Two seasons of excavation, undertaken during May and June, in 2009 and 2010, have put Porunthal firmly on India's archaeological map. The village is a habitational-cum-burial site, datable from the second century Before Common Era (BCE) to the second century Common Era (CE). Excavation at its habitational mound called Pasi Medu and the opening of four graves about a kilometre away have yielded a wealth of artefacts. Among them are 2,000 superbly crafted glass beads in red, white, yellow, blue and green; 12,000 beads made of semi-precious material such as agate, quartz, carnelian and steatite; quartz micro-beads with a diameter of less than 1.4 mm and a hole punched through them; bangles made of glass and shell; exquisite four-legged jars that vary in height from 12 centimetres to one metre; two ring stands with similar Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions datable between the first century BCE and the first century CE; two iron swords; a big iron arrowhead; and a number of knives. A square copper coin belonging to the Tamil Sangam age; dice made of ivory; terracotta objects such as a humped bull, a woman's head with curly hair, a human figurine, gamesmen, spindle whorls and hopscotch; and weights made of quartz and ivory were among the other unearthed artefacts. An important find was two kilograms of paddy in a four-legged jar in a grave that had the remains of a skeleton. The paddy looked as fresh as if it had just been harvested.
Prof. Rajan, director of the excavation project, said: “Our excavation has established that Porunthal was the largest glass bead-manufacturing site in southern India. If an earlier excavation at Kodumanal near Erode had exposed the existence of industries for making beads of semi-precious material, iron and steel in Tamil Nadu, a glass-bead industrial site was eluding archaeologists. The Porunthal excavation has brought to light that also.”
A great past in bright colours