DE
Sun Oct 16 17:55:51 UTC 2011

Dear Jean-Luc,

Thank you, and also Valérie, for making available this information. (Regarding the postings, 2009 falls in the gap when I was not on the Indology list.)

I am glad that the 'Hindu' article of 2009 refers to a discussion amongst specialists regarding the interpretation of the signs. This is the right approach. Everyone should also bear in mind that scientific dating is not sacrosanct and that there could be many possible sources of error (contamination of the material, measuring fault, etc.).

While looking into the general topic in the internet, I found mention of an interesting piece of Brahmi with an admixture of graffiti marks, which is really remarkable, as it points to a transition between both "systems":


For a photograph see here:


The sherd is reported to be missing in the meantime. I know the excavator and shall get in touch with him.

I was pondering about the matter during the whole day and it occurred to me that the graver the consequences of a discovery, the more reliable the interpretation of a certain fact should be. A sudden pushing back of a date (or, for that matter, an alleged predating) should not lead to a neglect of the discussion whether we are dealing with Tamil Brahmi or just graffiti marks accidentally resembling them.

Best, Corinna

Von: Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD <jean-luc.chevillard at univ-paris-diderot.fr>

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

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