Silver coin unlocks ancient trade routes across South Asia | Daily News

Silver coin unlocks ancient trade routes across South Asia

A finely made thin silver punch-marked coin weighing 2.2g unearthed at Keeladi in the seventh season of excavation this year holds key to the history of trading routes spanning the subcontinent and beyond — till Sri Lanka in the south and Afghanistan in the northwest.

The coin measuring 2.1x1.7x0.1cm has symbols of the sun, moon, a bull, taurine (nandipada), a dog and geometric design on the obverse and semi-circles and L-shaped mark on the reverse as found at a depth of 147cm.

Such coins along with northern black polished ware were recovered from Kodumanal and Alagankulam, dating to the middle of 3rd-4th Century BC. In addition to them, personal name of north India, beads of carnelian and agate of Maharashtra origin, lapis lazuli of Afghanistan origin and black cat eye of Sri Lankan origin and northern black polished ware of Gangetic origin were recovered in association with punch marked coins at Keeladi, Alagankulam and Kodumanal. The evidence strengthened our view that north and south India and Sri Lanka were totally integrated into the trading system and there were well-established trade routes in the region.

The occurrence of silver punch-marked coins is considered one of the indicators for the existence of trade between north and south particularly with the Gangetic valley. These coins were in circulation from the time of Mahajanpadas of 6th Century BC. The traders from the Gangetic valley brought Buddhism and Jainism into Tamil Nadu.

The availability of semi-precious stones, copper objects, northern black polished ware, punch-marked coins and Tamilised-Prakrit words from the Sangam age sites serves as indicators of thriving commercial activity. During the Mauryan empire, it had wide circulation due to the trade and commerce supported by the well-established state.

(The writer is academic and research adviser, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department)

- Times of India


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