The Sangam was a College or Assembly of Tamil poets held under early Pandyan patronage. It is generally said that three Sangams were held which lasted for 9,990 years, attended by 8,598 poets and were patronised by 197 Pandyan kings.
It is also believed that the available Sangam literature produced by these assemblies was compiled between circa AD 300 and AD 600. However, a substantial part of this literature reflects the society which prevailed in the second century AD.
So, it can safely be assumed that with a few exceptions, most of the anthologies belong to a period roughly from the third century BC to the third century AD, which is also the most intelligible phase of archaic social formation in South India. However, the individual chronology of different collections cannot be ascertained with any amount of precision.
Of the whole corpus of literature, the Ettuttogai collection excluding Kallittogai and Paripadal is considered to be the most archaic, belonging to circa third century BC – third century AD. Some of the idylls of the Pattupattu collection are also of a nearer antiquity.
The Tolkappiyam, a prescriptive grammar and system of poetics, has often been considered to be even older than the earliest anthologies but has now been shown to describe palaeographic features which do not enter the language until the fifth century AD. The twin Tamil epics of Silappadikaram and Manimekalai were composed around the sixth century AD.
In recent years there has been some attemp at collation of Sangam literary evidence with t other forms of evidence such as archaeologic foreign accounts, epigraphical and numismat evidence.
The site Kaverippatinam, also known as Puhar, Kakandi an Sampapati, has yielded a sluice, a punch-marke silver coin, Rouletted Ware and a brick platform (dock) – all probably contemporary with the Sanga period.
However, no trace of a city was found ther Similarly, at Uraiyur, a Chola capital, also know as Koli and Varanam, level I, which represents ti Sangam period, yielded Black and Red Ware,1 Russet-coated Painted Ware, Rouletted and supposedly Arretine Ware (of Roman inspiration), and a dyeing vat besides ordinary red and blac pottery.
There were shell and paste beads, terraco gamesmen, and bone points and potsherds inscribec with the Brahmi script. But the Chola capital has not been found. Similarly, at Akkadu in Tanjavur, suggested to have been the “Arkatos” of Ptolemy and the second capital of the Cholas, exploration yielded the usual pottery types and some urns. Kanchipuram yielded some locally made imitations of Roman amphorai.
An excavation around Madurai at Kudai was given up for lack of results. The ancient port sites of Korkai, Tondi and Kodungalur also did not yield any evidence of real cities. Allusions to large buildings have also not been confirmed by the excavations. Karur, the ancient Chera capital, also known as Vanji and Vanjimurram, has yielded a fairly large number of Roman coins, some Roman amphorai pieces, local Rouletted Ware, BRW, some with graffiti marks, etc.