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Ancient stone anchor may offer clues to Indo-Arabian maritime trade

Archaeologists find an Indo-Arab stone anchor off the coast of Gujarat state which could be the oldest ever found and may offer insight into trade more than 2,000 years ago.

PANAJI, INDIA // Archaeologists have found an Indo-Arab stone anchor off the coast of Gujarat state that they say may offer clues into trade between Arabs and Indians more than 2,000 years ago.

It was the first time an ancient anchor was found at a depth greater than 50 metres, which means it could be the oldest ever found, said scientists at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa.

The previous deepest find of that kind was 20 metres.

"As there are no associated finds along with the stone anchor in the present study, it is difficult to determine the exact age. However similar types of Indo-Arabian stone anchors [found] have been dated between 9th and 17th century AD in the Indian waters," Sila Tripathi, a marine archaeologist at the institute, said in a report published in this month's Current Science journal.

The anchor was found 53 metres deep in the Gulf of Kutch. That type of anchor was mentioned in the Buddhist text Milindapanha, believed to have been written more than 2,000 years ago.

"Ancient stone anchors serve to understand maritime contacts of India with other parts of the world," Mr Tripathi said. "The ports in the Gulf of Kutch have contributed significantly to maritime trade since ancient times, and such trade was extensive between Gujarat and the Arab world during the medieval period."

Maritime archaeological exploration has brought out a variety of stone anchors from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala and Lakshadweep on the west coast, and Tamil Nadu and Orissa along the east coast.

In recent years, 16 stone anchors consisting of Indo-Arabian, ring stone and single-hole types were discovered from Goa and Gujarat waters.