Ancient Port of Muziris

                  Musiris February 2010



A major archaeological discovery has been made by archaeologists Dr. K.P. Shajan who is conducting research in England ,Dr. Cheriyan Director of Kerala archaeloogic departement and Dr V. Selvakumar. An ancient city named Muziris has been excavted out from the small town of Pattanam in central kerala, India.

When Alaric the Visigoth captured Rome to ransom in A.D. 408, he demanded and got five thousand pounds of gold, 30 thousand of silver; 4,000 silk tunics and three thousand pounds of pepper.Now where did this pepper came from in Rome. Alaric the Visigoth wanted the pepper to put in his food supply(meat sausages) a recent invention of the Visigothic horsemen that enabled them to travel great distances with a relatively well-preserved supply of meat. But it is more likely that Alaric wanted pepper because it was small in bulk, light in weight and enormously valuable. The Romans, like the Greeks before them, were crazy about pepper, which they imported at great expense from the East. Pliny the Elder chided them for exchanging precious metal for a product that grew like a weed in tropical east. But they went on paying out their gold and silver to the Arabian middlemen. To avoid these middlemen they learned that it grew in India, they discovered how to use the monsoon winds to sail regularly back and forth between the Red Sea ports and the Malabar coast, and it became one of their principal trade routes. An old Sanskrit text records how their traders “came with gold and returned with pepper…
Muziris was frequently visited by the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans for valuable goods. Eudoxus of Cyzicus sailed into Muziris during his two voyages between 118 and 116 BC. Muziris, is mentioned in the Periplous of the Erythraean Sea and in Ptolemy's Geography and is prominent on the Peutinger Table. Pliny referred to it several times in his Naturalis Historia. Pliny called this port primum emporium Indiae.There is no doubt Muziris was a major port in its time and was an Emporium, as Pliny called it.Archaelogist around the world know the merchant relation betwen Rome and the small town of Musiris in kerala, India from the 1800 old agreement by a egyptian merchant and local merchant for exporting pepper, Tusk and clothes.


A page from this agreement known as Vienna Papyrus is preserved in Vienna museum, Ostria (See This Papyrus data with the translation (http://www.uni-koeln.de/phil-fak/ifa/zpe/downloads/1990/084pdf/084195.pdf). This was found in 1980 in Egypt. This was found by L . Casson , a scholar, in his paper" New light on marine loans" . In fact this agreement was given to the Roman government by this Egyptian merchant as a guarantee for a loan. That is the reason this agreement survived through the ages. The first and second pages of this contract letter are lost so we are unable to know the name of the merchants who were engaged in business. If there was a name then it would have been easier to trace the family tree of the merchant as the families follow their traditional names till to date in these part of the world. The agreement says a sailing ship named Herma polon Gross tonnage (75 tons) has been assigned to export three and half tons of cargo to Alexandria, Rome from Musiris for 7000000 Dragmas (1 pound= 345 dragma).25% tax was collected by the Roman government from this business .This also has been recorded in Vienna Papyrus or Muziris Papyrus (p. Vindob G 480822).During AD 2nd century it was common that ships having GRT 200 tons used to trade betwen Rome and Kerala for spices. From the all available data till date archaeologists knew that a total of 120 ships has crossed the red sea and sailed towards India for trade in first century. But the archeologists was lacking on the data where this ships went for trading . Earlier it was assumed that musiris was in Tamil Nadu , another southern state in India . A rough map named Tabula Peutingeriana served as a proof for this claim till date. Pliny in his natural history says that if a sailor follow the wind Hippalus (south west monsoon) he will reach muziris in forty days. He also mentioned that the port was not a seaport but a river port. Romans later confirmed this through another mentioning that the port was 500 stadia from the shore. Pliny also mentioned Muziris as a port prone to piracy. The gemstones which was available in muziris were from Arikamedu region(situatedgarnets and quartz), gulf of mannar(pearls), Kodumanal (lapis lazuli beads). Infact there was a lull period in the trade between India and west because of the roman invasion of the Greece. Afterwards Egypt also came under Rome. But in 51 AD with the finding of Hippalus wind helping the sailors increased the speed of the ships and shorten the time between India and Egypt. So the trade flourished.This continued till 6th century and suddenly the port of muziris dissappeared from the history. But from the later developments in Musiris mining it is obvious that more systematic way of merchandise business was existed even before Christ in Kerala rather than Tamil nadu . In musiris archaeologists found the remains of jewelery stones , many sizes of nails in different metals, lanterns, bricks . This puts lights in to the civilized human factories existed in this regions. The black soil found in the 4th layer of sand confirms there was a factory existed using fire most probably a metal factory. The soil is being tested in the lab for exact data.Discoveries around the world confirms the importance of this small town in kerala.
The well and structures were found on the land owned by Rajappan of Krishna Nivas at Pattanam.The project undertaken as part of Kerala government’s “Muziris Heritage Project” also had collaborative support from the Archaeological Survey of India, State Archaeology, Tourism and Revenue Departments.The excavations have given clear indications that the site was first occupied by the indigenous megalithic (iron age) people.




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Tabula Peutingeriana de kaart, Museumstukken II (edited by A.M. Gerhartl-Witteveen and P. Stuart) 1993 Museum Kam, Nijmegan, the Netherlands

(Taprobane , indicated at the bottom of the map refers to Sri Lanka) Muziris is indicated by a circle and described as a pirate prone area biy Pliny




In Berenike, near red sea banks, archaeologists found seven and half kilos of pepper in a mud pot preserved from the first or early century. This pot is cofirmed was made in Muziris.



The ancient Trade route While Digging in Musiris archaeologists found a Jetty with a boat loaded with Pepper, mango, goosebery,frankincense, dry shell of coconut. The cargo was perfectly mummified in mud. The wood of the boat is carbon dated to 2500 years by scientists from Bhuveneshwar institute of physics. The wood was identified as Artocarpus hirsutus Lamk. (wild jack or ‘anjily’) and Tectona grandis (teak) by the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur. The 14C date range of the canoe sample is 1300 BC to 100 BC, (that is, 700 plus or minus 600 BC with 95 per cent probability). For the two bollard samples, the 14C date range is 800 BC to 200 BC (500 plus or minus 300 BC, with 95 per cent probability) and 1100 BC to 1300 AD, ( A.D. 100 plus or minus 1200 with 95 per cent probability), respectively.
The steps near the boat and large wood pieces mounted vertically(bollards) indicate the remains of a port. Amphora (a clay vessel for wine), roolited ware, torpido jars, Central and persian pottery, Chinese pottery are also found in this area. The most valuable item they got hand of is ``Camio Blank`` which is a medal issued by Roman government for excellency. The geography of these area has changed a lot by a flood in 1341.An ancient map of Musiris aging 1500 years is kept in British library. From second century to 4th century Roman Arabian merchants business flourished in this small port. The number of Christians and Muslims in this areas stand as a proof. Experts says that with the fall of Roman empire this small port in the other end of the world also dissappeared mysteriously .This ancient port is also got mention in The Epic Ramayan (Kishkinda, volume 4 chapter 41) , Mahabharath (Bheemparvam, Karnaparvam), In tamil epic Chilappathikaram (Mathurai kand, Vanchikand), and another tamil ancient poem Akananooru volume 7 poem 149. The Mazhuanchery and Padamadthil families contributed greatly to the survey by allowing their property for digging. This was a great help to the archaeology team. The team members also included Dr. Stephen sidebottom, DrK. Rajan, Dinish Krishnan, sujatha stephen, Rachel Varghese, K.s. Janusha, C.S. Ambili, P.K Vijimol and K. Vasudevan.

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Amphora Found in Muziris

Well Found in Muziris


Amphoras found in Muziris Today this place is known as Kodungallur, situated 40 Kms. to South-West of Trichur, Kerala, lies in 10o 100 North latitude and 76o 10o East longitude.This is where St. Thomas one of the tweleve apostles arrived in November 21 AD 52. One of the 7 churches build by St. Thomas is in Kodungallur. So this place is known as Cradle of Indian Christianity. Some say the powerful invasion by Tipusultan of hyderabad destroyed Musiris .And the Port of Kochi started emerging by the arrival of British and Muziris was no where to be found by then.


One of the seven churches in kerala founded by St. Thomas one of the Apostles of Jesus


Agencies involved in Pattanam excavation 1. Archeological Survey of India, Janpath, New Delhi 2. State Archaeology Department, Thiruvananthapuram 3. Deccan College, Post Graduate & Research Institute, Pune - 411 006 4. National Geophysical Research Institute, Uppal Road, Hyderabad - 500 007 5. Institute of Physics, Sachivalaya Marg, Bhubaneswar - 751 005 6. Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trissur Dt- 680 653 7. Centre for Earth Science Studies, Aakkulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 8. National Institute of Advanced Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore-560 012 9. Southern Naval Command, Kochi 10. Dept. of Marine Geology & Geo Physics, School of Marine Sciences, Fine Arts Avenue, Cochin - 686 016 11. Geological Survey of India, Kerala Unit, Dharani Bhavan, Manikanteswaram P.O, Thiruvananthapuram -13 12. Department of Epigraphy & Archaeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur- 613 005 13. National Research Laboratory for Conservation, Lucknow- 14 14. Department of History, University of Pondicherry, Pondicherry


Archaeologists in Berenike, Red sea





The archaeologists also found teak and other woods which are not common in middle east used for buildings in Berenike in the middle east part of the world . These woods might have come from ancient ships from India, Burma or java islands, which were left behind because of damage.


Dr. K.P. Shajan





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Todays location of Pattanam (Muziris) By Mr. Shajan.( you can see the Paravur thodu and other rivers near pattanam earlier one of the river was flowing near Pattanam and due to some reason flooding or earth quake the geography of the location changed)

It is believed that in around 600 A.D a chera king named Cheraman Perumal who ruled most parts of kerala from kodungallore (musiris) left for Makkah, embraced Islam, and accepted the name Thajudeen. He marrried the sister of king Jeddah and came back in a ship with many islamic leaders to spread the faith. But unfortunately he died enroute. But he had already written a letter to the reigning king of Musiris to treat the guests positively. Thus the reigning King made all the arrangements for the muslim team and let them to build their relegion in Kerala. He gave them the hindu Arathali temple to be converted in to a Juma masjid( Mosque). We can still see the Hindu temple architecture design in the Mosque.







The Juma Masjid in Musiris




The Port Musiris has also found its name finds mentioned in the First Century Natural History of Pliny, the Second Century Geographia of Ptolemy, the Fourth Century Tabula Peutingeriana along with mentions in epics Ramayana, Mahabharata and ancient Tamil literatures.






Latest Developments --November 2009


A new project called Muziris Heritage Project (MHP), a heritage preservation-cum- tourism project is under preparation and will be fully functioning by decemer 2009. The main objective of this project will be preserving the historical buildings and cultural and traditional heritage at the Muziris site.Kottappuram Fort in Methala Panchayat and Paliam Palace and Paliam Nalukettu of Chendamangalam panchayat will be opened for public in first phase of this project. In the second stage the visitors will be previlaged by special village boat cruise through the well connected waterways. This will be ready by 2010. Though these projects has been already announced ,the state kerala is renowned for many paper projects and uncompleted projets.Public Private participation in this project will rejuvenate the local economy. The project will cover seven panchayats (local areas for governance, like a province) (Chennamangalam, Chittattukara, Vadakkekara, Pallippuram, Azhikode, Methala and Mathilakam) and two municipalities (North Paravur and Kodungalloor) in Ernakulam and Thrissur districts. This one billion rupees project will have a holistic approach towards sustainable development.Project director Benny Kuriakose described this project as a "walk through 2000 years of Kerala history and a cultural pilgrimage".
The present archaeological research undertaken by KCHR would be extended offshore and to other nearby back waters.The under-water explorations would be carried out with the support of the Southern Naval Command,Kochi.
The first phase of excavation was carried out by Kerala Council for Historical Research(KCHR) from 18th February to 8th April 2007 in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the State Department of Archaeology and the Tourism and Revenue Department.
The site at Pattanam is round 1.5 sq. km and the core area measures about 600 x 400 m. The north-eastern part of the site was chosen for excavation based on the surface exploration done before. Four Trenches (PT 07 I, PT 07 II, PT 07 III, PT 07 IV) and one trial trench (PTT 07 I) covering an area of 125 sq. m. was excavated. The "locus methodology" adopted for this excavation distinguished each layer/feature/pit/structure/ activity area on the basis of colour, texture and composition. The excavations suggest that the site was first occupied by the indigenous “Megalithic” (Iron Age) people, followed by the Roman contact in the Early Historic Period. the site was a busy civilization area at least from the 2nd century BC to the 10th century AD.

Some terra sigillata sherds, Sassanian, Yemenite and other West Asian potteries were also found in this site. Proliferation of roulette ware must have made in the Bengal-Gangetic region. This shows the significance of the pan Indian context as well in musiris.
Most of the musiris remains is buried, unexplored and untouched. The excavation team is filling back the excavation sites with earth and thus conserving the site. The museum which is coming up will showcase the entire archaeological findings in musiris.



 Beads found in the musiris site. The old people in musiris remember how they used to get colourful beeds floating around in rainy season and no clue about their origins. They never knew they were laying hands on a thousands of years history.



 18 wooden pegs were found deep down the musiris site in 2010 May.What surprising is the depth that these pegs were found, these pegs were send to different labs including oxford university for carbon dating. Each pegs are 15 to 20 cm in length.


Read My Personal Visit to Musiris :A Bit Funny
















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12 comments:

sreejith 11:13 AM  

great to know about muziris
archeology team is doing a good job
eagerly waiting to know more

Essential Loneliness.....Fantacy 2:46 AM  

good one...really informative

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

tokenistic ifisthe fabian consensus corps uppsala discomfort tilt braudel generalities income
semelokertes marchimundui

sophie wild orchid 10:08 AM  

THANKS for the informative article expecting more

ranji 11:30 PM  

good article.
i am giving a link to my blog about 'kodungallur bharani festival'.

Anonymous 10:44 PM  

Genial fill someone in on and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you on your information.

Aneesh P.T 9:16 AM  

im very much intrested abt Muziris.
im in search of more details.
thanks for ur contribution. how could i get more knowledge about it and how could i get contacted with people doing research there in muziris, so that i can also be a part in it??

kuttappan 4:28 AM  

it is a lie, perpetrated by the status seeking trader christian community, that St. Thomas visited muziris and founded a church there.

Sha Nawas 5:03 AM  

`
controversies are there on the arrival of st. Thomas in Kerala. How do myth get the status of historical facts. There are a lot of things needed to draw conclusions on Musris excavation, I think. In the current euphoria over the discoveries there are have a taste of tourism, rather than history, I belive

pp shanavas

kcjourno 9:39 PM  

hello ther..i read ur post and found it very useul. I'm a journalist and am doing an article on the muziris project...is there any way i can contact u.Im from Kochi itself and work for the magazine UPDATE which is being brought out in association with the KSIDC. Awaiting ur reply at kuruvilla@independentmedia.in

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

Do you have any contact information for Dr. Shajan? I am aware of amphoras dug up elswhere in Kerala which were promptly destroyed by the locals. Not sure if the information is of any use, but I would like to pass it on. email me at joysonia2000@yahoo.co.uk

tt 11:36 AM  

That was very informative.Would like to know more about Muziris and the assosciated heritage project.

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