Dig shows extensive Roman trade with India, at times rivaling

Sunday, June 16, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Spices, gems and other exotic cargo excavated from an ancient port on Egypt's Red Sea show that the sea trade 2,000 years ago between the Roman Empire and India was more extensive than previously thought and even rivaled the legendary Silk Road, archaeologists say.

"We talk today about globalism as if it were the latest thing, but trade was going on in antiquity at a scale and scope that is truly impressive," said the co-director of the dig, Willeke Wendrich of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Wendrich and Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware report their findings in the July issue of the journal Sahara.

Archaeologists who have spent the last nine years excavating the town of Berenike say they have recovered artifacts that are the best physical evidence yet of the extent of sea trade.

Among their finds: more than 16 pounds of black peppercorns, the largest stash of the prized Indian spice ever recovered from a Roman site.

Berenike lies at what was the southeastern extreme of the Roman Empire.

They say the evidence indicates that trade between the Roman Empire and India was as extensive as that of the Silk Road, the trade route that stretched from Venice to Japan. Silk, spices, perfume, glass and other goods moved along the Silk Road between about 100 B.C. and the 15th century.

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