Fulbright Scholar to present new research on early history of Indian Ocean

November 26, 2013

On Tuesday, December 3 at 12.30 pm in Evans Arts & Science building 113B, Fulbright Scholar Dr. Kenneth R. Hall from the Dept. of History at Ball State University will make a presentation at SJC on a document that researchers are using to explore the medieval Indian Ocean world.      

The document, according to SJC Associate Professor of History Dr. Ilicia Sprey, “is a copper plate inscription from Kollam, India, which sheds a great deal of light on Indian Ocean maritime trade in the 9th century.  It is considered by historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and others as the most important epigraphic (inscription) source to come to light in some time.”    

Dr. Hall, one of the scholars involved in this research project, will speak about the copper plates, a legal document written at the port of Kollam in present-day Kerala in 849 CE. Although the Indian Ocean was among the first maritime spaces of exchange, scholars know surprisingly little about the world before the late 15th century CE when European powers – Portuguese, Spanish, English, Dutch and others – first sailed into this ocean. 

A group of international scholars is working on transcribing and translating the copper plates and putting them into historical economic and social context.  Their work will be published in a volume in 2014 with Primus press.

The SJC Department of History and the Robinson Memorial Library is sponsoring an international traveling banner exhibit on the Kollam copper plates in the Library.

The exhibit grew out of the international research effort on the project and was put together through grants from the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council by De Montfort University in Leicester, England in collaboration with the British Museum. 

“SJC is in very good company in hosting this exhibit,” says Dr. Sprey.  SJC is the first to have it in the US. After being shown here on campus, the exhibit travels to Ball State University; University of Science, Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas, Austin. In the UK, the exhibit just ended its run at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University. It will go on to Jesus College, Oxford; the University of York; University of Durham - Oriental Museum and Cambridge University's Library.

In addition to the scholarly book about the inscription that will be published in 2014, the plan is to offer companion material from the National Geographic channel—namely two documentaries—each one-hour long.  The first is on Arab ship-building in that time and the second is on sailing the treasure ship made in the first. 

Dr. Sprey will find times when these documentaries can be shown for anyone interested.  The documentaries can also be used in class.



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