Day 87 The Silk Road of the Sea

Roman trading ships on the “Silk Road of the Sea” sailed from south Arabia or the Red Sea to southern India and Sri Lanka in around 40 days in summer, and returned laden with cargo in the winter months when the monsoon reversed. Rome was hungry for luxury goods from the east. The ancient kingdom of Ruhuna in south-eastern Sri Lanka was an important staging post in this early global trade.

Excavation of a settlement from the 2nd century BC at Tissamaharma (Photo: Wittersheim, DAI KAAK)

From 1992 to 2011 the Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Culturesexcavated the 200 x 600 m citadel of Tissamaharama, the capital of Ruhuna (5th century BC to 6th century AD). Investigations focused on a residential area, a workers’ quarter and a hospital – the oldest so far in south-east Asia. The numerous finds, e.g. coins, amphoras and other ceramic imports, originate from the Roman Empire, Mesopotamia, northern India, south-east Asia and China, showing how important the city was in international trade between Europe and south-east Asia.

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