The Muziris Heritage Project
by Shalva Weil
The Muziris Heritage Project (henceforth MHP) is a huge heritage conservation-cum-archaeological excavation project carried out by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) at Pattanam in Kerala’s Eranakulam district in conjunction with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and a number of universities and research institutes in India and abroad. So far, two million pottery sherds have been uncovered, metal tools, including a golden axe have been excavated, items of personal adornment have been revealed and botanical specimens have been examined. Recently, a proposal has been submitted to UNESCO to recognize the Kerala coast as a World Heritage Site and, in collaboration with the Indian Tourist Ministry, in order to develop the whole region as a “Spice Route” which will attract global tourists to the area.
Muziris used to be an important port on the Kerala coast in the first century BCE and was the commercial destination of traders of different faiths, including Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. Trade between the Mediterranean and Kerala, as well as the existence of temples and settlement of Romans at Cranganore, has been well-documented in Roman texts, So too has commerce between Egypt, Greece and Muziris. At a later period, spices were exported to China, as can be witnessed by today’s Chinese fishing nets, still in place over the Periyar river. Local Christians believe that St.Thomas, the apostle of Jesus Christ, arrived at Muziris, or Cranganore. whence he spread the word about Christianity to the indigenous inhabitants; Jews may have already been residing there by that date.
The MHP is an ambitious project that aims at restoring 23 historic buildings in only the first phase of the project, 14 canal jetties for the canal renovation part of the project and the construction of roads connecting the different sites. Among the buildings to be renovated are the Jewish houses in Parur (Paravur) and the synagogue. The renovation of the latter is almost complete.
Chinese fishing nets
Ground floor passage renovation