Scrolls & Leaves | The lost port of Muziris

Scrolls & Leaves | The lost port of Muziris

Tiny beads and Roman artifacts found in Pattanam may hold clues to an ancient lost port

Sukumaran K S painted many of the finds from excavations in Pattanam, Kerala. Credit: Scrolls & Leaves

When Sukumaran K S was a boy, he and his friends played in a large, empty field across from his house in Pattanam, Kerala. One of their favourite games was to search around the coconut trees after it rained. 

“The base of the coconut trees would fill with rainwater and there would be 500 to 600 tiny beads coming out of the soil,” recalled the 66-year-old carpenter and artist. “I would scoop them up and both my hands would be full. My friends and I would thread them on a string to play with.”

It was residents like Sukumaran who found the first clues to what may be one of India’s most important historic sites. For more than a decade, archaeologists have been excavating at this sleepy village, 25 kilometres north of Kochi, in search of Muziris, the 2,000-year-old port on the Malabar Coast. The soil of Pattanam may yield the remains of an important port in the ancient spice trade network with civilisations as far as the Roman Empire.

Though he and his friends tossed aside the beads from childhood, Sukumaran has found other artifacts as an adult, including a miniature gold horse head and a brass weight. And just last year, two of the most significant finds were dug up near his house, objects of intricate, ancient Roman design. 

Listen to Episode 1, The Lost Port of Muziris, of the Scrolls & Leaves podcast to know more about these artifacts unearthed from Sukumaran’s yard, and other exciting finds in the search for the ancient port. Scrolls & Leaves is a world history show featuring stories from the margins of history, science, and cultures. The episodes are crafted in 3D sound, which convinces the listener that they are in the space they’re hearing about. In Season 1, Trade Winds, hosts Mary-Rose Abraham and Gayathri Vaidyanathan tell seven stories about how trade and migration across the Indian Ocean transformed us.