Ancient stone anchor gives clues to Indo-Arab trade

Filed on May 24, 2012

PANAJI - Scientists of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) have found an Indo-Arabic stone anchor off the Kutch coast in Gujarat that offers significant clues to the Indo-Arabic trade of the first and second century B.C. It was found at a depth of more than 50 metres.

The find has been published in the May issue of scientific journal Current Science.

“Ancient stone anchors serve to understand maritime contacts of India with other parts of the world... Arabs sailed the Indian Ocean and used the type of anchors under study since the 9th century. Indo-Arabian type stone anchors have been reported from the western Indian Ocean countries, namely east Africa, India, Arabian Gulf countries and Sri lanka, suggesting close maritime contacts and trade relations among these countries.

“The ports in the Gulf of Kachchh have contributed significantly to maritime trade since ancient times, and such trade was extensive between Gujarat and the Arab world even during the medieval period,” the study reported.

The antique broke into two pieces while being retrieved.

“While the anchor was being retrieved, it fell from the dredger and broke into two pieces along a fracture plane that developed 70cm below the upper circular hole,” the study reported.

Sila Tripathi, a marine archaeologist at the NIO who studied the anchor said more studies needed to be done to determine the exact source of the rock material. Tripathi said it was most likely of Indian origin. “More studies need to be done to know where it came from, which includes studying the nature of rock along the entire Western Indian coastline to find a match,” he said.

“Further comparative studies of epiclastic rocks from these areas are required to verify whether the stone anchor reported in this study could have been made from one of these rocks. An earlier study showed that stone anchors recovery from Indian waters are made of rocks found along the Indian coast. “As there are no associated finds along with the stone anchor in the present study, it is difficult to determine the exact age. However, on the basis of comparative analysis, similar type of Indo-Arabian-type of stone anchors have been dated between 9th and 17th century AD in the Indian waters,” Tripathi said in his paper.

The anchor stone is composed of quartz and feldspar grains floating in a ferruginous matrix.

“No anchors have been reported so far from the northern coast of the Gulf of Kachchh. Further, the stone anchors reported from Gujarat or elsewhere in India are primarily from ports and harbour sites, sheltered bays and shipwreck sites. The anchor reported in this study has been found in none of the above described contexts. Very little is known about the finding of stone anchors in waters deeper than 20 m along the Indian Coast.

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