Early Navigation and Trade in the Indian Ocean (Ravenna, Italy 4-7 July 2002)
Beads make ideal trade items because they are highly portable and treasured where they are imported. To our advantage, many are made of durable materials and last into the archaeological record. They are, for example, the oldest known form of art.
From the beginning, I will tell you what many of you already know. I am something of an evangelist for beads. I believe their scientific, humanistic study can teach us much about the past. In this short time, I want to show you some examples of that.
Indo-Pacific beads were not very numerous in those centuries, making up only about four percent of the beads excavated. However, after the hiatus of the third century, they become very important, making up some 40% of the beads on the site. They were not from Arikamedu.
The Sangam poets put Muziris on the Periyar River (see map). But "periyar" just means
It seems likely that Muziris was a small fishing village with a temporarily good port down-stream from the Palghat Gap, one of the few places where one can cross the Western Ghat mountain range. Just over the gap is the lapidary-jewelry site of Kodumanal, very close to the source of beryl and other gems, as well as pepper and cardamom-growing regions. Arikamedu probably sent its gemstone and glass beads in this direction, as well
The Romans found it a good place to trade, but after the Romans left, it fell back to sleep. When the Romans returned a century later, there was not much there and they kept on going until the reached the bustling port of Mantai. As confirmation of this, Roman coins are very scarce in Sri Lanka until the fourth century, when they appear in large quantities
The case of the mysterious Muziris is an example of what we can learn when