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Tsunami Uncovers Ancient Treasures

February 18, 2005

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The December 26, 2004, tsunami killed more than 300,000 people and did billions of dollars' worth of damage to an entire region. Aid is still being shipped to the area in record numbers, and recovery efforts are still being slowed by civil wars and inadequate aid distribution systems. But the high waves have been a boon for archaeologists, who have reported a handful of discoveries of ruins previously buried under tons of sand and water.

The most recent of these announcements came today, as archaeologists in India announced the discovery of an ancient city near present-day Mahabalipuram, 30 miles south of Madras. As the mountainous waves that ravaged Mahabalipuram receded, they took them large amounts of sand. The result, in this case, was the uncovering of large structures elaborately decorated with carvings of animals. Officials think that the structures were part of a port city that existed there in the 7th Century.

The structures are six feet tall. One of them shows the head of an elephant. Another is of a horse in flight. Another is a reclining lion. Archaeologists say that such animals were used to decorate walls during this period in Indian history, called the Pallava Period.

The structures are also thought to be part of a legendary group of pagodas, ancient worship areas. Present-day Mahabalipuram is well-known for its shore caves, destinations for thousands of Hindu pilgrims each year.

Archaeologists are working underwater off the coast of Mahabalipuram. They hope that continued excavations will yield even more results.

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