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19 September 2009
Archaeologists fight to get back Neolithic Indian artifacts

Archaeological findings dating back about 3,000 years discovered in the Kalady area (India) are in peril. The Neolithic findings have ended up in private custody, prompting the State Archaeology Department to initiate a move to recover them. An archaeology enthusiast K.A. Ali had recovered 43 stone axes and a grinding stone from a tributary of the Periyar. Two teachers of a private college in the region reportedly took possession of the major portion of the finds, which prompted the Archaeology Department to act. Though a large number of stone tools from the Neolithic were collected from Tamil Nadu during the second half of the 19th century, only a few were collected from the State, archaeologists said.
     Mr. Ali collected the Celts from a paleo-channel which flows through Mekkaladi near Kalady. A number of stone tools were recovered from the banks of the river channel Kottamnam Thodu. The stone axes are of parabolic shape with sharp cutting edges and an average length of 15 cm. The cutting edge of bigger axes has a width of 8 cm. The conical end of the axe helped the user to have a tight grip on the tool. It could also be connected to a piece of wood.
     "This is for the first time that evidences of Neolithic period have been obtained in large numbers in the State. Till now, there were only reports of sporadic findings," said S. Hemachandran, Superintending Archaeologist of the department. "The department is planning to undertake excavation in the area following the discovery," he said. "43 axes weighing between 8.3 kg to 55 gm were discovered from the area. Though the government had agreed to reward Mr. Ali for transferring the Celts to the department, no serious efforts were made for conducting archaeological explorations," said Don Bosco, a researcher, who first alerted the department about the finds. "There were also reports of sand-miners collecting axes in large numbers from the Periyar. Most of the finds might have ended up in the antiques market at Mattancherry," he said. Rajan Chedambath, archaeologist and the director of the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development, Kochi, said there were only stray reports of Neolithic sites from Kerala so far.

Source: The Hindu (14 September 2009)

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