05 March 2018

Muziris diary: പട്ടണം(Pattanam )

Pattanam excavation is one of important part of Muziris heritage project. The site is located in place called Pattanam(or Pattanam kavala) which is 8 KM from Kodungallur and 25 KM from Cochin (North Paravoor). The site, which lies at the mouth of River Periyar, tells 3000 year old story of an ancient port city called Muziris.
There were six major port city, specified in Sangam literature, among them was Muziris(Muchiri pattanam). Although, Muziris, a long lost port city, was specified in many ancient script,literature travelogue and maps,the exact location of this long lost port city was not found for great number of year. Historian argued on the location of this port city, and some says it was the same present day Kodungallur as the ancient port city. But, depend on the various scripts and travelogue,ground surveys,research and experiments reveals more accurate location of this long lost port city along with hard historical importance for Kerala. Archaeologists initiate the excavation to find more proofs about this ancient port with the help of KCHR and locals.Excavation of this site during 2004-2009 reveals much information concerning the importance of this ancient port city.
The evidence found out during excavation points, this port city was connected to various known ancient cities/civilization such as Egypt,Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome,China etc for trade and cultural exchange. And, also proved that this site, is populated since Iron age. Archaeologists, called this site a multicultural site, have been divided into five cultural periods depend on the layers and deposit. And, they are:
  • Iron age(1000 BC-500 BC)
  • Iron age-Early Historic transition(500 BC-300 BC)
  • Early Historic(300 BC-500 CE)
  • Medieval(500 CE-1500 CE)
  • Modern(1500 CE-...)
Excavation is done only part and there is lot more to bring to the light.
As mentioned early, the knowledge about this ancient port city was depicted in many legends, stories, travelogues of ancient travelers. This entire port city, once thriving, wiped out without clues for, its location or existence, many years because of the great flood happened in Periyar river in 1341 AD.
This excavation site has temporarily closed, but the museum, in this location, is open to all and the artifacts excavated so far, all displayed here .
In museum you can find artifacts excavated from this location,arranged in its chronological order. Below is some of the photos took from the museum.
The stone beads found at Pattanam sites are dated back to Early Historic Period. These finding points the people of ancient Pattanam were experts in working on almost all variety of semi-precious stones. Some of these stones are available in Kerala(Western Ghat region) and some were imported from other regions of Indian subcontinent.


The Fortuna

The Leaping Lion
Intaglio is a semi-precious stone with design cut or carved into its surface. Intaglio sometime used as seal stone, ring-stones or pendants. The engraved subject is sunk beneath the surface as a negative image. The leaping lion intaglio measures 1.2 x 1.0 cm, and is belonged to early historic period and the Fortuna intaglio measuring from 1.5 x 1.0 cm and belonged to early centuries of Christian Era. The human figure in the intaglio is the Roman goddess Fortuna and has similarity to the Greek goddess Tyche
Amphorae shreds found in Pattanam were containers for transporting wine. It is identified that amphorae, shreds excavated at Pattanam, were originated from different location around Mediterranean, such as , Greece, Italy, Turkey, Syria,Spain,France and Egypt
A Stone
A sliced stone in above picture, which look like a sliced cheese, shows that advanced stone slicing technology of Pattanam in early historic periods, which is approximately 2000 years ago.
Glass beads
The beads found at Pattanam are of Indo-Pacific variety which are found in the Indian subcontinent and many contemporary port sites in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea
Symbols and Scripts

A stylus
Tamil-Brahmi inscription on a potsherd
The finding of these symbols and scripts indicates that people of ancient Pattanam were literate. The styles of letters dated to 2nd century CE.Swastika symbols on shred may also gives light to ancient Pattanam port contacting other port city . Similar kind of Swastika impression on shred and seals were also found at Indus civilization. Lothal was a thriving port city in ancient time which is one of the Indus civilization. But, timing of these civilization has much distinction and influence of indus civilization can be found all around the subcontinent. So, lets have a break for the time being, until it comes to light.
Swastika symbol of Indus civilization

The Aroma
From ancient times to present, Arabian region is known for the production of best quality frankincense. Frankincense also found in different parts of India including Western Ghats.

Muziris Papyrus
The papyrus found out at Pattanam excavation site reveals that its an agreement between a merchant from Muziris and banker in Alexandria. It details the commercial exchange between the Mediterranean and the Malabar cost in the Indian Ocean. This agreement dated back to 2nd century CE.

Glazed Jar
This brown glazed jar belonged to the period of 15th-16th century CE. It clearly points ancient Pattanam's connection with China and Southeast Asia.

Local Pottery

Vessels & Pottery from other Regions



At Pattanam iron was used from the Iron Age. The tools made from iron were kitchen tools,Axes, farming tools, chisel(for manufacturing purpose), hooks, chains, rings and nails. Study shows, iron metallurgy have been practiced at Pattanam. At the hinterland of Pattanam avails Iron-rich lateritic soil, which gives ores for metallurgy. The presence large number of smithing slag in Pattanam gives the good evidence for practice of iron-works.
Coins, made using lead and copper, found out at Pattanam gives the information regarding economy. These coin of different shapes have variety of motif,styles and inscriptions on it .

Gaming and Utilitties

Structures and Storage


Tubular Jars

Storage/Soakage Jars

Ring Well
The various styled tiles and bricks found at Pattanam emphasize the urbanization of this ancient port. The type of bricks unearthed at Pattanam were found in other port city and sites across subcontinent. The structures built at Pattanam were used well burned bricks of rectangular or square shape.The various tiles (roof tiles)along with bricks unearthed from Pattanam indicates the cultural shift. For example the Koorayodu(Medieval period) unearthed from Pattanam indicates the decline in trade activities and dissertation(partial) of the site.
The storage jars excavated at Pattanam were used to storing things, such as grain, water,and other things. These jars has thick rim and large convex body. These storage jars were found reused as soakage jar in toilet features. The soackage jars had been found below the floor level of the brick structures. These features indicates the standard of living and concern of hygiene.
The ring well known as Manikkinar in malayalam are found at many sites in Subcontinent were used as walls in wells. Large number of broken and few intact terracotta ring-wells have been found during excavation at Pattanam

At Pattanam one of the most important finding was 2500 year old, 6 meter long wooden canoe made using Anjili(Artocarpus hirsutus Lam). The carbon dating indicates that this canoe belongs to First century BCE - First century CE.

The Expedition and Evidence
Archaeologist and historians debated over the location of this long lost port city for many number of years. The mentioning of this port were found in the most famous tale and legends in Indian continent such as Ramayana by Valmiki, Silapddikaram by Ilango Adigal, Manimekhalai by Chithalai Chathanar and Akananuru of Sangam literature. Pliny the Elder, Ptolemy, Strabo describes about the Greco-Roman trade with this port city as well. But, the historical evidence were not enough to support the existence of this port city. All the available description says that Muziris was the entrance gate for trading in Indian subcontinent. It was called as the first emporium of the orient. Pattanam, in ancient language is identified as ferry, port site, port city etc, and known as Muziris,Muchiri pattanam,Mucherri Pattanam,Muyirikode. Muziris, the emporium of the orient,welcomes the Jews, Islam, Christians into this subcontinent, who lived peacfully.
People begin to live here since Iron age. Peoples from different location and nation came here for trade, which begins before christian era. Peoples from different nation,culture, religion are all coexisted here peacefully. The human habitation continued here up to 10 AD. But, between 10 AD - 16thcentury there is no evidence of people lived here(dark age). After 16thcentury to 17th century the evidence of very less human habitation found here. The historical importance of this site included with various monuments, peoples, traditions, beliefs covering 50 km around this site.The 20 KM perimeter under water expedition is also in consideration.
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