New Proof Of Ancient India's
Flourishing Trade With Rome
By Anand Parthasarathy

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 ago.
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 ceramics.
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 years ago.
Copyright © 2002 The Hindu. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2002 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.


This Site Served by TheHostPros