- A gruelling nine-year-long international archaeological
expedition in Egypt, has unearthed the most extensive evidence so far,
of vigorous trade between India and the Roman Empire " 2000 years
- The project funded by Dutch and American agencies, at
Berenike, on the Sudan-Egypt border along the shores of the Red Sea, has
revealed that the location was the southern-most, military sea port of
the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. and the key transfer point for
a flourishing trade with India, whose magnitude was hitherto not known.
- In major findings to be published in the July issue of
the monthly scientific journal Sahara and announced today at the archaeological
database website of the expedition , researchers report having unearthed
the largest single cache of black pepper " about 8 kg " ever
excavated from a Roman dig. They were able to establish that this variety
was only grown in antiquity in South India.
- Because of the drier weather of Egypt, the Berenike site
preserved organic substances from India, like sail cloth, matting and baskets
dating to AD 30-AD 70, all traces of which were destroyed in the more humid
climate of the subcontinent.
- In one of the surprise findings, the archaeologists also
report stumbling on a Roman "trash dump'' containing well-preserved
evidence of Indian `batik' work and ancient printed textiles as well as
- All this leads archaeologists, Willeke Wendrich of the
University of California, and Steven Sidebotham of the Delaware University
to conclude in next month's paper that a "Spice Route'' from India
to Rome, existed long before the better known "Silk Route'' to China.
- They suggest that the goods travelled from the west coast
Indian ports to Berenike by ships in the monsoon months, and were then
transported by camel and Nile river boats, to the Mediterranean port of
Alexandria, from where ships conveyed the cargo to Rome by sea.
- This route was preferred for almost 50 years because
the alternative land route through what is today Pakistan and Iran, passed
through countries hostile to the Roman Empire.
- "We talk about globalism as if it were the latest
thing'', Wendrich is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, but trade
was going on in antiquity on a scale that is truly impressive''.
- The Berenike route was finally abandoned in AD 500 probably
after a plague epidemic.
- The new findings are said to establish what was long
suspected - the central role that India played in the maritime trade 2000
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