Copper in Ancient India

Dominik Wujastyk dom at
Wed Mar 22 22:28:11 UTC 1995

Sugandha Johar said:
> I am working on the archaeology of Western Indian sea ports, and am
> currently in quest of the copper trail.
> India has always been defficient in copper, and from the 16th century
> onwards we have records of copper imports from Japan and Africa.

Himanshu P. Ray's book, _Winds of Change: Buddhism and the maritime
links of early South Asia_ (Delhi: OUP, 1994), pp.44f.,  mentions the
problem of the early Kushanas' copper coinage.  They issued large
numbers of copper coins, but -- she says -- there is little evidence
that they controlled either of the ports along the west coast or those
at the mouth of the Indus.

Kenneth McPherson, _The Indian Ocean: a history of the people and the
sea_ (Delhi: OUP, 1993), has several references to Indian Ocean copper
trade.  He notes that copper had always been in short supply in the IO
area in ancient times, as you say, and that supplies of (copper and)
silver started to circulate in this area from Japan and the Americas
from the 16th century on.  The early Portuguese traders inserted
themselves into the "loop" of local trading patterns, which included the
trading of copper between India, SE Asia, China and Japan.

I'm afraid this doesn't add much.

Incidentally, I have a similar interest in mercury imports.  As far as
I can see, there is little or no naturally occurring mercury in
peninsular India.  Yet from the ninth century onwards (and perhaps a
little earlier) there arises a rich alchemical literature in India which
presupposes a good supply of mercury for all sorts of operations.  Where
was the metal coming from?



More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list