Arikamedu is an archaeological site on the southern side of Pondicherry.  According to excavations carried out in the area, the mound (Arikamedu means “eroding mound”) was the site of a major trading center linked to Rome in the first centuries of the Common Era.

On rented bikes Vimal, Vipra, and I headed out to the site, which I had heard about, but never seen.  It is not easy to find.  After a few false starts a narrow road led to a chain link fence separating one jungle thicket from another.  We met a man at the entry, intently looking at the dirt path, stooping every so often to pick something up and deposit it in a paper packet.  We asked if he could show us around.  No problem.

First sight, the ruins of a late seventeenth-century French mission

We continued on through the brush to the edge of the estuary.  Blue and red fishing boats were moored to the mangroves and men stood fishing waist-deep in the water.  Here there was a marked mound mound which we climbed up.  This was apparently the boundary of the ancient port city.

Out guide, attentive as ever, leaned over to pick up bits of pottery that the ground was covered in.  Roman, he said to one piece, red on one side, grey on the other.  How about this one, I asked.  He dismissed it, and threw it back on the ground.

The farther we walked, the more times our guide stooped to pick up small bits from the dirt.  He showed us—tiny beads in all different colors, most so small as to be almost invisible.  Once our eyes became accustomed to picking them out from the soil, it was as if the ground were teeming with these tiny treasures.  Roman?  The guide gave no answer.  This one patch of the jungle, looking like any other if not for the demarcating fence hid so much.  The adventure was in looking.

My finds:

Please visit Suresh Pillai’s blog, a one man mission to gain protection and recognition for this site:

If you’re interested, more can also be found here:

And a study on the implications of the site on understanding trade relations in the first centuries of the common era from Duke University:


One comment on “Arikamedu

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