Crossing Continents: Between India and the Aegean from Prehistory to Alexander the Great [Paperback]

Robert Arnott(Author)

ISBN: 9781789255546 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2022 | Language: English 160p, H9.5 x W6.7,
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Crossing Continents


The first contacts between Greece, the Aegean and India are generally thought to have occurred at the beginning of the sixth century BC. There is now, however, growing evidence of much earlier but indirect connections, reaching back into prehistory. These were initially between India and its Indus Civilization (Meluḫḫa) and the Near East and then finally with the societies of the Early and Middle Bronze Age Aegean,with their slowly emerging palace-based economies and complex social structures. Starting in the middle of the third millennium BC but diminishing after approximately 1800 BC, these connections point to a form of indirect or what might be called ‘trickle-down’ contact between the Aegean and India. From the start, until 2500 BC, the objects and commodities that formed this contact were transported overland, through Northern Iran, but after that time, the Harappans took control and we see a structured trade using the sea out through the Persian Gulf.

These contacts can also be placed into three categories: (a) the importation of objects manufactured in India or made from Indian commodities imported into the Near East,which eventually found their way to the Aegean and have parallels at Indian sites; (b) the importation of inorganic commodities such as tin, possibly some gold and lapis lazuli, exported from India or Central Asia under Harappan control; and (c) the importation of non-perishable organic commodities.

This study views the Aegean as part of a greater trade network and here the author has attempted to both evaluate and re-evaluate what evidence and speculation there are for such contacts, particularly for the commodities such as tin and lapis lazuli as well as more recently discovered objects. It is emphasized that this does not testify to direct cultural and trade links and geographical knowledge between the Harappans and the prehistoric Aegean in the third and second millennia BC; it was just the natural extension of trade between the Near East and India. No goods or commodities arrived directly from India; they accumulated added value as they first built up a distinguished pedigree of ownership in the Near East and Syro-Palestine. In the Early to Late Bronze Ages, India was an important resource for valuable and indispensable commodities destined for the elites and developing technologies of much of the Old World. Finally, the author has examined the period after the end of the Bronze Age to the time of Alexander the Great and particularly the period after the sixth century, when Greeks were now beginning to know a little about India. Within 200 years India was known to scholar and non-scholar alike, such as those who witnessed the Persian invasions of Greece or who later became Macedonian and Greek foot soldiers.

Table of Contents

The Author
List of Table and Figures


1. Prehistory: The Background
The Harappan Civilisation
The Decline of the Harappans
Trade and Long Distance Exchange, Seafaring and Caravans
Out of Meluḫḫa
Farther Westwards
The Harappans and Egypt
Weights and Measures
2. Prehistory: The Evidence of Objects
Pottery Kernoi
Spiral Double Headed Pins
Carnelian Beads
Agate Seals and Beads
Flat Disc Shaped Beads
Other Beads
3. Prehistory: The Evidence of Commodities
The Role of Shortughai
Organic Commodities
Spices and Foodstuffs
Inorganic Commodities
Lapis Lazuli: An Indian commodity
Gold: An Indian Commodity?
Tin: Another Indian commodity
4. Prehistory: A Conclusion
Earlier Work
Summary of the Evidence
5. From the Iron Age to Alexander the Great
The Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age
From the Sixth Century BC
Greeks in Ancient Sanskrit Literature
Early Geographers and Historians
Religion and Philosophy
Greeks, Macedonians and their Legacy in India
Appendix 1. Indica of Ctesias of Cnidus


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