Archaeological remains from Arikamedu and its trade network
The publication of Wheeler in 1945, together with the periodical articles and recent publications dealing with Arikamedu by Vimala Begley and others, dispenses with need of description of the Red Sea ports and
The Excavations and its findings
Between 1941 and 1944, a small-scale excavations were undertaken by French Scholars. They plotted two grids oriented north south, for what were then considered to be the important areas for the excavations. However, Sir Mortimer Wheeler first introduced the scientific method of excavation at Arikamedu in
The excavators of Arikamedu excavated a little further along the riverbank south found the remains of a small collection of dwellings, which had probably been a fishing village. But with the development of trade in the beginning of the Christian era, the primitive village was gently abandoned/developed, and the brick-built harbor town came into existence. Along the riverbank north the excavators uncovered a vast basin dug out of the earth. It has been traced back from the river for the distance of forty meters. It was identified as a dock/ware house. The discovery of dyeing vats, lined pits, floors and conduit thought out the riverbank.
Apart from the architectural features the artifacts such as ceramic both Indian and foreign, terracotta objects, stones, shells, bone and wooden objects, are found in all excavations. Among the findings of Arikamedu the terra sigillata (so called Arretine) is the most important one. Terra sigillata means Red glazed ware, which was specially used as a table wares by the Romans. So far, in
There were various industrial activities took place in Arikamedu. Metal workers, glass blowers, shell cutters, craftsmen in precious and semi-precious stones and ivory workers were grouped in this area, making or assembling the objects which were exported over seas.
Until now it was believed that Arikamedu was essentially made for Roman trade that held between 1st century BC and 2 century AD. In our recent research we have encounted considerable quantities of pottery and documented several architectural features dated from 3 century BC to French times. Finds of Chola coins, Chinese celadon pottery and others East Asian glazed wares, suggest the occupation and some involvement in medieval east-west maritime relation.
The direct evidence for the over land trade contact of east cost seaports for many years was focused on literary materials. The ancient Tamil works referred the trade between ancient seaports and the inland urban centers in various parts of ancient Tamil country. Debate has continued among scholars over the inland transshipment of commodities that reached Arikamedu for export purpose, and the imported commodities of Arikamedu that distributed to the inland urban centers. The identification of Kottaimedu and Sorappattu near Puranasigapalayam, particularly when pot sherd findings brought to the
These discoveries at Kottaimedu suggest that the contacts between Arikamedu and Kottaimedu had already occurred in the first century AD. It also suggests that the inland transshipment were not carried along the river Ginger and its banks beyond Suthukeni and Tiruvakkarai. The geological Archaean (granite) formation at Tiruvakkarai region possibly made the river Gingee not useful to reach the urban centers of central
Arikamedu finds from East
The relation between ancient Tamil country and the Southeast Asia are well known from the inscriptions like from Vo-Canh in
Rouletted ware even reported form illicit digging around Kobak Kenal and Cibutak in the northwestern Jawa. There are references to Rouletted ware from Beikthano in
On the coastal plain of north the
The X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis has been performed on Rouletted sherd form Sembiran and Arikamedu which resulted that they are all have one geological source. During my personal interview with him when he visited Arikamedu and my college he told that he did not find any roman material in his site. He showed me the photos and slides of some non-local courseware which seems have the Arikamedu forms. However, proper study is needed to conclude this.
One Roman terra cotta lamp was reported from P’ ong Tuk in southern
and Indian Trade Red Sea Ports
In Hellenistic-Roman times there were several trade routes connecting the Mediterranean world with lands to the East. The northern silk route led to
By the time of the Roman annexation these ports were merely used for the commercial activities. The trade was carried on for many centuries through the Red Sea Ports from where the goods were carried overland to the Mediterranean ports of the
Three major overland routes connected the Red Sea ports with the emporia along the
Strabo speaks of 120 ships sailing for
The second overland route started from Leukos Limen port which was, of all the Roman Red Sea ports in
The Oriental Institute of the
The third southern overland route of the
Totally 16 rim sherds, both fine and course, are found in the past five seasons of excavations. Fine ware like Arikamedu Rouletted ware, stamped bowls and the course ware like Wheeler types 38, 28-29, 24 and 25 are identified. The Tamil-Brahmi graffito found on a Mediterranean amphora fragment of the mid-first century AD is also found in the excavations.
Arikamedu finds from Red Sea Ports
In what way these Indian remains related with Arikamedu is question now. Over the centuries, several of the ports traded directly, or indirectly, with the West, but which ones were active in the overseas trade with the West during the context period with which the Indian fine ware sherds are associated with Red Sea ports, the end of the first century BC to the mid of first century AD, is not known for certain. There are a few of Mediterranean shipping amphora fragments at Alagankulam, Vasavasamudram and Kudikadu. Vasavasanydaram fragment is datable to the first century AD. Many number of amphora fragments and sigillata so far found in Arikamedu and dated back first century BC. The excavated loci containing most of the Indian remains found in
P.Ravichandirane is presently lecturing in History in Karaikal College, Pondicherry worked with Prof. Vimala Bagley's excavation team and travelled widely across the world. He has worked with major archeologists such as Harris and Steven Sidebotham