The puzzle of Pattanam’s tubular jars

Excavation being conducted by the Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR) at Pattanam, 25 km from Kochi, has continued.

Recent findings:

  • During the ninth season of excavation this year, a row of eight tubular jars without bottom portions was found. The potter had deliberately left them open at both ends.
  • Altogether, 12 such tubular jars were found, eight in a vertical position, three that have fallen down and one with the portion broken.
  • The jars are 40-cm tall, and the diameter of their rim is about 13 cm. They were found in the 61st trench, the latest to be excavated.
  • The neck and rim of these jars resembled the torpedo jars found in the Mesopotamian and south Arabian regions with which Pattanam, or the ancient Muciri Pattinam, had trade links. But unlike the torpedo jars, the bottom of all these jars is open.
  • Researchers estimated that these jars, stratigraphically, belonged to the Early Historic period (fourth century CE) when the Indian Ocean transformed into a trade lake with links to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean littoral.
  • On the context in which these jars were found, scientists say the initial guess was that they were meant for rituals or storage. But it could not be proved. There was intense burning activity around the place where they were found.


Pattanam is a village located in the Periyar delta in Eranakulam district in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is located 2 km north of North Paravur, 9 km south of Kodungallur (Cranganore) and 25 km north of Kochi (Cochin). A branch of the Periyar river, called the Periyar Thodu (Periyar canal), runs close to Pattanam.

  • Pattanam is identified as the legendary port Muziris mentioned in the Greeco-Roman classical sources.
  • Many poems in the Tamil Sangam literature (third century BCE to third century CE) celebrate it as Muciri. The poet Tayankannanar describes the port on the banks of the Culliyam Periyar thus: “In Cheran’s prosperous Muciri town, the huge and beautiful Culli river flows, muddied with white foam. The Yavanas come with their fine ships, bearing gold, and leave with pepper.”

Archaeological investigations conducted recently have also unearthed a Chera coin, Amphora and semi-finished beads from the area. Foundation of a brick structure possibly used by artisans as their workshop is also found there. Oxford archaeologists have confirmed that Pattanam was an Indian port frequented by Romans and have put to rest doubts about the antiquity of the site.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.


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