Tsunami Reveals Ancient Temple Sites
BY: PADDY MAGUIRE
Pancha-ratha Pallava Temple at Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu
Oct 28, MADRAS, INDIA (BBC) Layers of sea shells and debris point to previous tsunami strikes Archaeologists say they have discovered the site of an ancient temple in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the latest in a series of archaeological discoveries in the area struck by December's tsunami, which desilted large areas of the coastline.
The brick temple dates back more than 2,000 years to the late Tamil Sangam period and was discovered on the beachfront near Saluvankuppam, just north of a famous World Heritage site at Mahabalipuram.
The discovery lends more weight to growing evidence that a huge tsunami hit the east coast of India during this period, obliterating large
habitations along the coastline.
Layers of sea shells and debris point
to previous tsunami strikes
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) made the discovery while looking
for a 9th Century Pallava temple.
We are looking at the remains of a brick temple that was destroyed by a tsunami approximately 2,200 years ago
Badrinarayanan S, rtd director,
Geological Survey of India
"The tsunami exposed inscriptions on a huge rock that had previously been
protected as a site of importance," said T Satyamurthy of the ASI.
"These inscriptions dated back to 935 AD and said that Krishna the Third,
from the Rashtrakuda Dynasty in Karnataka, had given gold to a
temple to pay for keeping an eternal flame alight.
Shift from brickwork to granite
slabs indicates different periods
"This led us to dig further. Near the surface we found coins, pottery,
stucco figurines and bronze lamps and so we knew there must be
something more. Soon we discovered the remains of the 9th century Pallava
As they continued to excavate they came across the earlier Sangam temple.
The distinctive shift from courses of brickwork to large granite
slabs indicates the different periods.
"The Pallavas just built on the brick foundations left behind after the
Sangam temple was levelled. The two periods are there, clear to see,"
said Dr Satyamurthy.
But it is the question of how these two temples were destroyed rather than
their age that has fired the interest of the teams involved.
Shift from brickwork to granite slabs indicates different periods
Layers of sea shells and debris in the sand show that tsunami activity had
twice levelled the temple complex.
"The Pallava structure was destroyed by waves some time in the 13th Century
and evidence suggests that beneath it, we are looking at the
remains of a brick temple that was destroyed by a tsunami approximately
2,200 years ago," said Badrinarayanan S, a retired director of the
Geological Survey of India.
Another archaeologist from the ASI, G Thirumoorthy, said: "We can see these
tsunami deposits in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
We've found that devastation happened along about 1,200km (750 miles) of
India's eastern coastline.
"The discovery of this Sangam temple will lead us to other geological sites
along the coast and teach us more about the pre-Pallavan period."
Since the tsunami on 26 December, marine archaeologists have also discovered
evidence of large structures on the seabed up to 1km out to
They think the structures may be part of a former, legendary city of
Myths state the city was destroyed by a flood sent by gods envious of its