Season 1, Episode 1

The Lost Port of Muziris

2,000 years ago, traders and visitors representing 40 different cultures traveled to Muziris, the fabled port on the southwest coast of India. Ships of Roman Egypt set out from ports on the Red Sea and sailed across the Indian Ocean on the monsoon winds. They delivered gold and perfumes in exchange for spices — especially the coveted black pepper — and luxury goods such as elephant tusks and textiles. Muziris flourished as a prosperous and peaceful urban settlement on the Periyar River

For more than a decade, archaeologists have been searching for the lost port of Muziris. Their excavations are focused in Pattanam, a sleepy village 25km north of Kochi in Kerala. Incredible finds point to maritime trade and links with many cultures, including the Roman Empire: amphorae, semi-precious stones and beads, intaglios, and pottery from throughout the Indian Ocean world. Join us on a visit to Pattanam to learn more about these artifacts and whether this village really is the site of the lost port of Muziris.

Time Markers (mins: sec)

  • 0:00 Please wear your headphones
  • 0:17 Prologue
  • 1:32 Travel to Pattanam
  • 2:51 Meeting Dr PJ Cherian
  • 3:36 Ancient ports
  • 4:01 Searching for ancestors
  • 5:24 Welcome to Scrolls & Leaves
  • 6:28 Description of Pattanam excavations
  • 7:48 Romila Thapar
  • 8:55 Chapter 1, Chera Kingdom
  • 10:28 Tamil Sangam poetry
  • 11:50 Monsoons for navigation
  • 12:46 Boat ride on the Periyar River
  • 14:22 Fictional story of a merchant in Muziris
  • 18:14 Fate of Muziris
  • 19:02 Chapter 2, a visit to Sukumaran’s house
  • 23:44 Chapter 3, description of intaglio
  • 28:19 Greco-Roman carved head
  • 30:05 40 cultures visited Muziris
  • 30:36 Chapter 4, excavating the wharf complex
  • 33:22 Canoe discovery
  • 36:25 Is this Muziris?
  • 37:18 Individuals in history
  • 39:02 Credits

Share Episode




 Sign up for updates



Reading List

Aiyar, K.G. Sesha. Cera Kings of the Sangam Period. Luzac & Co., London. 1937.

Anandan, S. and Rajagopal, Shyama. Ground Zero | Kerala floods replay the catastrophe that hit the ancient sea port Muziris in 1341. September 29, 2018. The Hindu.

Casson, Lionel. Rome’s Trade with the East: The Sea Voyage to Africa and India. Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-2014) , 1980, Vol. 110 (1980), pp. 21-36. The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Casson, Lionel. Egypt, Africa, Arabia, and India: Patterns of Seaborne Trade in the First Century A.D. The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, Vol. 21, No. 1/4 (1984), pp. 39-47. American Society of Papyrologists.

Cherian, P.J. and Rocco, Giulia. Excavations in Kerala’s Pattanam reaffirm its trade links with Rome. October 09, 2020. Frontline.

Cherian, P.J. Pattanam Archaeological Site: The wharf context and the maritime exchanges. The Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

Cobb, Matthew. The Chronology of Roman Trade in the Indian Ocean from Augustus to Early Third Century CE. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 58, No. 3 (2015), pp. 362-418. Brill.

De Romanis, Federico and Maiuro, Marco. Across the Ocean: Nine Essays on Indo-Mediterranean Trade. Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2015 | doi 10.1163/9789004289536_002.

Herbert, Vaidehi. Sangam Poems Translated by Vaidehi. May 2012.

Jenott, Lance. The Voyage around the Erythraean Sea. June 2004. Simpson Center for the Humanities, University of Washington.

Karunakaran, Binu. Artist, niece help find Pattanam Sphinx. Sep 22, 2020. Times of India.

Kattakayam, Jiby J. ‘Pattanam site’s importance isn’tconfined to Kerala or India … it tells us the world was here 2,000 years ago’. November 15, 2020. Times of India.

Kerala Council for Historical Research. Unearthing Pattanam, Histories, Cultures, Crossings. Catalogue for the 2014 Exhibition, National Museum, New Delhi.

Lawler, Andrew. Sailing Sinbad’s seas: Archaeologists are rediscovering the ancient Maritime Silk Road, which once powered more East-West commerce than the famed Central Asian land route. Science, New Series, Vol. 344, No. 6191 (27 JUNE 2014), pp. 1440-1445. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Malekandathil, Pius. Muziris and the Trajectories of Maritime Trade in the Indian Ocean in the First Millennium CE. Chapter 14 of Imperial Rome, Indian Ocean Regions and Muziris. Edited by K.S. Mathew. 2016. Routledge.

Parker, Grant. Ex Oriente Luxuria: Indian Commodities and Roman Experience. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 45, No. 1 (2002), pp. 40-95. Brill.

Paul, Jiji. How Periyar’s dance of death changed Kerala’s landscape. July 22, 2018. OnManorama.

Rathbone, Dominic W. Muziris Papyrus. March 26, 2019. Oxford University Press.

Sahapedia. Interview with Romila Thapar. April 22, 2016.

Singh, Sukriti and Gosavi, Swati. Port Towns of Arikamedu and Pattanam: A Glimpse into the Ancient Maritime History of India. Online International Interdisciplinary Research Journal, Volume-08, Jan 2018 Special Issue (01).

Vishnu, Uma. In uncle’s backyard, student finds stone linking Kerala to Roman empire. October 4, 2020. The Indian Express.

hiatus episode

Sign Up for Our Letters!

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates about new releases and other news. This *isn't* a marketing email, and we won't pass on your info.

You have Successfully Subscribed!