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Spice and rice: pepper, cloves and everyday cereal foods at the ancient port of Mantai, Sri Lanka

  • Eleanor Kingwell-Banham (a1), Wijerathne Bohingamuwa (a2), Nimal Perera (a3), Gamini Adikari (a4), Alison Crowther (a5), Dorian Q Fuller (a1) and Nicole Boivin (a6)...

Lying on the north-west coast of Sri Lanka, the ancient port of Mantai was ideally situated as a ‘hub’ for trade between East and West from the first millennium BC onwards. Excavations at the site were interrupted by civil war in 1984, delaying publication of these results and leading to the underestimation of Mantai's importance in the development of Early Historic Indian Ocean trade. Renewed excavations in 2009–2010 yielded extensive archaeobotanical remains, which, alongside an improved understanding of the site's chronology, provide important new insights into the development of local and regional trade routes and direct evidence for early trade in the valuable spices upon which later empires were founded.

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