Kolkata 2011 – Abstract V. Selvakumar

V. SELVAKUMAR

Tamil University, Thanjavur

Internal Trade and Exchange Network and the Ports of Ancient Tamizhakam

The southern part of the peninsular India, otherwise known as Ancient Tamizhakam in the Early Historic period (ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE), comprised the modern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This region witnessed brisk cultural and commercial activities in the Early Historic period as part of the Indian Ocean trade and exchange processes. Numerous commercial and port towns such as Muciri, Tondi, Korkai, Algankulam, Kaveripoompattinam and Arikamedu emerged on the coastal region of Ancient Tamizhakam. These towns saw the movement of people, and exchange of goods, and ideas from the entire Indian Ocean region; but the importance of Roman trade was significant. The coastal towns were multifunctional and often acted as ports, markets, manufacturing centres, and occasionally as political and religious centres. Apart from the overseas trade/exchange that made the coasts of this region culturally vibrant, a lot of cultural and commercial activities took place within the hinterland too. This paper focuses on the patterns of internal exchange, nature of the port towns and hinterland centres, and the connections among them, and the trade routes of ancient Tamizhakam.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract K. P. Rajan

K. Paul RAJAN

Pondicherry University

Port cities and hinterland trade in Early Historic Tamil Nadu


The paper attempts to highlight the central research question concerns the mutually constituted socio-economic relationships between port sites and their hinterlands.  The bulk of analysis will concern the organization and characterization of archaeological findings from the port sites and hinder land trade centers. The aim is to identify distribution networks and centers of production and exchange linking the port sites and its hinterland. The discovery of more than 200 archaeological sites in Amaravathi river valley and subsequent archaeological excavations particularly at Porunthal and Thandikudi provided a substantial evidence to understand the existence of well established trade network connecting port cities and hinter land trade and production centres. Such a breadth of comparison data would give a well rounded representation of sources of production and distribution. It is my hope that this paper will provide useful information on regional exchange networks in Kongu country during the Early Historic period. Such information may help us to have a better understanding on the social landscape of Early Historic South India, as well as the local infrastructure and trade mechanisms that would have been integral in facilitating the creation and maintenance of long-distance trade networks.

The analysis of archaeological findings from Kongu country will be set within a landscape-oriented analysis of Early Historic Tamilakam (Kerala and Tamil Nadu). From a regional perspective, the politically constructed Early Historic landscape and the ways in which trade routes, trade goods, and people navigated their way through this politicized landscape would be seen.  The aim of this spatial analysis is to begin thinking about how different institutions may have displayed or marked their authority within the landscape. Another aspect of this landscape-oriented approach will involve a critical analysis of classical Tamil literature. The ArcGIS database containing information on the locations of Early Historic sites, Iron Age Megalithic burials, Jain caves and monuments, Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions, Roman and Chera coins would give broader perspective on the nature of trade networks.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract D. Nappo

Dario NAPPO

Oxford University

The ports of the Red Sea as customs gates

The aim of this paper will be an analysis of the role played by the Roman ports on the Red Sea as key points for controlling the trade through the mean of taxation. The available documentation made it clear since many years the existence of taxes levied upon the items coming into the Empire at a 25% rate on the value of the incoming goods. Recently, a dossier of documents discovered at Berenike on the Red Sea added more information on the subject of the taxes levied upon the outgoing goods. This paper will analyse all the available evidence on the subject in order to reach two aims.

The first one will be assessing the role of the Roman ports as customs gate and the overall functioning of the taxation system in the Red Sea controlled by the Romans, between the first and the fifth century AD.

The second aim will be investigate what this general organization can tell us about the Roman policy in the Red Sea and how the analysis of taxation can shed some light on the study of the commerce itself.

The final outcome will underline the role played by the Roman ports as means of political and commercial control of the Red Sea area, pointing at the deep interconnection between fiscal, military and commercial policies in the area, in the general frame of the trade between the Roman Empire and India.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract E. Lambourn

Elizabeth LAMBOURN

De Monfort University

A snapshot of al-Hind in 1293 AD: New data on Indian and Sri Lankan ports and networks from recently discovered Yemeni sources


This study explores the landscape of Muslim settlement in South Asia in the early 1290s, practically on the eve of the Khalji campaigns that permanently changed the extent and character of the Islamic presence in the sub-continent. This focus is possible thanks to the survival of a large group of documents drawn up by the customs house (furda) at Aden in the Yemen under the Rasulid Sultans and which have recently been edited and published under the title Nur al-macarif or Light of knowledge[1].1

Among these papers is an extraordinary list of stipends, in effect salaries, awarded to various Islamic judges (qadis) and preachers (khatibs) at over forty different locations along the entire western and south eastern coast of the Indian sub-continent, from Kutch to Tamil Nadu and the Jaffna Peninsula.

In the recent edition of the Arabic text only a limited number of these South Asian port locations could be identified. This paper focuses on the identification and mapping of all the 44 toponyms and 6 regional designations given in the list of stipends; the paper then proceeds to discuss the commercial and religious networks that underlie this extraordinary list of stipends. The paper will present substantial new evidence for Muslim settlements, and commercial and religious networks, in India and Sri Lanka at a key historical turning point.


[1] Muhammad cAbd al-Rahim Jazim, ed., Nur al-macarif. Lumière de la connaissance. Règles, lois et coutumes du Yémen sous le règne de sultan rasoulide al-Muzaffar, 2 vols. (Sanaa: Centre Français d’Archéologie et de Sciences Sociales de Sanaa, 2003-2005).

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract J.-M. Lafont

Jean-Marie LAFONT

INALCO, Paris

French Factories in Bengal: the Dossier of Alfred Martineau

Les Loges du Bengale d’après le dossier d’Alfred Martineau

Dès le milieu du XVIIème siècle, des raisons tant politiques qu’économiques font basculer du Gujerat vers le Bengale les grands centres de production textile de l’empire moghol. Surate était jusque-là le grand port de cet empire pour les importations comme pour les exportations, un port où les compagnies européennes avaient leur centre névralgique. Surate était également le point de départ du pèlerinage pour la Mecque. Son rôle économique s’efface à partir des années 1680.

En effet, dès la fin du XVIIème siècle, les Européens se trouvent presque tous avoir ouvert des comptoirs sur la côte orientale de l’Inde, et de 1674 à 1698 les Français s’installent à Chandernagor d’où va partir un réseau assez serré de loges, ou centres commerciaux, s’étendant de Patna à Chittagong, et d’Assam à Balassore. L’acmé de ce commerce, du salpêtre aux toiles fines et aux objets du plus haut luxe, est atteint sous la direction de Dupleix (1731-1741) et dure jusqu’en 1757, quand les Anglais bombardent, puis capturent et détruisent la ville. Nos archives et nos registres disparaissent alors, peut-être en flammes. Nous ne les avons plus.

Depuis le retour de Chandernagor à la France en 1763, et jusqu’à la rétrocession de ces loges en 1947, la France ne sait plus trop que faire de ses possessions dans le Bengale. Alfred Martineau, Gouverneur général de l’Inde française (1910-1918) et futur professeur d’histoire coloniale au Collège de France, va s’atteler après bien d’autres au sort de ces loges dans l’espoir de les échanger avec les Anglais contre un territoire consolidé autour de Pondichéry. Il fait pour cela constituer un dossier rappelant l’histoire de chaque loge et analysant les documents qui y ont subsisté, avec copie des quelques plans anciens qui avaient survécu. Ce dossier est aujourd’hui conservé aux Archives nationales de France, Centre des Archives d’outre-mer.

L’auteur se propose d’évoquer brièvement ce que fut Chandernagor sous Dupleix, avec espérons-le la présentation des grands tableaux en pied de Louis XV et Marie Leszczynska par Carl van Loo “capturés” à Chandernagor par les Anglais en 1757, et récemment retrouvés dans les collections de la Présidence de la République indienne. Ce qui sera suivi de la présentation du dossier “Martineau” sur les loges du Bengale, et pourrait être le prélude à la publication de ce document.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract O. Kessler

Oliver KESSLER

Institut für Orient- und Asienwissenschaften der Universität Bonn

Environment, Infrastructure and Nature of Ports in Ancient Sri Lanka: the Archaeological Evidence from the Harbour, Monastery, Town and Shipwreck (1st cent. BC) of Godavaya (Godapavata Pattana)

Taprobania and the paradigm shift away from the Ptolemaic model of Asia

Sri Lanka gained its characteristic function as a centre of sea born trade from its central position in the Indian Ocean. Historical sources and recent archaeological discoveries are pinpointing to the role of southern Sri Lanka as a centre point and as well as a border between the eastern and the western world. This paper is going to present some considerations concerning the specific nature and infrastructure of ports in ancient Sri Lanka and how they were influenced by the change of trade routes. Their links to the hinterland and other Indian Ocean ports will also be in the focus.

The change of trade patterns even influenced specific views of the world or mapping traditions if the term „map“ is used in its broadest and most inclusive form as a repository of culturally embedded and graphically portrayed understandings about space and environments experienced from different people at different times.

Archaeological finds and findings from Sri Lanka will illuminate the history of ancient long- distance trade. The excavations at the port and monastery of Godavaya (Godapavata Pattana) will give an idea of the structure of sea trade and the nature of ports existing at a rivers mouth from the 1st cent. B. C. to the 8th century A. D. The ancient site of Godavaya consists of a monastic complex, a residential area and several landing places at the rivers banks connecting the seaport with anchorage to the hinterland. In addition to its outstanding topographical situation, a significant 2nd century Brahmi inscription giving information about taxes and handling of goods was found chiselled onto a rock. In addition to this numerous hoards and settlement finds of late roman coins and their Lankan imitations called “Naimanas” have been found along the southern coastline of Sri Lanka numbering tenth of thousands underlining the importance of that region in late antiquity.

Furthermore an ancient ship wreck could be located during underwater surveys undertaken by a Sri Lankan – German team from the Archaeological Department and the University of Bonn in the coastal waters of Godavaya a few years ago. The « Godavaya ship wreck » sunk during the 2nd half of the 1st cent. BC, thus probably being the eldest ever been found in Sri Lankan and even Indian waters so far. According to its cargo it was involved in the far distance trade with raw glass between the Mediterranean, South India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

In the mind of traders from ancient Europe Sri Lanka had been a barrier for quite a long time. While crossing borders communication produced space and space produced communication comparable to the virtual “online territories” of today. Anyhow the human perception of environment resulted in map making and mind mapping both being closely linked to each other in human brain.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract S. Keller

Sara KELLER

CNRS, UMR 8167, Paris

Identity of Western Indian Sea towns. An urbanistic study case of Bharuch and Khambhat

Amongst the pre modern Indian cities, the sea town, because of its particular relationship with the ocean and the beyond located lands, has developed its own identity which demand a specific definition. The paper questions the town planning and sociological characteristics of two major ports of the West Indian coast during the pre Mughal time: the gujarati towns of Bharuch and Khambhat (Cambay). The survey of the surviving historical structures and the study of the topographical and architectural elements define particular urbanistic features, suggesting a broader understanding of the town development, its various activities, and the socio-topographical organization within the city. This information, completed by the knowledge extracted from the traveler’s accounts and other literature, bring essential elements capable of helping us answering the following questions: how did the city cop up with its vital need, such as water, food, and necessary handicraft for the trade? Which activities were undertaken in the city, and what kind of relationship did the city keep with its hinterland? We shall also question the power system prevailing in the sea towns: can an autonomous body be identified in the city, or did some groups or social classes hold a tacit power? Which flavor is taking the cultural activities of the port?

This various questions shall finally help us to define whether the sea town can be identify as a city of its land, or whether it has particular characteristics which links it to the sea and the ‘beyond sea’.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract A. S. Gaur, A. Sundaresh (1)

A.S. GAUR, A. SUNDARESH

National Institute of Oceanography, Goa

Ancient Technology of Jetties and anchoring system along the Gujarat Coast, India

The port plays a dominant role in facilitating the sea trade and there were several ports all along the India coast since antiquity. The prerequisite of the selection of any port site include a sheltered place particularly protection from high wind and rough seas, sufficient water depth for sailing the vessel and a suitable anchoring point. The Indian coast, with a long history of the maritime activities, has been dotted with several ancient ports. The evidence for this exists in port-related structures on shore and in relics lying in the sea adjacent. Marine archaeological investigations during the last one and half decades have revealed the existence of jetties at Dwarka, Rupen Bundar, and Porbandar and of offshore anchoring points at Bet Dwarka, Miyani, Visawada and Somnath, Kodinar, Hathab and Ghogha on Gujarat coast. The preferred anchoring points fall in water depth of 5 to 7 m. The underwater observation revealed that seabed topography between Bet Dwarka on the extreme west and Somnath on the East is almost less variant particularly at Dwarka, Miyani, Visawada, Porbandar, Tukda and Somnath. The seabed topography is comprised of the rocky formations with numerous channels filled with fine sand. The stone anchors were trapped in these channels and between the rocks, which were suitable for holding big boats like Arab Dhows and Indian Vahan. The observation at Bet Dwarka and Porbandar revealed that boats of carrying more than 100 tons of cargo are anchored in a water depth of 4 to 5 m and some time they are resting on the sandy beaches during low tide.

This paper also discusses the effect of tide when using jetties and anchoring points along various parts of the west coast India. The archaeological evidences indicate that two gulfs of Gujarat coast (Gulf Kachchh and Gulf of Khambhat) witnessed the hectic maritime activities in the past. Both gulfs have very high tidal range and the Gulf of Khambhat has the second highest tidal range in the world (11 m). Ancient texts such as Vishnu Puran and Periplus of the Erythraean Sea vividly describe the tidal range and its uses for the navigation purposes. The discovery of the large number of stone anchors in inter tidal zone along the gulf region support the above references.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract J.-C. Ducène

Jean-Charles DUCENE

Université Libre de Bruxelles

The ports of the Western coast of India according to the Arab geographers (VIII-XV cent.): a glimpse in geography

Les ports de la côte occidentale de l’Inde chez les géographes arabes (VIIIe – XVe siècle) : une géographie entrevue


Dès son apparition, la littérature géographique arabe fournit des informations sur la toponymie côtière de l’Inde mais en privilégiant dans un premier temps, jusqu’au XIIe siècle, deux régions : le nord avec le Sind et le Gujarat puis le sud avec la côte de Malabar. Si la toponymie est relativement riche, l’identification de toutes les localités est encore problématique d’autant que les descriptions géographiques des ports sont parfois sommaires. En outre, la cartographie qui accompagne par moments ces textes provient de Ptolémée et reçoit, sans guère d’adaptation, des toponymes plus contemporains. On constate par la suite, notamment dans la première moitié du XIVe siècle, une amélioration de la connaissance des lieux ainsi que des réalités situées derrière un simple toponyme, ce qui peut témoigner d’une augmentation de la fréquentation de ces endroits. Notre contribution vise à comparer ce matériel géographique arabe afin de tenter d’améliorer les identifications mais aussi de voir comment s’est construite l’image du port indien dans cette littérature. A ce niveau, nous comptons tirer parti de textes géographiques arabes inédits du XIVe siècle.

Kolkata 2011 – Abstract K. F. Dalal

Kurush F. DALAL

103 Sunshine, Plot 58

Sector 21, Kharghar

Navi Mumbai 410210

The Excavations at Sanjan and their contribution towards understanding the archaeology of the Indian Ocean Littoral in the Early Medieval Period (8th c A.D. to  12th c A.D.)

Very little if anything was known of the Early Medieval period (8th c AD to the 12th c AD) on the western shores of India prior to the excavations at the site of Sanjan (N 20° 11’59. 6 E 72° 48’00. 2) (Taluka Umargam, District Valsad, Gujarat). Three seasons of excavations revealed a creek (inland) port, a large urban settlement with burnt brick houses, brick wells, deep terracotta ringwells, large quantities of local, West Asian and some Chinese ceramics, West Asian glass, terracotta, glass and stone beads, some local and  others from the Levant and Asia Minor, besides artefacts in stone, silver, copper and iron. The coins from the excavations covered the entire gamut from the Rashtrakutas, the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad, the Sultans of Sind, Allauddin Khilji and the Marathas. The ceramics include Turquoise glazed ware, Sgraffito ware, Kashan lustre ware and other West Asian ceramics, and Yueh and Qingbai Chinese porcelains. These ceramics revealed the importance of the site and its participation in Indian Ocean littoral commerce between the Persian Gulf and China. This premise was further supported by the evidence of the various West Asian glass vessel fragments and the coins. The local importance of the site was obvious from its extent and the scatter of stone temple members and sculptures.

The evidence from Sanjan has opened a new chapter in the archaeology of the Western coast of India. After their identification at Sanjan, the various (dateable) ceramics and artefacts aided in the identification of various coeval sites. The excavations and the correlations of the data also brought to light the full extent of site network on the West coast of India. These sites include Kamrej (Dist. Surat, Gujarat), Chinchani (Dist. Thana, Maharashtra), Sopara (Dist. Thana, Maharashtra), Chaul (Dist. Raigad, Maharashtra), Chandor (Goa) and Pattanam (Kerala) thus opening a new chapter in the history and understanding of the archaeology of the Indian Ocean littoral.