Pattanam digs rewriting history, says British archaeologist

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Fragments of Parthian ‘fish plate' glazed pottery recovered from Pattanam.
Fragments of Parthian ‘fish plate' glazed pottery recovered from Pattanam.

Staff Reporter

Chronology of West Asian sherds indicates the place's commercial significance

KOCHI: The information regarding the ongoing excavations at Pattanam (Vadakkekara panchayat, Ernakulam district) suggests that Asiatics managed to achieve impressive things, Derek Kennet, archaeologist and an expert on West Asian ceramics, has said.

Dr. Kennet, faculty of Durham University in the UK, who is currently collaborating in the Pattanam archaeological research by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), said the chronology of the West Asian sherds indicates the commercial significance of Pattanam during the pre-and-post- Roman periods. His tentative projection is that overseas contacts might range from 3 {+r} {+d} century BC as indicated by ‘fish plates' of the Parthian period, through the Sasanian period to 9 {+t} {+h} century AD.

Pointing out that Pattanam seems to be re-writing the history of Indian Ocean trade, Dr. Kennet said Keralites should be proud of the creative contributions of their ancestors to the development of the world economy so many hundreds of years ago.

He praised the work being carried out by KCHR at the site as the most modern scientific methods and techniques were being used.

Explaining that the chronological inference of the West Asian sherds corroborates the stratigraphic distribution and therefore the site's cultural sequence, P.J. Cherian, Director of the Pattanam excavations, said 650 sherds of glazed table wares and over 850 sherds of torpedo jars from Iraq and western Iran region (ancient Mesopotamia) have come out of the Pattanam trenches along with the Mediterranean pottery sherds. Dr. Kennet recalled that the vessels probably contained sesame oil, date syrup and other products specific to the region.

Stating that the scientific analysis of the organic residues on the ceramics can give more interesting insights into the extensive Indian Ocean trading network, Dr. Cherian said these residues allow experts to obtain information on the original content of the materials, their function and use.

More information could be gained on the diet and customs of the people who used them, he said.

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