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Tamilians in Ancient Egypt

paanai oRi. Those words mean pot (suspended) in a rope net and that was inscribed in Tamil Brahmi script  on both sides of a storage jar. The jar was found in Quseir-al-Qadim, an ancient Egyptian port and was dated to the 1st century BCE when Egypt was under Roman control.

According to Mr. Mahadevan, the inscription is quite legible and reads: paanai oRi, that is, ‘pot (suspended in) a rope net.’ The Tamil word uRi, which means rope network to suspend pots has the cognate oRi in Parji, a central Dravidian language, Mr. Mahadevan said. Still nearer, Kannada has oTTi, probably from an earlier oRRi with the same meaning.

The word occurring in the pottery inscription found at Quseir-al-Qadim can also be read as o(R)Ri as Tamil Brahmi inscriptions generally avoid doubling of consonants. Earlier excavations at this site about 30 years ago yielded two
pottery inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi belonging to the first century
A.D.

Another Tamil Brahmi pottery inscription of the same period was
found in 1995 at Berenike, also a Roman settlement, on the Red Sea
coast of Egypt, Mr. Mahadevan said. These discoveries provided material evidence to corroborate the
literary accounts by classical Western authors and the Tamil Sangam
poets about the flourishing trade between the Tamil country and Rome
(via the Red Sea ports) in the early centuries A.D.[Tamil Brahmi script in Egypt ]

3 Responses to Tamilians in Ancient Egypt

  1. Aarathi November 23, 2007 at 4:52 am #

    Thankyou for posting this interesting article.

  2. Revathi November 29, 2007 at 3:51 am #

    Did you know that ethiopeans have their equivalent of dosa and sambar? I was amazed to find that they taste very similar and made in a similar way to the tamil dosa and sambar. Unfortunately I forget how they are called.

  3. JK November 29, 2007 at 2:38 pm #

    Revathi, It is called Injira and is delicious. The only difference is that in Ethiopian restaurants it is communal eating with people at the table sharing a huge injira.

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