By Monidipa Dey
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in its recent excavations in the Gottiprolu village site of Andhra Pradesh have unearthed a large settlement dating back to 2nd century BCE – 1st century BCE. The site of Gottiprolu lies around 80 km from Nellore and 17 km from Naidupet, and is on the right bank of a distributary of the river Swarnamukhi. The excavations have revealed the remains of a huge brick wall that surrounded a large settlement. This huge wall, which forms to be among the more outstanding discoveries from this site, is made of baked bricks and is nearly 2m in height, with an average width of 3.4 m and a length that runs more than 75 m.
A brick lined small rectangular tank is also worth mentioning, which stands near the inner side of a curved brick structure. It is interesting to note that the brick sizes, which vary from 43-48 cm, is comparable to the ones found in Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda sites (Satavahana-Iksvaku period).
Among the major artifacts unearthed from this site is a life-sized Vishnu murti, which stands almost 2m tall. The Vishnu murti is four armed, stands on a pedestal, and the lower back hands carry a chakra (right hand) and conch (left hand). The front left hand is in katisamsthita-hasta or katyavalambita pose, while the front right hand shows the abhaya mudra. Based on certain iconographical characteristics, such as the crown or the headgear, the yajnopavita, and dress pattern, ASI has dated the Vishnu murti to be around 8th century CE of the Pallava era, the powerful dynasty that had ruled the area from early 4th to late 9th century CE and had forged strong trade connections with many South East Asian countries.
However, the brick structures found at the site with their varying shapes and sizes are likely to belong to a much earlier period, and can be placed anywhere between 2nd-1st century BCE, which makes them almost 2,000 years old.
The other interesting discoveries of this site include an interesting moulded terracotta figurine of a female with its hands held upwards; and bases of conical jars, which are believed to be imitations of Roman amphorae, widely used for transporting liquid commodities, and are similar to the ones found in Tamil Nadu. The geographical location of the site (proximity to the coast) and presence of the amphorae like wares suggest that the site could have been a strategic trade centre involved in maritime trade in the ancient times. The presence of well-fitted terracotta pipe remains also show the existence of a drainage system, thus giving an idea of the civic amenities enjoyed by the ancients living here.
Other important artifacts unearthed include “copper and lead coins, iron spear head, stone Celts, terracotta beads, ear stud in semi-precious stone and hopscotches” (ASI on Twitter). Paleolithic and Neolithic era stone tools have also been found, suggesting pre-historic settlements in the region. Besides these major excavation finds, the ASI further reported that explorations conducted in and around Gottiprolu within a radius of 15 kilometres revealed important vestiges viz. fortified early historic settlement at Puduru, Subrahmanya temple at Mallam, unique rock-cut laterite stepped well at Yakasiri, (and) Vishnu temple at Tirumuru (ASI on Twitter).
Two close, well-developed, settlements within a radius of 15 km clearly shows the preferences of the ancients in settling down at strategic locations that kept in mind the nearness of various water-bodies, such as the sea, river, and lake. Further researches on the site and artifacts are on-going, and their future results will reveal greater details about the site’s importance as an ancient maritime centre.
(The author is a well-known travel writer. Views expressed are personal. All images from ASI’s Twitter feed/website.)