The Indian Ocean has long fascinated and enticed sailors, traders, fishermen, kings, scholars and others. While some oceans operated as barriers, preventing contact and exchange until relatively recently, the Indian Ocean has for millennia served as bridge linking diverse and often distant lands and ethnic groups. Classical sources accentuate the Indian Ocean's role in the trade routes traveled by Greek, Roman and other ships. What is less recognized, but increasingly apparent is that seafaring activity even over long distances has much earlier beginnings in the Indian Ocean. Traces of these earlier, prehistoric maritime activities are less obvious, but have been revealed through the work of a diverse range of researchers, including archaeologists, linguists, geneticists and anthropologists.
Zebu cattle and boats on the Maharashtra coast near Dapoli (Photo: DQ Fuller)
The SEALINKS Project is a new project that aims to better understand the origins and development of early seafaring activity in the Indian Ocean. Its aim is to tackle the complex and sometimes elusive prehistory of the Indian Ocean through a multidisciplinary approach that encourages scholars from fields as different as archaeology, historical linguistics, molecular genetics, and anthropology to work together in an integrated fashion. The project will employ this multidisciplinary approach in order to understand the role that early seafaring played in transforming the people and environments of the Indian Ocean. The movement of plants, animals, people, things and ideas – often by small-scale societies and traders bridged distant continents, and had long-term impacts not only on societies, but also technologies, landscapes, agricultural regimes, and regional biodiversity.
The SEALINKS project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). It started in November 2009.