Indian Ocean trade and the archaeology of technology

Project leaders

Department of Conservation and Scientific Research 


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This collaborative project between the British Museum and the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) investigates links across the Indian Ocean through the study of the rich archaeological finds from the port site of Pattanam, Kerala.

Excavations by the KCHR since 2007 at Pattanam have uncovered thousands of artefacts from the Mediterranean, West Asia and throughout India, which form the basis for investigating the relationships between these regions during Antiquity. Over the course of three years workshops on Ceramics, Personal Adornment and Maritime Technology will study the exchange of objects and technology between the 3rd century BCE and the 9th century CE. These workshops bring together international scholars to study the finds from Pattanam and related Indian Ocean port sites while training Asian students and early career scholars in material culture.

With an emphasis on technology, each workshop is paired with fieldwork observing modern craftsmen and women using traditional techniques. In this way we can better understand ancient technology and record what are frequently dying crafts. To date, the project has documented potters and goldsmiths in the vicinity of Pattanam and discussed our archaeological findings with these craftsmen and women.