There were poetic Tamil names on those inscriptions, some of which you find in the Sangam literature. These people knew about the literature. By writing names on pottery, you sort of claim ownership. This is still in vogue.

But is this evidence enough to prove that a major civilisation existed?
If you look at the 130 BCE Kharavela inscriptions in Hathikhumba in Odisha, it tells us that there was a Tamil confederation at that time. There was a big kingdom down South with confederates, which Kharavela of Kalinga is said to have disbanded. This means there should have been a urban settlement, a civilisation and a kingdom in the South. Scholars in the North usually point to lack of archaeological evidence to deny these. After 70 years of independence, we got a chance to provide this evidence.

Is it right to make comparisons between the Vaigai settlements and the Indus Valley civilisation?
Vaigai river civilisation was as complex as the Indus Valley or Gangetic civilisations. We completed two seasons of excavations. I cannot say it is older than Indus Valley and Gangetic civilisation since dating of the site is not complete. We have done only till four metres and that too on only one site. The site goes deeper, even up to 6.5 metres.

Also, only the eastern and central sides of Keezhadi have been analysed. The northern and western sides remain. This is a great moment for all of us as these excavations could throw light on the rich past of this extraordinary region.

Were you disappointed that you were transferred in the middle of such a crucial project?
For the third season, I made the proposal. I was given the approval as well. Funds were allotted in March after a delay, claiming status report needed to be filed. But unfortunately, I have been transferred in the middle of this crucial excavation. While I am disappointed, I wish the new team takes forward the excavations and we find even better and older evidence.