Arikamedu, about six km south of Puducherry, was flourishing port town during ancient Roman times. Remains of the port which was a major maritime centre between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD have been unearthed during excavations.
Situated at the mouth of the Ariyankuppam River, Arikamedu is derived from the Tamil word Arikanmedu. Archeologists called the site Arikamedu, which literally means “Eroding Mount”. The port town was inhabited by Romans, Cholas and French and evidence of their stay have been unearthed in the port town.
Arikamedu started off as a fishing village but with the development of trade, the village was replaced by a brick built harbour town. Today, only ruins remain of the once thriving port town. Besides maritime commerce, evidence has also been unearthed of inland trade with Kaveripattinam, Alagankulam, Musiri and Suttukeni along river valley routes.
Imports included wines in amphora jars, cups and plates of Terra Sigillata (fine red Roman clay pots), ceramic lamps, ceramic glasses, olive oil and other olive products. Textiles, fine terracotta objects, beads of semi precious stones, glass, plants, gems, shell bangles and spices were in turn exported. Terra Sigillata tableware have been found only in two places outside of Roman Empire; one of them being Arikamedu.
Arikamedu’s glass bead manufacturing facility was considered the “mother of all bead centers” in the world.
Arikamedu was first excavated in the 1940s and since then various excavations have been carried out. Of all the attempts, Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s establishment was the most favourable. Wheeler suggested that the northern part of the city was, more harbour oriented while the southern part of the city was the industry town. His excavations also revealed that the city of Arikamedu was a “sleepy fishing village” before the Romans arrived and after their departure survived the Chola, Pallava and Vijayanagara dynasties.
Currently, the town does not bare much except the perpendicular walls that were laid open and the French Jesuit Mission House – which was built in the 18th century.
WHERE TO STAY
There are no accommodations available at Arikamedu.
WHERE TO EAT
There are no places to eat at Arikamedu. It is advisable to carry food hampers and water.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Arikamedu is between October and March.
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