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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 05/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) A piece of pottery with Tamil-Brahmi inscription dating back to 1st Century CE, discovered at the Khor Rori archaeological site in Salalah, has opened a new chapter in understanding maritime links between South India and the southern Arabian region, particularly Oman.The find, originally discovered in 2006 but only confirmed this September, points to the fact that there were trade exchanges between Oman and India, 2000 years before the present. Similarly, a significant quantity of South Arabian-Mesopotamian pottery belonging to the Parthian/Sassanid periods was recently unearthed at the coastal town of Pattanam in Kerala.Prof P J Cherian, director, Kerala Council of Historical Research, which is excavating the Pattanam site, and who worked briefly with the Italian mission to Oman which found the piece of pottery in Salalah, said that this is a significant find. ''From Greek and Latin literary sources, it is understood that several ports were active in the early historic period in the Oman and Yemen regions in trade exchanges with other ports in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Mediterranean rims. Khor Rori in Oman and Cana in Yemen were two important ports as part of this trade network,'' he said.He added that till the Pattanam excavations, there was no material evidence from the Malabar Coast on these ancient exchanges; full-scale excavations began at Pattanam in 2007 with Prof Cherian as its director. ''The Oman Tamil-Brahmi find has come up at a crucial juncture when the Pattanam archaeological research is bringing out a plethora of material evidence of  India's cultural and commercial links with South Arabia around 2000 years ago.''Material evidence such as frankincense and significant quantities of South Arabian-Mesopotamian pottery belonging to the Parthian/Sassanid periods have been unearthed at Pattanam. ''The chronological assessments of Pattanam, Khor Rori and nearby Al Baleed port sites are also very significant. They all fall within the time spanning 3rd century BCE to 10th century CE - when important cultural exchanges too were occurring.''The Pattanam site has also produced Tamil-Brahmi potsherds (broken pieces of ceramic material) similar to the one from Khor Rori. One pottery piece from Pattanam suggests the presence of Buddhist or Jain belief systems in the region. Around 2,000 years back, none of the dominant religions of today - be it Hinduism, Islam or Christianity - was present.''So, the new evidences could be pointers to a totally unknown era in the history of Oman and the Malabar coast. It may sound rather ironical that we now perhaps have less than nothing in common with our great-great ancestors, yet we are their blood and flesh,'' said Prof Cherian.On the lack of proper studies, Prof Cherian said that there is a void when it comes to reliable information on the maritime exch-anges in antiquity between the South West coast of India and South Arabian regions.''Probably, it was by the closing centuries of the first millennium BCE that the trade volume between these two regions increased when the coastal routes gave way to shorter mid-ocean passages. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the history of this important phase is lost. Archaeological research is often the most objective means to retrieve lost histories and each potsherd like the one from Khor Rori is invaluable in such enquiries.'' 


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