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posted by hubie on Thursday July 04, @07:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the rimes-of-the-ancient-mariners dept.

Smithsonian Magazine is reporting on archaeological finds revealing a trade route between ancient Egypt and India at Berenike, an ancient port city on the Red Sea.

From the article:

On a sunny morning this past January, Ingo Strauch, an expert in ancient Indian history, crouches in the courtyard of what was once an Egyptian temple. The floor is littered with fallen stones and columns. Nearby, carved hieroglyphs are visible on the salt-corroded walls, which in some places still stand nearly eight feet high. Located just a few hundred steps from the glittering water of the Red Sea, in Egypt's eastern desert, this remote shrine was dedicated to the mother goddess Isis some 2,000 years ago.
[...]
In antiquity, this site, known as Berenike, was described by chroniclers such as Strabo and Pliny the Elder as the Roman Empire's maritime gateway to the East: a crucial entry point for mind-boggling riches brought across the sea from eastern Africa, southern Arabia, India and beyond. It is hard to imagine how such vast and complex trade could have been supported here, miles from any natural source of drinking water and many days' arduous trek across mountainous desert from the Nile. Yet excavations are revealing that the stories are true.
[...]
The ruined Isis temple alone has yielded inscriptions and ritual offerings made by Egyptian, Greek and Roman worshipers over hundreds of years, from painted pharaohs on the walls to bronze statues and gilded figurines. But these treasures aren't what Strauch, from the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, has traveled thousands of miles to see. Laid out before him on a blue blanket is a two-and-a-half-foot-long block of curiously inscribed white gypsum.

Near the top of the stone's rough, corroded surface are three lines of elegantly curved Sanskrit script. Strauch, wearing sunglasses and a Panama hat, traces the curling letters with his finger. "In the sixth year of King Philip," he reads, "the kshatriya Vasula gave this image for the welfare and happiness of all beings." Then he points to a single line, in Greek, written by the same person but in a cruder style, that says simply: "Vasula set this up." If not for the Greek translation and the reference to a Roman emperor—Philip the Arab, who ruled in the third century A.D.—this dedication could be mistaken as coming from India, Strauch says. The words are Sanskrit, expertly written in Brahmi script. The message itself, with its reference to universal happiness, is undeniably Buddhist. And the author, Vasula, who arranged for the dedication, proudly describes himself as kshatriya, from the warrior caste.

It seems that the ancient world was much more connected than we thought, whether that be via the Silk Road to China or sea routes to Africa and India.

Who knew globalization was such an old concept?

TFA has much more info than the above, and is really fascinating. I heartily recommend reading it.


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Thursday July 04, @11:39PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday July 04, @11:39PM (#1363116) Journal

    TFA has much more info than the above, and is really fascinating. I heartily recommend reading it.

    I'll second that. I read a short article years ago about Berenike, which was very short on details. This article fleshes things out a lot. It adds a lot to whatever you knew, or didn't know, about history as well. The inferred blend of cultures and religions is pretty fascinating, IMO.

    The only down side of the story is, the Egyptian authorities are always on hand, supervising, and confiscating everything found. After centuries of looting of Egyptian sites, I guess we can understand that. All the same, it would be great if all these items were put on display for scholars to study.

    --
    We've finally beat Medicare! - Houseplant in Chief
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Cyrix6x86 on Thursday July 04, @11:41PM

    by Cyrix6x86 (13569) on Thursday July 04, @11:41PM (#1363117)

    Oh. Berenike Buddha. Yeah this is a couple of years old now and only dates back to 250 A.D.

    The real smoking gun would be to find direct evidence of Ashoka's missionaries who supposedly traveled as far as the Mediterranean spreading the Buddhist gospel some 500 years prior. There's an idea that these missionaries influenced both Jewish and Greek and spread the ideas of monasticism and asceticism, laying the foundation for later Christianity and that the therapeutae monks that the Greeks record as having come from the east is just a Hellenized variation of theravada, the oldest continuous form of Buddhism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edicts_of_Ashoka [wikipedia.org]

    ...

    When talking about globalization itself, I think the most impressive early group was the Austronesian peoples, who dominated the southern seas from Madagascar to Colombia. Madagascar is odd because it's only 250 miles off the coast of Africa, but it was uninhabited until Malaysians discovered it by canoe and populated it. People of African descent only arrived after about 800 years of Austronesian people already living there. Meanwhile, Colombian matrilineal DNA is found in some Polynesian people and they were kind enough to introduce sweet potatoes to Southeast Asia, which are native to South America (some scholars doubt this and say it floated on the ocean and spread naturally but that doesn't explain how both Aymara and Polynesians used the same fucking name for it, kumara)

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by ChrisMaple on Friday July 05, @06:06AM

    by ChrisMaple (6964) on Friday July 05, @06:06AM (#1363140)

    Alexander the Great's empire in 300 BC bordered on what is today India.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Thexalon on Friday July 05, @11:00AM (1 child)

    by Thexalon (636) on Friday July 05, @11:00AM (#1363156)

    The Egyptians had seafaring vessels in this period. So did everybody else with coastline. Of course they used them to head south and east, not just north and west, and when different kinds of people meet they typically not only trade stuff but ideas and not-infrequently DNA.

    Heck, Thor Heyerdahl demonstrated with the Ra II that the Egyptians could have sailed from Morocco to the Americas far earlier than a lot of people had thought possible.

    Oceans aren't barriers so much as highways once you get good at sailing.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 05, @04:51PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 05, @04:51PM (#1363189)

      I know. What a waste of front page space.

      Why was this posted? Absolutely everyone knows absolutely everything about everywhere for all time and space. What a useless waste of energy!

      Not just posting to SN, but doing such fake "research" altogether. We all knew every detail of this already, so no reason to waste taxpayer money to do this.

      I guess the "climate change" dollars are drying up, so "scientists" need to find new scams to fleece the public. Amirite?

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