Silent secrets of the sea

The sea, it is said, hides its secrets well. Over centuries, it has concealed sunken cities as well as wrecks of many ships in its depths. No wonder then, that archaeologists believe that there are more historical secrets lying underwater than on surface. Especially, in a country like ours.

"India has a 7,500 km long coastline and a maritime heritage that is over 5,000 years old. Most of the country's waters are unexplored and have the potential of containing rich archaeological treasures that can help solve many mysteries of the past,” says Alok Tripathi of the Underwater Archaeology Wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Till now, however, marine or underwater archaeology hasn't really taken off in India. ''Marine archaeological excavations in India started only in the early 1980s, though the world over, they started in the 1960s,'' says K H Vora, scientist in the marine archaeology division of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa.

Agrees Tripathi, ''The beginning of this stream of archaeology in India can be traced to excavations at Kaveripatnam in Tamil Nadu in 1981, where the submerged remains of a city of the Sangam era were found. This was followed by the offshore survey of an ancient submerged port that was undertaken in the Bay of Bengal in the same year.''

Since then, underwater archaeological excavations have mostly been done on the eastern and western coasts of India, as well as around the islands near the coasts. The most talked about excavation has been the one at Dwarka, off the Gujarat coast. ''While underwater excavations have been continuing here since 1983 and regular claims have been made of it being the site of Krishna's capital city, mentioned in the Mahabharata, fresh excavations this year in the intertidal zone and underwater locations here have revealed new evidence which will help determine the actual antiquity of the site,'' says Tripathi.