Romans in India Again

Interesting item from the Times of India:

Ancient Romans did not restrict themselves to coastal Tamil Nadu; they set up trading centres even far inland. A team of archaeologists exploring a dry lake bed in Naduvirapattu village, some 12km from Tambaram, unearthed a few days ago some artefacts, including broken pieces of amphorae (jars used by Romans).

The team comprised assistant professor Jinu Koshy and students S Vasanthi and K Vignesh of the department of history and archaeology of the Madras Christian College.

The evidence at the site, archaeologists said, was a sign that the village may have been a transit staging area for the Romans before they proceeded towards Kancheepuram, a famous trading centre since the pre-historic era, to exchange their glass utensils and wine for rice, sesame oil, spices and silk.

In fact, they said, the pieces of amphorae were clear evidence of the presence of Romans. Earlier, similar jars had been found at excavation sites in Kancheepuram, Vasavasamudram and Arikamedu near Puducherry. These sites are located near the shore or river (Kancheepuram is near the Palar river), but Naduvirapattu is far from the coast or a river.

“The findings are interesting because the site is between two towns – Somangalam and Manimangalam – important since the pre-historic era,” said former deputy superintending archaeologist K Sridharan.

It was a tip by a villager, engaged in sand-mining on a dry lake bed, that took the team to the site where it found artefacts of the Sangam Age (between 3rd century BCE and 4th century CE) and some from ancient Rome. Among them, the archaeologists said, were black-and-red ware, black ware, red slipped ware, double slipped ware, broken handles of vessels, hopscotch and lid knob.

Brick from Sangam Age also found

We also found two shreds that formed the base of a conical jar. The conical jar is an imitation of the Romans’ amphorae and is indigenously made,” said assistant professor Koshy. Also found was an old brick structure, reportedly from the Sangam Age. Each brick, it was found, was 31cm long, 20.5cm wide and 7.5cm thick.

Just in passing, given the rather frequent mentions of Roman finds in India, it’s interesting (is it not) that we don’t seem to have some village in India claiming to be descended from a lost legion or something like that?

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