The Indian town where there is evidence of Roman-Indian contact is apparently threatened by development ... from Middle East Times:

Pottery shards, beads, Roman copper coins, and ancient wine bottles litter the strata beneath this small seaside village in India's southern Kerala state.

The 250 families, mostly agricultural laborers, who live in Pattanam, 260 kilometers (161 miles) north of Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram, find the objects pretty, but would rather dig up the ground and build larger homes.

But according to archaeologists K.P. Shajan and V. Selvakumar, they may be destroying the remnants of Muziris, a well-documented trading port where Rome and India met almost 3,000 years ago.

They say that, based on remote sensing data, a river close to Pattanam had changed its course and the ancient port may have been buried due to earthquakes or floods.

The two are worried that construction activity in the village will destroy evidence about the existence of the port before they get the chance to examine it scientifically.

"There is no doubt that Pattanam was a major port that is linked to Indo-Roman trade," Shajan said. "But we can't confirm whether it was Muziris. We need more collaborative evidence to support our findings."

A majority of the families that live in Pattanam are demolishing old tiled-roof structures and replacing them with concrete buildings right in the middle of the 1.5-kilometer zone where Shajan and Selvakumar say that Muziris was possibly located.

Muziris was a port city mentioned in several ancient travelogues and scholarly texts as a major center of trade between India and Rome, especially in pepper and other spices around the second century BC to probably as late as the sixth century AD.

Christianity may have been introduced to the sub-continent through Muziris, historians say. But Muziris mysteriously dropped off the map - maybe to war, plague, or disaster.

The two archaeologists say that they want to find out for sure and have asked local preservation groups to help.

Kerala's Historical Research Council, an independent body that promotes research in history, says that it has written to the Archaeological Survey of India, which is in charge of protecting monuments and historical places, to take steps to protect Pattanam.

But K.V. Kunjikrishnan, a professor of history, says that neither the government nor the Archaeological Survey of India has responded.

"The construction activity in the area may destroy vital evidence of historical importance," says Kunjikrishnan.

Pattanam housewife Sheeba Murali says that ancient beads pop out from the ground after heavy rains and the 30-year-old history graduate, like some other villagers, collects them and hands them over to the archaeologists.

Villagers say that they used to get gold coins from the site, but kept the finds quiet.

"Nobody admits whatever things they get. We are scared that the government may take over our land for archaeological survey," says villager Arun Rajagopal.

It was from Rajagopal's land that the two archaeologists discovered beads, layer of bricks, wine bottles, jars, pendants, and copper coins.

Selvakumar says that the ancient bricks, which the villagers used to build their homes, bore a close resemblance to those used 2,500 years ago.

"During my excavations I collected a wide range of pottery which goes back to the historic date. Amphorae, roulette ware, beads, nails and several other artifacts such as copper coins were also recovered," he says.

But Sheeba says that villagers will continue building new homes.

"My children need a decent place to stay when they grow up. But I am thrilled to live in a place where history sleeps," she says.