The great significance and varying conditions of international trade are one of the central issues in the modern discussion of globalization
To begin with, we must consider the geographical aspect. There are two possible routes for the Western trade of ancient India
Even the sea had its restrictions: The ancient mariners were unused to the open sea and the preferred way of sailing
15.2 Early Period: Indus and Sumer
The first evidence of contacts between South Asia and the Near East goes back to the Neolithic period or even beyond. From archaeological evidence, we know that the spread of agriculture, then that of pottery, took place from West to East. Some plants (millets?) and animals perhaps came to the West. There are also examples of long-distance trade even in the prehistoric period, but this is not my speciality and the details must be left to archaeologists.
Mesopotamian sea trade
What was traded? Textual evidence is important here as some of the goods do not survive for archaeologists to excavate and many do not reveal their origin. Timber was imported into Mesopotamia, but it is much later that we can clearly define the species. Copper
There are some illustrations of merchant ships on seals and works of art—both in India
Sometimes optimistic scholars have seen too many contacts, even where the evidence is clearly negative. Thus, the Ancient Egyptians did not know India, and what few Indian
The early commerce
Speaking of the Aryans
15.3 Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Old Persian Period
After 1000 BCE, a new direct contact was made between Mesopotamia and North-West India
It is more difficult to say what were Indian imports in the first millennium BCE. Some pottery has been found, in India
The rise of Media and Persia changed the political map of the Near East, but the existing trade relations continued. An important new feature was the Persian expansion in the east, although very defectively known.11 In any case, Bactria
But we must not exaggerate the importance of Achaemenids. Long ago, Wheeler saw them as the great bearers of civilization to Central Asia
The Achaemenid presence in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan is well established in literary sources—Greek and Old Persian.13 To this can be added some numismatic evidence. Achaemenid coinage, first issued by Darius at the end of the sixth century, has been found, in addition to stray finds, in the Tchamon-i-Hazouri hoard near Kabul and at the Bhir Mound in Taxila. There are also a number of Greek coins, not only the Athenian owls for which local forgeries have been suggested, but also coins of several Ionian, Greek and Macedonian towns. For the history of trade, it is interesting to note that Achaemenid sigloi are often found in association with Indian-style bent-bar and punch-marked coins.14
It is likely that the very idea of coinage was brought by the Achaemenids to North-West India
There is also some evidence of the growing maritime activity of the Achae- menids. Herodotus (4, 44) tells of the expedition sent by Darius, participated in and described by Scylax of Caryanda. They went to the east using the land-route via Bactria
In this period, another trade route
15.4 Alexander and Hellenism
Let us turn back to the Gulf route. The political upheaval caused by Alexander does not seem to have much altered the patterns of trade (Salles 1996, 257). When Alexander reached the delta of the Indus in 325, he was able to find pilots for the coastal waters of Gedrosia, who then guided the navy
Alexander fell in love with war elephants
It seems that in the early Hellenistic period, the Seleucids maintained sea trade
Our knowledge of the sea trade
The joint excavations of the University of Kerala and the British Museum at Pattanam near the Keralan coast are currently revealing what appears to be the famous port of Muziris, mentioned both in classical sources and in early Tamil poetry. But here the situation is similar, the earliest levels go back to the Megalithic phase, but Western trade starts only in the first century.27 Other famous markets of the Indian
Quite a lot has been written on the history of Indian
The story of the shipwrecked Indian sailor rescued in the Red Sea and then piloting Eudoxus of Cyzicus on his two voyages to India
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To avoid the dangers of the open sea, caused by the almost non-existent means of navigation, some sailors used to keep land birds such as crows and pigeons in cages. If the ship was carried into the open sea, the bird was freed, hoping that it would instinctively strike a course for the nearest coast. There is evidence for this custom in cuneiform sources, in the Bible and in Indian literature. See (Freedman 1973).
More precisely: in the period between the Akkadian and Ur III States of Southern Mesopotamia (Potts 2007, 122).
See (Salles 1996, 255). But are we really entitled to speak of Solomon as a dated historical figure? In any case, the legend of the Queen of Sheba refers to existing caravan trade.
I wonder whether he is not operating on too slight evidence. Is the trade in parrots only founded on the Bāverujātaka? Considering the importance of the local pearl fisheries of the Gulf, did they really import pearls from India? And he seems to have forgotten ivory.
Arrian (Indica 1, 3) claims that even the Assyrians had conquered parts of Afghanistan, but there is hardly any evidence for this. (Kločkov 1990) describes an eye-stone with a cuneiform inscription of Esarhaddon (680–669), but its provenance is unknown. It comes from the Kabul antiquarian market, and Kločkov thinks it must be of local origin. The story of the Indian campaign of Queen Semiramis is wholly legendary, though often mentioned in Greek literature (Daffinà 1990).
In Taxila, the beginnings of urbanization seem to be around 1000 BCE (Dani 1986, 36ff. and 81) and according to (Magee et.al. 2005, 715f.), Charsadda was also occupied as early. The main subject of (Magee et.al. 2005) or the ancient town of Akra, situated in Bannu Basin is of interest. It seems to have had close connections with Arachosia and was a very important centre in the Achaemenid period.
E.g., Herodotus, Ctesias and Arrian; DB. The Kabul Valley, Greek Paropamisadae, is also mentioned in the Avesta.
Herodotus 3, 106 on cotton in India. At least in the end of the fourth century, cotton was also cultivated in Bahrain, as we learn from Theophrast, Hist. 4, 7, 7. On rice, Sophocles F 607 Nauck. Note (Potts 2007, 128), on the possibility of the early introduction of rice into Mesopotamia.
Strabo 16, 3, 7 (cf. Arrian, Indica 27).
The information of the Pāli chronicles about the Orissan origins—there were certainly contacts—hail from the beginnings of the CE.
Appianus 11, 9, 5, Justinus 15, 4.
It remains open whether the Assyrians imported elephants. There are some early pictures of Indian-type elephants, but they may also be Syrian elephants, not yet extinct in Assyrian times. See (Karttunen 1989, 24). Ctesias saw elephants in Persian service and they took part in the battle of Gaugamela.
We can safely eliminate here the so-called “Buddhist” or “Sumerian” heads from Memphis. When these terracotta figurines were found by Flinders Petrie, they were dated to the Achaemenid period or even before (Petrie 1908) and this idea has been carried into much later studies (Nayar 1971). But as early as 1939, Gordon placed them on stylistic and historical grounds in the first century CE (Gordon 1939). See also (Harle 1992).
Indian dogs were already mentioned by Ctesias and Xenophon in the pre-Alexander period. See (Karttunen 1989, 163ff.).
See (Salles 1996, 255). In later times, at least, there was an Indian colony on the island and the very name Soqotra is probably derived from Sanskrit sukhataradvīpa.
My information on Pattanam excavations hails from two papers, read by members of the team at the South Asian Archaelogy conferences in London (2005) and Ravenna (2007), the first by V. Selvakumar, P.K. Gopi and Roberta Tomber, the second by P.J. Cherin, K.P. Shajan and V. Selvakumar.