New carbon dating performed on organic deposits found in Mayiladumparai, Tamil Nadu has pushed the beginning of the Iron Age in southern India back by approximately 700 years, the Deccan Herald reports . Iron tools and weapons recovered during archaeological excavations at Mayiladumparai were analyzed for organic compounds, using the latest technology. These artifacts conclusively show that Iron Age India began at the same time all over the Indian subcontinent, and was hundreds of years earlier than the Ancient Near East, Egypt and Greece.
“The earliest Iron Age site in Tamil Nadu so far was [had been] 1500 BC, while all other such sites in the country were beyond 2000 BC,” explained MK Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost state. “There were a lot of questions on why there was no scientific evidence on the use of iron despite it being mentioned in literature and having rich iron ore in the Salem region [in Tamil Nadu]. With this, we now have findings.”
The carbon dating of the organic compounds removed from Iron Age archaeological digs in the Krishnagiri district produced a date of 2,172 BC. This showed that the Tamil people were aware of iron and had begun to use it nearly 4,200 years ago.
Based on the modern carbon dating of Iron Age Indian artifacts from the Tamil southern end of the Indian subcontinent, we now know that the Iron Age occurred simultaneously across the subcontinent. An Indian blacksmith today. ( ज्ञानदा गद्रे-फडके, / CC BY-SA 4.0 )
Tracing the Arrival of Iron Age India in Tamil Territory
In a presentation before the Tamil Nadu Assembly, MK Stalin told legislators that the newly obtained data came from samples removed during the 2020-2021 archaeological season at Mayiladumparai. The radiocarbon testing procedures were performed by the laboratory Beta Analytic in Miami, Florida, one of the foremost archaeological dating facilities in the world.
One set of samples produced the date 1615 BC, which was enough to push back the conventional timeline. But the second set dated back more than 500 years farther, which meant an even more radical reconsideration of the previous timeline was in order.
Other archaeological expeditions in Tamil Nadu have been finding items that date back far into antiquity. For example, artifacts newly recovered from Keeladi, a site that previously had been linked to southern India’s Sangam Period (third century BC to third century AD), have been dated to 600 BC. Meanwhile, paddy husks found in a burial urn in Sivakalai in the Thoothukudi district have been dated to 3,200 years ago.
But the proof that the Tamils entered the Iron Ag e when they did is the most significant discovery to emerge from these explorations so far.
“Through the findings, it has been established that Tamils who lived 4200 years ago were aware of iron,” Stalin said. “Dense forests were converted into fertile lands only after humankind began realizing the use of iron. This finding has answered questions relating the start of agricultural activity in Tamil Nadu.”
Stalin noted that Iron Age dating has been obtained from deposits taken from a number of archaeological sites in a different areas, including the Gangetic plains. But the cultural deposits taken from the Tamil site at Mayiladumparai has been the earliest dated up to this point.
“I have been saying that the goal of this government is to establish through scientific methods that the history of India should be rewritten from the Tamil land,” Stalin said. “The latest findings reinforce our thoughts.”
Tamil Nadu is an ancient land as this modern image reveals. Hindu women visiting the ancient Hindu monolithic of Pancha Rathas, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India. (matiplanas / Adobe Stock )
Excavating the Truth about the Great Tamil Empire
The history of the ancient Tamils is of great interest to modern-day scholars and residents in Tamil Nadu. The Tamil people of that time are the descendants of the people who live in Tamil Nadu today, and who still speak one of the world’s longest-surviving classical languages.
At the height of their glory, the Tamil people of southern India built a great empire that controlled vast areas of land. Their ascent to empire status began in the fourth century BC and overlapped with the Sangam period, which is recognized as southern India’s Golden Age of cultural achievement.
Tamil territory at this time also extended to Sri Lanka , under the authority of the four kingdoms that arose to prominence in the late first millennium BC and early first millennium AD. The Tamil empire was administered by the Chera, Chola, Pandya, and Pallava Dynasties, who contributed to the creation of an advanced urban and commercial culture that played an influential role in the cultural and economic development of the Indian Ocean region.
In conjunction with the release of the Mayiladumparai test results, the Chief Minister also announced that excavations would be undertaken in other areas of southern India heavily populated by ancient Tamils, in the search for more artifacts that would reveal the truth about their development as a society. Excavations in Pattanam (Kerala), Thalakadu (Karnataka), Vengi (Andhra Pradesh), and Palur (Odisha) will begin this year, Stalin said.
The government’s report on the latest findings also referenced the frequent mentions made of iron in Sangam literature . The many ways it was used were written about, and the methods used to make iron weapons were also outlined.
“It can be said that the iron industry was very advanced [in Sangam period] from the fact that many fine words about the iron industry find a place in Tamil literature,” Stalin noted.
This high level of development would only have been possible if the Tamil people had been using iron and perfecting its applications for many centuries, as it now has been proven they were doing.
Top image: Left to Right: 1. The iron pillar in the Qutb complex near Delhi, India. 2. The Statue of Unity, Gujarat, India, is the world’s tallest iron statue with a height of 182 meters (597 ft). 3. Close up of the top of the Qutb Iron Pillar. Sources: 1. Public Domain 2. CC BY-SA 4.0 3. CC BY-SA 2.0
By Nathan Falde