Gardens of the Coromandel Coast: Landscape Considerations of Commercial Agriculture in Tamil Nadu, South India

Mark W. Hauser*, V. Selvakumar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The plantation as a fusion of rural industry and commercial agriculture has become a shorthand for the the intensification of land-use, circulation of commodities, and the organization of labor concomitant with the modern world. While not the only place where plantations existed, the Atlantic is the context in which most archaeological research has taken place leaving untested certain assumptions about the development of the plantation. and the regions which informed its varied materializations in the modern world. By extending the the methods and approaches employed by archaeologists studying plantations to South India, we decenter plantation narratives and show how Indian Ocean commercial agriculture and rural industry also enabled the modern world. This article reports on results from the first phase of the Colonial Tharangambadi Archaeological Survey (CTAS). The goal of CTAS was to document changing settlement patterns, settlement organization, and material assemblage through a systematic landscape survey in the former Danish colonial enclave, Tranquebar (Tharangambadi). Specifically, we documented one South Indian settlement formation devoted to commercial agriculture called “gardens,” which has origins in the sixth century CE, or earlier, and how they were used outside the town’s walls in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We argue that from historically distinctive agrarian facilities geared to commercial production, these plantation-like rural industries developed quite broadly using vulnerable labor to produce plant commodities in high volume for international markets. The particularities of plantation studies are enriched by considerations of parallel developments under similar conditions, as illustrated by India’s lesser-known Danish colony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1113-1141
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Archaeological Survey
  • Colonialism
  • Commercial Agriculture
  • India
  • Plantations
  • South Asia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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