x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

An anchor to history

A newly-discovered anchor, and other artefacts of the maritime trade, are clues about the millennia of commercial and cultural contacts emanating from present-day India.

We will never know what event - weather or piracy, fire or simply a frayed cable - caused a vessel to lose the anchor that researchers recently hauled from the seabed in Gujarat's Gulf of Kutch.

Indeed, we probably will never know what kind of ship lost the stone anchor or precisely when. There are more mysteries than certainties in this investigation, but the discovery plots another point on a map that charts the history of the region.

The anchor, and other artefacts of the maritime trade, are clues about the millennia of commercial and cultural contacts emanating from present-day India. It is a network with which the Arabian peninsula and parts of east Africa remain deeply engaged into the modern day.

Similar stone anchors were described in Buddhist texts dating back 2,000 years, although the oldest find to date is from the 9th century AD. This new anchor was found submerged 53 metres below the surface, a record for such a find, which has prompted speculation that it might be the oldest anchor of its kind that has been found. And, assuredly, on silty ocean beds lie similar clues to history, having been sent to a watery resting place by events long since forgotten.