An Artifact Assemblage from the Ancient Shipwreck at Godavaya, Sri Lanka
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The Godavaya shipwreck, located off Sri Lanka’s southern coast at a depth of approximately 33 m (110 ft), is presently dated to between the second century B.C.E. and the second century C.E., making it the oldest known shipwreck in the Indian Ocean. The focus of this thesis is a selection of diagnostic artifacts, excavated from this site between 2012 and 2014, consisting of a glass ingot, an unknown glass object, a metal ring, an iron spear, a benchstone, a grindstone, and many ceramic sherds, for a total of 31 artifacts. Its purpose is to attempt to contextualize these items within the Indian Ocean maritime network and Sri Lanka’s mercantile past, through artifact parallels, ancient sources, and previous scholarship. By identifying the likely origin, date, and purpose of each piece, the nature of this cargo and its voyage can be theorized. These in turn will address larger questions of economic activity and technological innovation within the history of the region. Primary sources from ancient cultures provide vital information on Indian Ocean trade connectivity, and the role of maritime networks in structuring Indian Ocean connectivity, and the role of maritime networks in structuring Indian Ocean socioeconomic life. Therefore, several literary works will be analyzed in this thesis, including the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and Pliny’s Natural History from the Mediterranean, the Han Shu and The Sea Route from Guangzhou to Countries in the Indian Ocean from China, and early Sangam poems, the Dīpavaṃsa , and the Mahāvamsa from India and Sri Lanka. Finally, the terrestrial excavations at Godavaya and other relevant research will help provide a more holistic view of how this ship may have been connected to ancient seafaring activity. These 31 artifacts provide specific evidence for ancient maritime activity in the Indian Ocean, and contribute to the rapidly expanding scholarship surrounding seafaring in South Asia.
South Asian Archaeology
Traster-Lee, Loyalty Nerys Shi We (2021). An Artifact Assemblage from the Ancient Shipwreck at Godavaya, Sri Lanka. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from