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December 3 2003

Submerged city may be older than Mesopotamia

Submerged city may be older than Mesopotamia

A submerged coastal city near Poompuhar in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, is the focus of a major expedition being conducted jointly by the Indian Naval Hydrographic Department (INHD) and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Both the organisations are trying to piece together the city's past, which some noted marine archaeologists consider to be the birthplace of modern civilisation. The once flourishing port city is located about one mile off the Nagapattinam coast.

"We have been able to locate a section of the city at a depth of 7 m and will soon start operations to recover objects that will help ascertain its past," said Rear Admiral K.R. Srinivasan, chief hydrographer to the Indian government.

English marine archaeologist Graham Hancock, who conducted an underwater exploration in the area in 2001, believes that the Poompuhar site could be older than Sumeria in Mesopotamia, where modern civilisation is believed to have originated nearly 5,000 years ago.

The 2001 expedition was funded by Channel Four of Britain and Learning Channel of the US in association with the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa.

It led Hancock to surmise that the city could have been submerged by a tidal wave as high as 400 ft somewhere between 17,000 and 7,000 years ago.

Other experts like Glenne Milne, a geologist at the University of Durham, UK, agree with Hancock. Video footage of the site shows that the submerged city near Poompuhar was far superior to constructions found in Harappan sites.

Although NIO had conducted similar offshore expeditions in the area in the late 1980s and early 1990s and discovered objects like ring wells, brick structures and megalithic wares it did not evince much interest till Hancock revealed his findings.

The new venture by the INHD and ASI may put an end to the debate on the submerged city. It could also rekindle a new interest in locating other such submerged towns and shipwrecks along India's coastline.

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