Part of the metal head of a sculpture showing signs of african art discovered when a well was dug at Allaippiddi on the island of Kayts in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka, has been brought to the attention of archaeologists through the efforts of local professor Nadarajah Vakeesan from Bharathi Vidyalayam.
The object, found at the Palk Bay site in Kayts, an ancient colonial port island containing pottery dating back to centuries BC, a hoard of Chola artifacts and a shipment of goods from China dating back to the century XII that had been found previously and where some Islamic and European colonial monuments are located, now also shows connections to black Africasay academics.
The sculpture, 14 centimeters high and 12 wide, has yet to determine its metal content, says Professor P. Pushparatnam of the University of Jaffna, speaking to the media about the artifact acquired by archaeologists P. Kapilan and S. Manimaran. Professor Pushparatnam noted that the protruding jaw, thick lips, receding forehead, sleek curly hair, back of head, and long neck, they link it as an African art sculpture.
Many african communities, especially from the part of the Horn of Africa and the north in ancient and medieval times, and many Africans during colonial times, were in contact with the maritime zones of South Asia for commercial, mercenary, religious and work reasons. The long neck that the sculpture shows is considered a sign of beauty for many African people. The finish of the shoulder probably means that the sculpture was originally designed as such. But what has been found is only half of a cast image, as you can see in the photo from the other side. The two face piercings and one other are deliberate.
With the lack of contextual and typological studies, it is difficult to say when and from what part of Africa the jaffna sculptureBut there is much literary and popular evidence available of contacts between Jaffna and an African people, identified by the name Papparavar, at least in the days of the Jaffna kingdom, scholars say.
Papparavar is a community of mercenary soldiers who came from Jaffna, according to the Vaiyaapaadal historiographic literature, which was written in the times of the Jaffna kingdom. It seems that some time later they dedicated themselves to fishing. Although the identity of the community is not found in the Jaffna caste system today, there are at least some place names that remind us of the settlements of the Papparavar. Vaiyaapaadal places them under the caste of Pa’l’luvili.
The land where the Nayinaa-theevu Amman temple today, it is known as Papparavan Challi (which means land of shells by Papparavan). The temple is located in an archaeological site. Nayinaa-theevu, which is an island adjacent to Kayts, was also called as Papparavath-theevu.
Another related name is Papparavap-piddi (the high coastal land of Papparavar), north of Chaalai in the sand column that joins the peninsula of Jaffna with the rest of the island. It is also an archaeological site.
Pappara-theasam and Papparavar are general references to Africa and its black people in the Tamil lexicon and as it is deduced through the evidences that corroborate the neighboring languages. In Sanskrit, Babhroo is a country associated with people with curly and dark brown hair. Barbarian terms related to ancient Greek and Arabic and Berber in the languages of late Europe, refer to the people of the Berber territory of the western part of North Africa, such as Morocco.
Morocco played a significant role in trade, geographic travel, Islamic missions and mercenary soldiers in pre-medieval Europe and the maritime age of South Asia. Ibn Battuta, who met the King of Jaffna during his travels in the middle of the 14th century, came from Morocco. Many of the early Islamic maritime missions of a mystical school associated with Dargahs that come from South India, the Maldives and the island of Sri Lanka, originate from Morocco. Ma’nkumpaan contains some Muslim monuments associated with the Dargah tradition.
But nevertheless, african art sculpture found in Allaippiddi could not belong to Islam or the hybrid Arab cultures of North Africa. According to academics, he is from black Africa.
Vaiyaapaadal makes a differentiation between Papparavar and Choanakar and he mentions them as having a different identity when he lists the groups of mercenary soldiers who had arrived in Jaffna. Choanakar are usually Arabs.
The kayts islandDue to its location in front of the Palk Strait and its surveillance of the entrances to the Jaffna lagoon, it was a center of maritime contacts from very early times.
The pre-christian ceramic deposits, from the protohistoric period, have been found on the islands of Chaaddi and Kumpu’rup-piddi. In 1960, the curator of the Jaffna museum, M. P. Selvaratnam, acquired a large number of artifacts found at Naaraanthanai in Kayts. In 1971, Professor K. Indrapala discovered a Chola inscription at Kayts Fort and in 1977 Professor John Carswell found a shipment of Chinese goods at Allaippiddi, but it is still necessary to delve deeper into the history in order to truly understand the African past.
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