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Literary Review:Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean

The book dives into past and present finds regarding the importance of the ports between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Societies

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Madras Port in 1996. Image Source: Wikipedia.org

 

  • The Red Sea was used as a trade route from 3rd century B.C. to 6th century C.E.
  • The trades that happened were not strictly goods, but knowledge and ideas as well
  • Researchers are constantly finding new information on life during this period

‘Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean’ edited by ed Marie-Francoise Boousasac, Jean Francois Salles and Jean-Baptiste Yon, dives into the important role that ports played. Their importance is established by the fact that their function went beyond sending and receiving goods. Information was spread through the ports between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Societies. The sources of reference range from the Greek Periplus to the 16th century Portuguese and the French in the colonial period.

The Red Sea was a trade route from 3rd century B.C to roughly 6th Century C.E. The ports studied here offer much information about life during this time period.

The first chapter introduces readers to recent discoveries that were found during excavations of the Red Sea ports. These discoveries further credited the previously known facts.

Rightfully so, this first chapter does an excellent job of setting the tone for the new information that has been discovered.

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The second chapter goes deep into findings regarding storage facilities which were shipment requirements. It also discusses ship-related equipment, such as old oar blades. Recent geographical finds have proved that there was a navigable lagoon at Gawasis in ancient times.

Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean. Wikimedia Commons.
Ports of the Ancient Indian Ocean. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

According to an article in The Hindu,‘Living in the Egyptian Ports’ is a chapter that discusses ports that were important to the early Roman period. It also describes what life at the ports was like. Limitations in these harbors were found during an excavation done by The University of Southhampton in 1999-2003; this chapter confirms these finds.

The part of the book dealing with the inscriptions of the Hoc cave in Socotra are said to be of high interest to Indian readers. In 2001, discoveries were made, which claimed that over 100 Indian inscriptions were made with charcoal, chalk, or mud were scratched into the surfaces of the rocks. These inscriptions were written in Brahmi and appears to be similar to inscriptions of the 2nd to 4th Century C.E. of West India. Newly discovered inscriptions validate these later findings. The new findings mention the city of Bharukaccha, which was one of the most significant ports at the point in time.

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The chapter on Emmanuelle Vagnon’s Latin Cartographic sources of 1200-1500 C.E., is also quite intriguing. Looking at the changes that cartography has undergone since the 1990s, the author points the readers to consider something else. She comments on medieval nautical charts and references of Fra Mauro’s mappaemundi and Ptolemy’s Geography.

Gaur and Sundaresh add to already known information regarding the ancient technology of jetties and and anchorage system on the Saurashtra Coast. Since Satyabhama Badreenath, has been a superintendent archaeologist on site in Chennai, he discusses the revelations that were found after the tsunami in 2004.

This book is abundant in knowledge and is said to be a gem to university libraries and research centres.

Abigail Andrea is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter @abby_kono

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  • Aparna Gupta

    This is really an evidence of our rich history between ports of ancient India and Mediterranean societies.

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Scientists Prepare To Explore Uncharted Indian Ocean

The mission’s principal scientist, Lucy Woodall of Oxford University, said the researchers expect to discover dozens of new species.

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Indian Ocean
In this image taken from drone video, the Ocean Zephyr is docked in Bremerhaven, Germany, Wednesday Jan. 23, 2019. VOA

Scientists prepared Thursday to embark on an unprecedented, years-long mission to explore the Indian Ocean and document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades.

The ambitious expedition will delve into one of the last major unexplored frontiers on the planet, a vast body of water that’s already feeling the effects of global warming. Understanding the Indian Ocean’s ecosystem is important not just for the species that live in it, but also for an estimated 2.5 billion people at home in the region — from East Africa, the Arabian peninsula, South and Southeast Asia.

The Nekton Mission, supported by over 40 organizations, will conduct further dives in other parts of the Indian Ocean over three years. The research will contribute to a summit on the state of the Indian Ocean planned for late 2021.

The Ocean Zephyr is preparing to leave Bremerhaven, Germany, on the first leg of trip. Researchers will spend seven weeks surveying underwater life, map the sea floor and drop sensors to depths of up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) in the seas around the Seychelles.

Indian ocean
FILE – An undated and unplaced handout photo obtained from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on Dec. 3, 2015, shows Havila Harmony, one of three ships scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the remains of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (VOA)

Little is known about the watery world below depths of 30 meters (100 feet), which scientists from Britain and the Seychelles will be exploring with two crewed submarines and a remotely operated submersible in March and April.

Ronny Jumeau, the Seychelles’ ambassador to the United Nations, said such research is vital to helping the island nation understand its vast ocean territory.

While the country’s 115 islands together add up to just 455 square kilometers (176 sq. miles) of land — about the same as San Antonio, Texas — its exclusive economic zone stretches to 1.4 million square kilometers (540 million square miles) of sea, an area almost the size of Alaska.

Jumeau said the Seychelles aims to become a leader in the development of a “blue economy” that draws on the resources of the ocean. The archipelago relies on fishing and tourism, but has lately also been exploring the possibility of extracting oil and gas from beneath the sea floor.

“Key to this is knowing not only what you have in the ocean around you, but where it is and what is its value,” he said. “It is only when you know this that you can properly decide what to exploit and what to protect and leave untouched.”

Indian ocean
Gunner Richard Brown (L) of Transit Security Element looks through binoculars as he stands on lookout with other crew members aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Perth as they continue to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 10, 2014. 

“Research expeditions such as the Nekton Mission are therefore vital to help us fill those gaps and better know our ocean space and marine resources to make wise decisions in planning the future of our blue economy,” Jumeau added.

The island nation of fewer than 100,000 people is already feeling the effects of climate change, with rising water temperatures bleaching its coral reefs.

“Our ocean is undergoing rapid ecological transformation by human activities,” said Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at the University of York, England, who is a trustee of the mission.

“Seychelles are a critical beacon and bellwether for marine conservation in the Indian Ocean and globally,” he said.

Also Read: Communication of Coral Eating Starfish can save Coral Reefs: Scientists

The mission’s principal scientist, Lucy Woodall of Oxford University, said the researchers expect to discover dozens of new species, from corals and sponges to larger creatures like types of dog-sharks.

The Associated Press is accompanying the expedition and will provide live underwater video from the dives, using new optical transmission technology to send footage from the submarines to the ship and from there, by satellite, to the world. (VOA)