A multi-disciplinary project launched three years ago has yielded archaeological evidence of Kerala's ancient glory. The official establishment plans to exploit the find to boost tourism but has little interest in identifying its creators.
Kerala has boasted of a long history on the basis of references in ancient Tamil texts and the accounts of foreign travellers. However, barring a stray find of Roman coins, no tangible proof of its antiquity was available until now.
Tamil literature of 2,000 years ago contains references to a prosperous port city of Muchiri, where ships from distant lands came with gold to fetch pepper. Romans called it Muziris and said there was a temple of Augustus Caesar north of the city.
Apparently, it was through Muziris that Christianity and Islam entered the subcontinent. Jews fleeing from Jerusalem found refuge there. The younger generation having migrated to Israel, the Jewish community is now almost extinct. Muziris, which according to foreign accounts could be reached from Egypt in 40 days under favourable wind conditions, disappeared 10 or 12 centuries ago in circumstances that are unclear. Until recently scholars believed Kodungallur, 35 km north of Kochi, was the legendary port city but no evidence of maritime mercantile activity could be found there.
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