“Cultures across the globe are a mixture of civilizations and there is little that can be called ‘pure culture’,” Tariq Ali, British-Pakistani writer, journalist and film-maker has said.
Knowing about this synthesis was important, at a time when purity of culture was much talked about, he said.
Mr. Ali, a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review and its long-standing editor, was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a visit to the Pattanam excavation site near North Paravur on Saturday.
“The expansive oceans ensured that civilizations mixed with each other. Trade and ports are thus among the oldest institutions in human history. Ancient traders knew more of (direction of) winds than us.
“Thus, world history is replete with migrations and intermingling of civilizations. Many of them settled in newer places and intermarried,” he said. Mr. Ali noted that the ongoing archaeological excavations and research at Pattanam — one of the components of the Muziris heritage project — had revealed fascinating facts such as the Romans having had links with Kerala during the pre-Christian era.
“I look forward to learn more about this on the web.”
To a question on the gross mismatch between hygiene and town planning during the Indus Valley civilization and today’s Indian cities, Mr. Ali said the two aspects were pivotal to sustaining the Indus Valley civilization.
“Back then, lifespan was short and people gave much emphasis to hygiene, ensuring sound sewage system and town planning. The ruins of Mohenjodaro show that the level of hygiene was much higher then than today.”
He spoke of how cultures east of the Mediterranean were better off than those in Europe during the early medieval period. “Many parts of Europe had an appalling sewage system.”
Pointing to a few huge terracotta pots excavated from four-metre-deep site at Pattanam, Director of Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) and Pattanam Excavations P.J. Cherian said they were part of the sanitation system 2,000 years ago. He took Mr. Ali, writer Paul Zachariah and Sashi Kumar, Chairman of Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, on a tour of the site and showed them a select assemblage of artefacts excavated from Pattanam that sheds light on the vibrant trade links and cultural crossings between the south-west coast of India and civilizations from far and wide.
The seventh season of excavation at Pattanam had come to a close before the monsoon, in early June.