Pattanam archaeological site : The wharf context and the maritime exchanges

Dublin Core


Pattanam archaeological site : The wharf context and the maritime exchanges


Session 2
Nautical (Ship and boat) Archaeology of South Asia


Since 2007 the archaeological excavations at Pattanam, located on the southwestern coast of India, were undertaken by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) Thiruvananthapuram. These efforts unearthed an early historic (1st c BCE – 5th c CE) multi-cultural port site, which is now widely considered as an integral part of the ancient port of Muziris. This paper discusses the material evidence related to the maritime exchanges at Pattanam, including a wharf context and the importance of the site in the transcontinental interfaces in antiquity.

The most striking material evidence unearthed at Pattanam is the enormous quantity of terracotta objects, ranging from sherds of a variety of jars and pots to roof tiles and bricks. This paper will specifically examine the Indian and non-Indian distinct pottery of the Pattanam ceramic assemblage.

The excavations in the northeastern part of the site revealed a wharf and warehouse structure, a wooden canoe made of anjili in a waterlogged context, along with nine bollards of teak. The wharf was a platform made of a mixture of laterite, clay and lime, with an elaborate brick lining where the reclining platform touches the water. The waterlogged area also produced a plethora of paleo-botanical and other archaeological evidence prompting one to propose a hypothesis that Pattanam is a major emporium of the spice trade network of the Early Historic Period (1st c BCE – 5th c CE). This ‘priceless’ evidence from the wharf context and the adjacent waterlogged area are breakthrough finds for understanding the Early Historic inter-continental exchanges that flourished as part of the ancient spice trail that linked Asia, Africa and Europe.

The paper concludes by examining the domineering distribution of local pottery as an example in pointing out the problems of Euro-centrism in the perspectives on long-distance exchanges.


P. J Cherian


November 2011



Fatal error: Uncaught ValueError: version_compare(): Argument #3 ($operator) must be a valid comparison operator in /home/kknoerl/ Stack trace: #0 /home/kknoerl/ version_compare('8.0.30', '5.6', 'gte') #1 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::isPhpFpm() #2 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scan('<?xml version="...', NULL) #3 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scanFile('/home/kknoerl/t...') #4 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_findRoute('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern', Array) #5 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_getFile('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern') #6 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::getContent('en_US', 'date', Array) #7 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_parseIsoToDate('FFFF', 'en_US') #8 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_toToken('FFFF', 'en_US') #9 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->toString('FFFF') #10 /home/kknoerl/ format_date(1719002752, 'FFFF') #11 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getCitation() #12 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getProperty('citation') #13 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getRecordMetadata(Object(Item), 'citation') #14 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getText(Object(Item), 'citation') #15 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->metadata(Object(Item), 'citation', Array) #16 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->__call('metadata', Array) #17 /home/kknoerl/ metadata('item', 'citation', Array) #18 /home/kknoerl/ include('/home/kknoerl/t...') #19 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View->_run('/home/kknoerl/t...') #20 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->render(NULL) #21 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->renderScript('items/show.php', NULL) #22 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->render() #23 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->postDispatch() #24 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_HelperBroker->notifyPostDispatch() #25 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action->dispatch('showAction') #26 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Dispatcher_Standard->dispatch(Object(Zend_Controller_Request_Http), Object(Zend_Controller_Response_Http)) #27 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Front->dispatch() #28 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application_Bootstrap_Bootstrap->run() #29 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application->run() #30 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_Application->run() #31 {main} thrown in /home/kknoerl/ on line 172