The 2,500 year-old Indian City that Once Clothed Rome!

  • 25 Jun 2019

Kodumanal is a unassuming village in Tamil Nadu and it would be a stretch - both geographically and imaginatively, to say that it had, or has, anything remotely to do with the city of Rome in Italy.

But as they say - fact can sometimes be stranger than fiction, and as archaeological excavations has revealed, the village was a prominent supplier of cotton to the Italian capital, during ancient times. The village - located mid-way on a Roman trade route, played a major-role in Indo-Roman trade and relations, more than two thousand years ago, experts have found.

Digs by the Archaeological Survey of India since the 1960s has yielded finds of cotton material, terracotta weaving implements, ornaments of various kinds, evidence of iron making crucibles and furnaces, and even a Roman coin from the reign of Julius Caesar (mid-1st century BCE) in pristine condition.

The village is also home to hundreds of megalithic tombs, of historic periods. According to experts, only about 1% of the site had been excavated.

Despite being a location inhabited since ancient times and the site of one of the most important archaeological excavation, Kodumanal stays below the radar, with nary a museum nor signpost indicating the spot where the various tombs are located.

Hundreds more tombs lie hidden underground, waiting to be unearthed.

 Advanced iron makers

The iron and steel furnaces at the site also revealed that its residents were experts in manufacturing the finest iron. A piece of sword found here, for instance, contained spheroidal graphite phase and forge welding of high-carbon cutting edge. 

Apart from swords and arrow heads, the people of Kodumanal also produced beads, shell bangles and pottery. Roman silver coins, gold and silver spirals, and a bronze statue of a lion were also found at the site. 

The historical find has put Kodumanal on the map, quite literally. 

Before archaelogical work started there about 30 years ago, the village of about 1,100 people did not even have a tea stall. 

But now, there are multiple buses plying the route between the village and the nearest city, and there are also shops and telephone booths. 

Location wise, Kodumanal also sits on a rather strategic spot. It is surrounded by areas where iron, beryls, and sapphires are mined. There's also a riverbank that connected the village to the Cauvery river and Bay of Bengal, nearby. 

It is indeed fascinating to see how a small rural community played an important role in the great Roman civilisation, during ancient times. 

What other wonders Kodumanal and its surrounding areas are still "hiding", only time can tell. 

Source: The Hindu, Wikipedia
Photo Source: The Hindu, Twitter

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