Tamilakam in Sangam times (3rd century BCE to 3rd Century CE) included present day Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Karnataka, Kerala and parts of Andhra Pradesh. The commercial and cultural link of this area with South Arabia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Rome since Iron age is evident from both textual and archaeological sources.
Mortimer wheeler, the British archaeologist, who conducted excavations in Arikkamedu in 1946, had provided evidence for this history from an archaeological perspective. Later, many other local archaeological attempts have been conducted in the region which has reinforced and rectified Wheeler’s discoveries. Many ancient natural ports along the coastal region of early Tamilakam provided the abode to commercial activity. The Egyptian port Bernika was the linking port of these ocean trade activities between India, Sri Lanka, South Arabia, Mesopotamia and Rome. During the reign of Augustus, Rome dominated the commercial activities in this area.
The Roman amphora shreds, found abundantly in these ancient port regions, give rich evidence about the golden era of South India’s commerce with Rome via the Indian Ocean. Sangam literature has many mentions about the Indian ports like Muziris and Tyndis from where the pepper and other spices as well as wood and other precious materials were exported to the Roman Empire. Actually, South Arabia was the pioneer in this commercial activity. The recent excavations by Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), at Pattanam near Kodungallur, has established the evidence for these facts that have been earlier mentioned in textual and other historical soucres. The Arabian, Mesopotamian, Buddhist and Jain connections as part of the trade and commerce in the areas have been established by these excavations ventures. However, often the golden era of Rome is highlighted, may be because of some Orientalist interest in the matter.