The marine branch of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered Roman artefacts dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries from the inter-tidal zone (the area between the high-tide and low-tide lines) of Elephanta Island.
The find, made last winter, includes artefacts like wine amphorae (vases), pot sheds, storage devices, and stone anchors.
The discovery shows that trade between Rome and India continued much later than previously thought.
Historians believed that the trade, which was conducted via Arabia in the early period of the Roman Empire, declined by the turn of the first millennium.
The discovery indicates that contacts between India and Rome flourished well into the late Roman era.
Alok Tripathi, ASI’s head of underwater archaeology, said, “The entire Maharashtra coast has evidence of Roman contact on a large scale. We are particularly interested in Elephanta, Sindhudurg, Malvan, and Vijaydurg. The Roman artefacts that we have found in Elephanta include some that have survived in excellent condition. The find points to robust trading contact in the late Roman period. This is a first-of-its-kind find on the West Coast.”
The ASI underwater unit plans to carry out fresh excavations in November with the navy. The joint effort will look at sites in Gujarat and Mahabalipuram, besides Elephanta. Come winter and the Indian seas could yield more surprises.
UPDATE: I notice Adrian Murdoch has some useful links related to this ...
UPDATE: See also Dorothy King's comments on Romans in India and China ... Adrian Murdoch has dug up some interesting stuff from Elephanta (metaphorically, not archaeologically, speaking) from last year ...