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Link Established & Seal-ed…

A ring, quite similar to the one worn by the First Emperor of Ancient Rome Augustus Caesar or Octavian (September 23, 63 BC – August 19, 14 AD), has recently been found in southern part of India! During excavation works at Pattanam in Indian Province of Kerala’s Ernakulam District, the Researchers recently found a 1.2-cm-long seal-ring, with an image of a Sphinx and a Greco-Roman head of a miniature statuette. Director of the local PAMA Institute for the Advancement of Trans-disciplinary Archaeology P J Cherian has confirmed the news, stating that the Archaeologists have arranged to dig six tunnels across 111 acres of land in Pattanam Village for the last 13 years to find archaeological specimens. And, they discovered the ring on April 25, 2020. Dr Cherian also said that the PAMA Institute contacted various experts in the last three months to collect authentic information about the ring.

Dr Giulia Rocca, the Professor of Archaeology and History of Greek and Roman Art at the Tor Vergata University of Rome, informed the PAMA Institute that the banded agate, a precious stone found in India, was indeed very similar to the kind worn by Augustus Caesar, who reigned from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. The ring, as mentioned before, has a Greco-Roman face and a female Sphinx engraved on it.

L to R: Greco-Roman head of a miniature statuette from excavations at Pattanam in Ernakulam. The marble sphinx at Corinth museum. This was placed on a stele erected on the tomb of an eminent Corinthian or Athenian in the Northern Cemetery of Corinth | Seal-ring with the image of a sphinx.

Experts are of the opinion that Pattanam, the small village situated near the River Periyar, could be the Port City of Muziris between the 1st Century BC and 4th Century AD. The Roman emperors had started building such ports-cities in different countries after conquering Egypt, mainly to boost trade ties through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Through these port-cities, various kinds of spices, precious metals and stones, silk, ivory and pottery items used to reach the Middle East and Rome from different countries. On the other hand, Rome and Egypt used to export gold coins, liquors and wheat to the West and South Asian nations. After the 4th Century AD, these port-cities slowly started losing their importance due to various reasons!

Indo-Roman Trade

A section of experts have opined that the fall of the Roman Empire had a great impact on the importance of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean as trade routes. Meanwhile, the Indian Historians have said that Pattanam experienced floods in 1341… and, it destroyed the port. As a result, ships were unable to dock there.

The Question arises as to how did the seal-ring – with the image of a Sphinx used by the Roman Emperors – reach India? Dr Cherian stressed: “The ring could have reached modern-day Pattanam through traders or through merchants. Several thousand seals would have been in existence during the time, each authorised by the Emperor and used on his behalf. Another possibility is that the seal was produced in Pattanam itself.

The Site in Kerala

Meanwhile, Chris Gosden, the Oxford Professor of European Archaeology, insisted that the recent findings show Europe’s connections with South Asia and Far East during the olden days. “These early forms of globalisation involved trade, but also the exchange of aesthetic forms, ideas and sensibilities… which may indicate that Asia and Europe have much more entangled histories than we have realised to date,” he stressed.

With the ring linking India to the Roman Empire, a formidable task of working through it lies ahead of Dr Cherian and his team…

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