What began as exploratory studies in Kerala, has thrown up enough artefacts and structures of two millennia old Indo-Roman trade era to delight archaeologists, who are looking for the lost port of Muziris.
Archaeological teams in Pattanam village, near the port city of Kochi have been working on a site, which has yielded pottery, amphora, beads and other artefacts that are reminiscent of the ancient Romans.
"The initial studies carried out in this region have amply indicated that there was a Roman presence. The Roman ceramics, pottery and coins found here indicates deeper Roman ties and therefore, based on the artefacts abounding this area, we presented a proposal to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which got approved," said the Director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research, P J Cherian,
Cherian has been heading a study that has been a parallel exercise to the excavation and conservation being carried out under his guidance.
"The most exciting thing we have excavated today is a human remains. In our climatic conditions and soil acidity, it is hard to expect these kinds of remains to stay intact. So, now we will send these identified human remains to the laboratory for further analysis," added Cherian.
Historians believe the lost port of Muziris was key to trade between India and the Roman Empire. For many years, people have been in search of the almost mythical port, known as Vanchi to the locals.
Pattanam is the only site in the region to produce architectural features and material contemporary to the period.
Speculations and guesses for the location of Muziris had initially hinted on the mouth of the State's Periyar River, at a place called Kodungallor - but now evidence suggests a smaller town nearby, Pattanam, is the real location.
Many pieces of amphora were found, at the now excavated site, which is a Mediterranean pottery.
The ancient town was an exchange point according to scriptures. The Romans brought in gold and took back the region's aromatic spices, including 'black gold'- pepper.
In 1983, a large hoard of Roman coins was found at a site around six miles from Pattanam.
However, even if Muziris has been found, one mystery remains - how it disappeared so completely in the first place.
While archaeologists and scholars celebrate, the owners of the piece of land are worried about their rights to the place.
"A few archaeologists came to us and asked permission to carry out excavations on our land. They said that they wanted to do some research on the place. They began digging deep and found artefacts and now that it is an archaeological site, we wonder what will happen to our land," said Valsala Kumari, who hoped to get back her land.
With the site now being marked as an Archaeological treasure, Kumari and her family say, they never knew the place would throw up so much of the unknown.