Evolution of the Tamil Script: An Archaeological Perspective


The scripts that encountered in Indus Valley Civilization and the graffiti marks subsequently unearthed in Chalcolithic and Iron Age could not be deciphered irrespective of scholarly attempts. Due to non-decipherment of the scripts, one could not bring out the salient features of various languages and their scripts that existed in India between 3000 BCE and 500 BCE. The satisfactory decipherment of Brahmi script that employed in Asokan edicts helped to push the date of Brahmi script to 3rdcentury BCE.

However, the Brahmi inscribed potsherds unearthed in Anurathapura (Sri Lanka) excavations, the Sangam Age memorial stones engraved with Tamil-Brahmi scripts found at Pulimankombai and Thathappatti in Tamil Nadu and the large number of Tamil-Brahmi inscribed potsherds unearthed in the archaeological excavations conducted at Porunthal and Kodumanal forced to review the so far held view on the date of Brahmi script.

The dates suggested for more than hundred Tamil-Brahmi cave inscriptions and the memorial stone inscriptions discovered at Pulimankombai and Thathappatti and the scientific dates obtained for more than 800 inscribed potsherds unearthed in the archaeological excavations conducted at Kodumanal, Uraiyur, Korkai, Karur, Kiladi Porunthal, etc., clearly established the fact that the Tamil society was a literate society well before 2500 years. The Damili (Tamil-Brahmi) script that came into existence well before 6th century BCE, started taking a round shape around 2nd-3rd century CE. This change led to the emergence of vatteluttu script around 5th century CE. This ancient script joining with Grantha script that introduced in Tamil Nadu later evolved as the present Tamil script around 7th-8th century CE. Thus, the Tamil language and Tamil script undergone a change through the years by absorbing the contemporary socio-cultural transformation.

This talk will be conducted in both Tamil (on 14th April, 2- 4pm) and English (on 15th April, 11am - 1pm).

About the Speaker

Dr.K.Rajan is Professor in Department of History, Pondicherry University, Puducherry from 2006. Previously he served as a Professor in the Tamil University, Thanjavur (1989 – 2006). He received the World’s Best Archaeologist Award for the year 2013 frp, the Shanghai Archaeology Forum under World Archaeological Discoveries and also received best teacher award for the year 2012 and 2013. He was a visiting Fellow at the Maison des Sciences de L’Homme, Paris, France (1998), Gakushin University, Tokyo, Japan (in 1997, 2000 and 2003), Cambridge University, UK (in 1998 and 1999), Charles Wallace Visiting Fellowship, University of Cambridge, UK (2004 – 2005), University College London (2002) and Sorbonne University IV, Paris, France (2009).

His area of expertise is in South Indian Archaeology, Proto Historical archaeology, Trade and Commerce and Traditional Technology.

Sat Apr 15, 2017
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM SGT
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