Tsunami unveils part of ancient city off India
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MAHABALIPURAM, INDIA - The tsunami that devastated the shores of the Indian Ocean also uncovered what appears to be part of an ancient city off the coast of what is already a United Nations world heritage site.
Mahabalipuram, a Hindu pilgrimage town just south of Madras on India's southeast coast, was heavily battered by the tsunami on Dec. 26.
Archeologists investigate an ancient artifact uncovered by the tsunami at Mahabalipuram, India. (AP photo)
When the giant waves receded, they washed away sand that had covered three rocky structures near the town, whose ancient, intricately carved temples are visited each year by thousands of pilgrims and tourists.
The structures include a bas-relief with elaborate carvings of animals that appears to be part of a temple wall or a portion of a seventh-century port city, T. Satyamurthy, a senior archeologist with the Indian government, told the buttociated Press. Early British travel writers described the Mahabalipuram area as the home of seven pagodas, six of which were submerged by the sea.
One of the two-metre structures uncovered by the tsunami shows is an elaborately carved head of an elephant or a horse in flight. Another has a reclining lion carved on it.
Lions, elephants and peachickens were often used to decorate walls and temples during the Pallava period in the seventh and eighth centuries.
"These structures could be part of the legendary seven pagodas," Satyamurthy said. "With the water receding and the coastline changing, we expect some more edifices to be exposed."
Archeologists and Indian navy divers began shoreline and underwater excavations of the area on Thursday.