Dr. S. R. Rao knows a bit about religious archaeology. As the former director of of National Institute of Oceanography he undertook under water excavations near Dwaraka and the island of Bet Dwaraka and it has revealed a great deal of information about the antiquity of the site.
Dr. Rao believes that the site of Hampi in Karnataka is the Kishkindha of Ramayana.
He said that the culture (seen in Kishkindha) has several Neolithic sites spread over Patapadu and Pusalpadu in Bellary district. Another important site is Bandi Pushala Chenu in Bellary-Kurnool area where excavations of the typical Harappan steatite wheel-like beads are found. These beads occur in all Harappan sites as early as 3000 BC. Bithur near Kanpur, a traditional Ramayana site, had yielded weapons of the culture, archeologically designated as ochre-coloured pottery (OCP), ranging from 1500 to 2000 BC or even 3000 BC near Ghaneswar in Rajasthan.
Excavations at the Neolithic culture site at Mahagara in the Belan valley of Uttar Pradesh yielded rice dated around 4000 BC. Further north-west in Pakistan, the cotton growing Neolithic culture is 7,000 years old (5000 BC). When Rama came to Kishkindha, the Vanaras were the same Neolithic people, whose help he took, said Prof. Rao.
The archaeological dating of Neolotihic culture ranged from 4000 BC in Uttar Pradesh to 7600 BC. in pre-Harappan sites of Pakistan. On this basis, Ramayana should be dated at least to 3000 BC, if not earlier. The Mahabharata, he said, mentioned Ramayana, while the Ramayana did not mention Mahabharata. There is no negative evidence to say that Ramayana was a myth. Ramayana is built on a core of truth depicting the life of a particular people and period, Prof. Rao added. [Ramayana is not a myth, says S.R. Rao]