Marine Archaeological Explorations in Indian Waters

Ancient Submerged Port Towns and Cities:

The ocean played a great role in the lives of the coastal people. The exploration of marine resources along the world coast dates back to the times of prehistoric man. Even the Neolithic people used the sea for various purposes. During the last 4000 years due to tectonic and eustatic changes in the sea level a number of human settlement sites have submerged either fully or partially. During the last 40 years serious attempts are being made in the world around to explore sunken ships and submerged ports.

The examples from the Israel coast of the Mediterranean are ranging from Palaeolithic Period to Iron Age have gone into the sea or lying near to the shore. Similarly, seventy archaeological sites have been noticed on the coasts of the Pelopennese and south-west Turkey. The age of these sites vary from 2000 B.C. to modern period.

The Port Royal of Jamaica, one of the cosmopolitan cities in the West Indies is the latest example. The height of prosperity of Port Royal came to an end at 11.40 A.M. on 7th June, 1692. The severe earthquake shook Port Royal causing two thirds of the city to slide in the ocean within 2 minutes. The Institute of Nautical Archaeology was invited to continue excavations in terms of archaeology in the city in 1981. The excavation of the entire sunken town site will require decades of work.

Indian examples of ancient port towns:

India with its 5000 years history of maritime activity and 6000 km coast has played a major role in commerce and cultural interaction between the East and West. Thousands of ships have crossed the Indian Ocean and many were lost in nautical calamities, piracy and warfare.

In India evidences of ship building, port and warehouses installations are datable to Harappan times (3500 -1500 yrs BP). The important Harappan and late Harappan ports are Lothal, Lakhabawal, Kindarkhera, Kuntasi, Megham, Prabhasa, Todio, Amra on the west coast of India. The excavations at these sites have yielded antiquities of Bahrain island, Persian gulf, Egypt and Mesopotamia cities.

The same maritime traditions continued even during the Buddha, the Mauryas, the Gupta and in later periods. During historical period India had trade and cultural contacts with Egypt, Rome, Greeks, Arabs, China and all most all Southeast Asian countries. As a consequence, both the coasts of India have been studded with a string of ancient ports. The ports on the west coast were Barygaya, Suppara, Calliena, Semylla, Mandagore, Palaepatme, Malizigara, Aurranobbas, Byzantine, Naura, Tyndis, Muziris and Nelcynda and the ports on the east coast were Tamralipti, Charitrapur, Paluru, Dantapur, Kalingapatnam, Pithunda, Sopatma, Ghantasala, Poduca, Puhar, Korkai and Camara.

In India, Marine Archaeological explorations are undertaken at Dwarka, Bet Dwarka, Somnath, Lakshadweep, Vijaydurg, Goa on the west coast and Tranquebar and Poompuhar on the east coast of India.