India, Muziris, city of trade with Roman empire, found?


Tamil Brahmi scriptFrom the BBC:

Archaeologists working on India‘s south-west coast believe they may have solved the mystery of the location of a major port which was key to trade between India and the Roman EmpireMuziris, in the modern-day state of Kerala.

For many years, people have been in search of the almost mythical port, known as Vanchi to locals.

Much-recorded in Roman times, Muziris was a major centre for trade between Rome and southern India – but appeared to have simply disappeared.

Now, however, an investigation by two archaeologists – KP Shajan and V Selvakumar – has placed the ancient port as having existed where the small town of Pattanam now stands, on India’s south-west Malabar coast.

“It is the first time these remains have been found on this coast,” Dr Sharjan told BBC World Service’s Discovery programme.

“We believe it could be Muziris.”

Key evidence

Pattanam is the only site in the region to produce architectural features and material contemporary to the period.

“No other site in India has yielded this much archaeological evidence,” said Dr Roberta Tomba, of the British Museum.

“We knew it was very important, and we knew if we could find it, there should be Roman and other Western artefacts there – but we hadn’t been able to locate it on the ground.”

Muziris is located on a river, distant from Tindis – by river and sea, 500 stadia; and by river from the shore, 20 stadia

Roman description of the location of Muziris

Indian-Egyptian trade in Roman times, and Tamil Brahmi script: here.

3 thoughts on “India, Muziris, city of trade with Roman empire, found?

  1. Site of ancient city of Muziris in danger

    New Delhi News.Net
    Monday 27th August, 2007 (IANS)

    A site on the Malabar Coast that may have been home to the ancient city of Muziris and that continues to throw up artefacts dating back to the 1st century BC is now in danger of being damaged as archaeologists have not been able to acquire the land.

    It is now believed that the small town of Pattanam in Kerala’s Ernakulam district was Muziris, which served as a major trading port between the 1st century BC and the 5th century AD.

    Excavations there – the last of which were carried out in February this year – have produced evidence of the area’s strong trade ties with ancient Rome, Yemen, West Asia and even the Nabatian civilisation of the Arabian Peninsula.

    But the historical treasures there are now in danger of being destroyed.

    ‘People are digging the land for constructing houses, building roads and digging wells there,’ P.J. Cherian, director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), told IANS here.

    KCHR along with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have been conducting this ambitious research as part of the Muziris Heritage Project.

    ‘We need this land – at least five acres of the 45 hectares – to be acquired by the state government – not by force, but by taking the locals into confidence and paying them a reasonable price.’

    Archaeologists K.P. Shajan and V. Selvakumar along with Cherian have been involved in the excavations at Pattanam, where evidence of human habitation dating back to the Iron Age has been found.

    However, the state government has not able to acquire the land.

    Cherian said he and the archaeologists were very ‘clear’ – they do not want to antagonise the local people who had been offering whole-hearted support for the excavations.

    ‘But we have not yet got the land as even protected area. The ASI also should act immediately. The location is already disturbed and damaged,’ said Cherian, who was here to attend a seminar organised by the Indian Navy on the subject.

    Indian Navy’s southern command is supporting the team for their underwater excavations.

    Until recently, it was believed that Muziris was located on the mouth of the Periyar river at a place called Kodungallor. But now evidence suggests that Pattanam is the real location.

    According to Cherian, the Pattanam Excavations 2007 have revealed several significant facts about ‘the first habitation site of the Iron Age’ on the Malabar coast.

    Pattanam is the first site on the Malabar coast to yield a variety of the archaeological evidence on Indian Ocean trade, especially West Asian and Indo-Roman.

    ‘The significance of the site is that – until its discovery, the classical literary sources, travel accounts and legends remained the only sources to validate the pivotal role of the Malabar coast in Indo-Roman trade.

    ‘But the evidences from Pattanam – the potteries, ceramics, canoes, constructions, coins – also indicate that the region had good trade ties with West Asia and eastern parts of present India,’ Cherian said.

    He said some of the pottery discovered also indicated contacts with the Nabatian civilisation of the Arabian Peninsula.

    The excavations have produced fragments of imported Roman amphora, mainly used for transporting wine and olive oil, Yemenese and West Asian pottery, besides Indian rouletted ware that was common in the east coast of India and in Egypt.

    Bricks, tiles, pottery shards, beads and other artefacts found at Pattanam are very similar to those found at Arikamedu – an ancient Roman trade centre – in Pudussery and other historic sites in India.

    (Liz Mathew can be contacted at liz.mathew@ians.in )

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