The Archaeological Survey of India licensed the Kerala Council for Historical Research to oversee the dig in 2007. Its director, PJ Cherian, says the Pattanam excavations link the whole Indian Ocean region to the Mediterranean, through the Red Sea – a confluence of cultures and religions that led to a “web of relationships which included human beings, technology, nature and cultural aspects that linked these three continents. This was for the first time in human history that this type of an urban process was spreading across Indian ocean.”
But the significance of the dig runs deeper than just its historical or archaeological value. This part of Kerala is where different cultures and religions mixed with each other to give India its first churches, mosques and synagogues. At a time when religious divides are sharpening, conversion has become the subject of volatile and belligerent politics, churches have been vandalised, and “love jihad” has entered the vocabulary as an idiom for mixed marriage the confluence of faiths and cultures that the project links together is not lost on anyone.
My special report for India Matters on the dig and its significance: Watch here