Archaeologists find Silk Road equal
Dig shows extensive Roman sea trade with India
June 12, 2002
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Spices, gems and other exotic cargo
from an ancient port on Egypt's Red Sea show that the sea trade 2,000
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
going on in antiquity at a scale and scope that is truly impressive,"
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.
Historians have long known that Egypt and India traded by land and sea
the Roman era, in part because of texts detailing the commercial exchange
of luxury goods, including fabrics, spices and wine.
Now, 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 between the Roman Empire and India.
Huge stash of peppercorns
Among their finds at the site near Egypt's border with Sudan: more than 16
pounds (7 kilograms) of black peppercorns, the largest stash of the prized
Indian spice ever recovered from a Roman archaeological site.
Berenike lies at what was the southeastern extreme of the Roman Empire and
probably functioned as a transfer port for goods shipped through the Red
Trade activity at the port peaked twice, in the first century and again
500, before it ceased altogether, possibly after a plague.