Neither historical events nor cross-cultural currents can explain the unique parallels in the myths and imagery of ancient Egypt and India.
Evidence of Indian contact with the ancient civilizations to her west, however is certain. Knobbed pottery vases came to Sumer from India and so did cotton. Assurbanipal (668-626 BC) cultivated Indian plants including the “wool-bearing trees” of India.
According to the Skandha Purana, Egypt (Africa) was known as Sancha-Dvipa continent mentioned in Sir Willliams Jones’ dissertation on Egypt. At Alexandria, in Egypt, Indian scholars were a common sight: they are mentioned both by Chrysostomus (100 A.D.) and by Clement (200 A.D.) Indirect contact between ancient India and Egypt through Mesopotamia is generally admitted, but evidence of a direct relationship between the two is at best fragmentary. Peter Von Bohlen (1796-1840), German Indologist, compared India with ancient Egypt. He thought there was a cultural connection between the two in ancient times. There are elements of folk art, language, and rural culture of Bengal which have an affinity with their Egyptian counterparts and which have not been explained satisfactorily in terms of Aryan, Mongolian, or so-called Dravidian influences. There are similarities between place names in Bengal and Egypt and recently an Egyptian scholar, El Mansouri, has pointed out that in both Egypt and India the worship of cow, sun, snake, and river are common.
Recently, more definitive evidence suggesting contact between India and Egypt has become available. A terracotta mummy from Lothal vaguely resembles an Egyptian mummy and a similar terracotta mummy is found also at Mohenjo-daro. In this context it is of interest to note that the Egyptian mummies are said to have been wrapped in Indian muslin. Characters similar to those on the Indus seals have also been found on tablets excavated from Easter Island.
Of all the Egyptian objects and motifs indicating some contact between India and Egypt during the Indus-Saraswati Valley period, the cord pattern occurring in a copper tablet in the Indus Valley and on three Egyptian seals is the most striking link between the two countries. Gordon Childe has said, «in other words, in the third millennium B.C. India was already in a position to contribute to the building up of the cultural tradition that constitutes our spiritual heritage as she notoriously has done since the time of Alexander».
In his book, Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India, Paul William Roberts, states: «Recent research and scholarship make it increasingly possible to believe that the Vedic era was the lost civilization whose legacy the Egyptians and the Indians inherited. There must have been one. There are too many similarities between hieroglyphic texts and Vedic ones, these in turn echoed in somewhat diluted form and a confused fashion by the authors of Babylonian texts and the Old Testament».
It is believed that the South Indians went to Egypt and laid the foundation of its civilization there. The Egyptians themselves had the tradition that they originally came from a land called Punt, which an historian of the West, Dr. H.R. Hall, thought referred to some part of India.
The Indus Valley civilization is, according to Sir John Marshall who was in charge of the excavations, the oldest of all civilizations unearthed (c. 4000 BC) it is older than the Sumerian and it is believed by many that the latter was a branch of the former.
Klaus K. Klostermaier, in his book A Survey of Hinduism says: «For several centuries a lively commerce developed between the ancient Mediterranean world and India, particularly the ports on the Western coast. The most famous of these ports was Sopara, not far from modern Bombay, which was recently renamed Mumbai. Present day Cranganore in Kerala, identified with the ancient Muziris, claims to have had trade contacts with Ancient Egypt under Queen Hatshepzut, who sent five ships to obtain spices, as well as with ancient Israel during King Soloman’s reign». Apparently, the contact did not break off after Egypt was conquered by Greece and later by Rome.
Max Müller had also observed that the mythology of Egyptians (and also that of the Greeks and Assyrians) is wholly founded on Vedic traditions. Eusebius, a Greek writer, has also recorded that the early Ethiopians emigrated from the river Indus and first settled in the vicinity of Egypt.
In an essay entitled On Egypt from the Ancient Book of the Hindus, British Lt. Colonel Wilford gave abundant evidence proving that ancient Indians colonized and settled in Egypt. The British explorer John Hanning Speke, who in 1862 discovered the source of the Nile in Lake Victoria, acknowledged that the Egyptians themselves didn’t have the slightest knowledge of where the Nile’s source was. However, Lt. Colonel Wilford’s description of the Hindus’ intimate acquaintance with ancient Egypt led Speke to Ripon Falls, at the edge of Lake Victoria.
Heinrich Karl Brugsch agrees with this view and writes in his History of Egypt that, «we have a right to more than suspect that India, eight thousand years ago, sent a colony of emigrants who carried their arts and high civilization into what is now known as Egypt».
The Egyptians, as we have said, according to their own records came from a mysterious land on the shore of the Indian Ocean, the sacred Punt; the original home of their gods, who followed thence after their people who had abandoned them to the valley of the Nile, led by Amon, Hor and Hathor. This region was the Egyptian “Land of the Gods”, Pa-Nuter, in old Egyptian, or Holyland, and now proved beyond any doubt to have been quite a different place from the Holyland of Sinai. By the pictorial hieroglyphic inscription found on the walls of the temple of the Queen Haslitop at Der-el-babri, we see that this Punt can be no other than India. For many ages the Egyptians traded with their old homes, and the reference here made by them to the names of the Princes of Punt and its fauna and flora, especially the nomenclature of various precious woods to be found but in India, leave us scarcely room for the smallest doubt that the old civilization of Egypt is the direct outcome of that the older India.
Edward Pococke says: «At the mouths of the Indus dwell a seafaring people, active, ingenious, and enterprising as when, ages subsequent to this great movement, these people coast along the shores of Mekran, traverse the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and again adhering to the sea-board of Oman, Hadramant, and Yeman, they sail up the Red Sea; and again ascending mighty stream that fertilizes a land of wonders, found the kingdom of Egypt, Nubia and Abyssinia. These are the same stock that, centuries subsequently to this colonization, spread the blessings of civilization over Hellas and her islands» (India in Greece).
Arnold Hermann Ludwig Heeren (1760-1842), an Egyptologist, has observed: «It is perfectly agreeable to Hindu manners that colonies from India, i.e., Banian families should have passed over Africa, and carried with them their industry, and perhaps also their religious worship. Whatever weight may be attached to Indian tradition and the express testimony of Eusebius confirming the report of migrations from the banks of the Indus into Egypt, there is certainly nothing improbable in the event itself, as a desire of gain would have formed a sufficient inducement» (Historical Researches - Heeran).
Ethiopia, as is universally admitted now, was colonized by the Hindus. Sir William Jones says: «Ethiopia and Hindustan were possessed or colonized by the same extraordinary race» (Asiatic Researches - volume I).
Philostratus introduces the Brahman Iarchus by stating to his auditor that the Ethiopians were originally an Indian race compelled to leave India for the impurity contracted by slaying a certain monarch to whom they owed allegiance.
Two ancient civilizations, contemporaneous, both growing along the banks of rivers which flow down from mountains, through desert. Both rivers support crocodiles and both people worship river gods and crocodiles and worship cows and have a wonderfully developed cosmogony. Both have a form of caste system. Both have contributed immensely to world culture in almost every field. Surely they must have interacted despite the vast geographical distances involved. There is evidence to suggest contact between the two from around BCE 3000 with the findings of Indian muslin, cotton and dhania (coriander) in Egypt. After about the third century BC, during the time of Ptolemy Euergetes an Indian sailor was found shipwrecked on the coast of the Red Sea. He was taken to Alexandria where, in exchange for hospitality, he agreed to show the Ptolemy’s men a direct sea route to India across the Indian Ocean. Thus began a most profitable period of contact between these two nations. During Emperor Ashoka’s reign ambassadors were exchanged. Contact continued until Egypt came under Roman Law. After a short hiatus renewed ventures were undertaken now bigger and powerful markets of Rome clamouring for goods. Although trade was the reason for exchange many ideas that influenced each other’s art and iconography also passed back and forth. There is a large body of evidence which documents the close relationships between these two countries. There has always been evidence to suggest indirect means of contact between these two.
It is testified by Herdotus, Plato, Salon, Pythagoras, and Philostratus that the religion of Egypt proceeded from India. It is testified by Neibuhr, Valentia, Champollion and Weddington that the temples of upper Egypt are of greater antiquity than those of lower Egypt, and that consequently the religion of Egypt, according to the testimony of those monuments came from India. The chronicles found in the temples of Abydos and Sais and which have been transmitted by Josephus, Julius Africanus, and Eusebius, all testify that the religious system of the Egyptians proceeded from India.
There was intimate relations between India and Egypt. It is pointed out that in the processions of Ptolemy Philadelphus (265-246 BCE) were to be seen Indian women, Indian hunting dogs, Indian cows, and Indian spices.
According to the Jewish chronicles, there was a sea voyage to the East in the time of Soloman (circa 800 BC), and many articles were brought from there. The use of the Indian names for merchandise raises a strong presumption in favour of their Indian origin. The word ‘sindhu’ found in the library of Assurbanipal, is used in the sense of Indian cotton. The Hebrew karpas is derived from the Sanskrit karpassa.
The Boghzkoi inscriptions of the 14th century BC contain the names of such deities as Mitra, Varuna, Indra etc. These names indicate that there was a very close contact between India and Western Asia before the 14th century BC.
Gustav Oppert (1836-1908) born in Germany, taught Sanskrit and comparative linguistics at the Presidency College, Madras for 21 years. He wrote a book, Die Gottheiten der Indier, in 1905. In his book Oppert discussed the chief gods of the Aryans and he compares Aditi with Egyptian Isis and the Babylonian Ea.
We are not completely in the dark on the question of Indian influence on Greece. Speaking of yogic practices in the West, Professor Sir Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), British archaeologist and Egyptologist, author of Egypt and Israel (1911) observes: «The presence of a large body of Indian troops in the Persian army in Greece in 480 BC shows how far west the Indian connections were carried; and the discovery of modeled heads of Indians at Memphis, of about the fifth century BC shows that Indians were living there for trade». He feels that the doctrine of rebirth, favoured by keeping all bodily senses in abeyance, and brought to pass by driving out the twelve inner torments by their antitheses, was accepted in Egypt under the Indian influence.
Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bissing (1873-1956) wrote: «The land of Punt in the Egyptian ethnological traditions has been identified by the scholars with the Malabar coast of Deccan. From this land ebony, and other rich woods, incense, balsam, precious metals, etc. used to be imported into Egypt». (Prehistoricsche Topfen aus Indien and Aegypten).
The lotus-flower, so prolific in the imagery of both India and Egypt, grows out of the waters and opens its petals to be warmed by the sun. From the earliest imagery in stone at Sanchi, of the first century BC in India, the lotus is associated with Sri, the goddess of fertility, who is later invoked as Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and abundance — being worshipped by Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus alike. The lotus is held in each hand by Surya, signifying the fertilizing powers of the sun as he travels through the universe.
In Egypt, the blue lotus appears in the earliest wall paintings of the VI Dynasty at the pyramids of Saqqara and in all funerary stelae. They are offered to the deceased, and held in the hand as thought they possess the power to revitalize them: to bring the deceased back to life. Carved out of blue lapis, along with the golden falcon and the sun that are the symbols of the god Horus, the lotus appears among the funerary treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamen.
The lotus then, becomes a leitmotiv, a symbol most apt since its links the waters with the sun, the earth to sky — signifying fertility and regeneration in both Egypt and India. For, it is the seed of the plant which spells out the cycle of birth-decay-death and rebirth that forms the essential pattern of belief in these two riverine and agricultural societies. In India and Egypt, the rivers Saraswati and Ganga and the Nile have brought sustenance to the land and nourished these civilizations which have survived five millennia. Both these rivers, the Ganga and the Nile, are personified and worshipped. They provide the dramatic backdrop against which myths and indeed created, to explain the topographic conditions of the land.
From its source in the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganga flows some two thousand five hundred kilometers, through the rich deltaic region which is known as Aryavarta, in the most densely populated area of India. Puranic myths recount the divine origins of Ganga, as she fell from heaven to earth in response to penance performed by the sage Bhagiratha: to bring the powers of water to an earth parched for over a thousand years. At the seventh century seaport of Mahabalipuram in south India, this epic theme is entirely carved out of a granite rock spanning almost fifty feet. A natural cleft in the rock allows the rain water to pour down in great torrents - as though this were the descent of a mighty river. Besides this cleft are carved the serpentine forms of the naga devatas (snake divinities), the sun and the moon, the gandharva and kinnara (celestial beings), the hunters and animals of the forest — all of them rejoicing in this great event where the divine rive is celebrated as the saviour of all mankind.
Here is a spectacular instance of the way in which myth is used to relate man to the environment. In this myth one senses an acute awareness of the ecological balance which needs to be maintained: of the vapours of the sea rising to the sky through heat, described in the myth as tapas, and then falling back to earth as the divine river, to flow down through the matted locks of Lord Shiva, on to the Himalayas, to flow back into the ocean.
As in India, so in Egypt, the river is personified in human form. A sandstone relief from the temple of Rameses II at Abydos depicts Hapi, god of the Nile, holding a pair of blue lotus stalks in his hands; suspended from the god’s right arm is the ankh, the symbol of life. Unlike the Ganga, the blue god of the Nile is male, but with one female breast to symbolize his role as nourisher — releasing the waters each year to provide sustenance to mankind.
The main presiding deity of the Egyptian pantheon is Osiris, like Yama, god of the dead, whose story of life, death and regeneration has been transmitted to us in great detail by Plutarch.
Some extraordinary parallels with the Osirian myth are found among the myths and images of India. Lord Vishnu lied recumbent on the bed of the ocean asleep, as indeed Osiris lied prostate and dead on a bier.
The Hindi word for cow means also “ray of illumination”, and in Egyptian lore a cow is sometimes depicted as the source of light in the sky.
All through the ages the peoples of India have had active intercourse with the other peoples of the world. Since the days of Mohenjo-daro culture, the Hindus have never lived in an alleged ‘splendid isolation’. It is generally assumed that internationalism or cosmopolitism is a very recent phenomenon in human affairs. As a matter of fact, however, culture has ever been international.
A cylinder seal of about 2,000 BC bearing cuneiform inscriptions and images of Chaldean deities have been unearthed in Central India. In Southern India has been found a Babylonian sarcophagus.
Hindu trade with the Hebrews also was considerable. Soloman (1015 BC), King of Judaea, was a great internationalist. In order to promote the trade of his land he set up a port at the head of the right arm of the Red Sea. He made his race the medium of intercourse between Phoenicians and Hindus. The port of Ophir (in Southern India) is famous in Hebrew literature for its trade in gold under Soloman. In the Books of Genesis, Kings and Ezekiel indicate the nature and amount of Hindu contact with Asia Minor. It is held by Biblical scholars that the stones in the breast plate of the high priest may have come from India. The Hindus supplied also the demand of Syria for ivory and ebony. The Hebrew word, tuki (peacock), is derived from Tamil (South Indian) tokei, and ahalin (aloe) from aghil.
Subhash Kak has observed: «A sad consequence of the racist historiography of the 19th century Indologists and their successors is the neglect of India’s interaction with Africa».
The Sun King Akhenaten of Egypt (ruled 1352-1336 BC according to the mainstream view) was the son-in-law to Dasharatha, the Mitanni king of North Syria, through the queen, Kiya (the name Dasharatha is spelled Tushratta in the Hittite cuneiform script, which does not distinguish between ‘d’ and ‘t’ very well. Some have suggested that the Sanskrit original is Tvesharatha, “having splendid chariots”). Letters exchanged between Akhenaten and Dasharatha have been found in Amarna in Egypt and other evidence comes from the tombs of the period that have been discovered in excellent condition.
The Mitanni, who worshiped Vedic gods, belonged to an Indic kingdom that was connected by marriage across several generations to the Egyptian 18th dynasty to which Akhenaten belonged. The first Mitanni king was Sutarna I (“good sun”). He was followed by Paratarna I (“great sun”), Parashukshatra (“ruler with axe”), Saukshatra (“son of Sukshatra, the good ruler”), Paratarna II, Artatama or Ritadhama (“abiding in cosmic law”), Sutarna II, Dasharatha, and finally Mativaja (Matiwazza, “whose wealth is prayer”) during whose lifetime the Mitanni state appears to have become a vassal to Assyria.
But how could an Indic kingdom be so far from India, near Egypt? After catastrophic earthquakes dried up the Sarasvati river around 1900 BC, many groups of Indic people started moving West. We see Kassites, a somewhat shadowy aristocracy with Indic names and worshiping Surya and the Maruts, in Western Iran about 1800 BC. They captured power in Babylon in 1600 BC, which they were to rule for over 500 years.
In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, Indic deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Ashvins) are invoked. A text by a Mitannian named Kikkuli uses words such as aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine),vartana (vartana, round). Another text has babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey), and pinkara (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration ofvishuva (solstice) very much like in India. It is not only the kings who had Sanskrit names; a large number of other Sanskrit names have been unearthed in the records from the area.
The Vedic presence via the Mitanni in Egypt and the Near East occurs several centuries before the exodus of the Jews. This presence is sure to have left its mark in various customs, traditions, and beliefs. It may be that this encounter explains uncanny similarities in mythology and ritual, such as circumambulation around a rock or the use of a rosary of 108 beads.
Max Müller speaks of the colonization of Persia by the Hindus. Discussing the word ‘Arya’, he says: «But it was more faithfully preserved by the Zoroastrians, who migrated from India to the North-west and whose religion has been preserved to us in the Zend Avesta, though in fragments only». He again says: «The Zoroastrians were a colony from Northern India» (Science of Language).
Arnold Hermann Ludwig Heeran says: «In point of fact that Zind is derived from the Sanskrit, and a passage to have descended from the Hindus of the second or warrior caste» (Historical researches into the politics, intercourse, and trade of the Carthaginians, Ethiopians, and Egyptians - Volume II).
Sir William Jones writes: «I was not a little surprised to find that out of words in Du Perron’s Zend Dictionary, six or seven were pure Sanskrit». (Sir William Jones’ Works - Volume I).
Mr Haug, in an interesting essay on the origin of Zoroastrian religion, compares it with Brahminism, and points out the originally-close connection between Brahminical and the Zoroastrian religions, customs and observances. After comparing names of divine beings, names and legends of heroes, sacrificial rites, religious observances, domestic rites, and cosmographical opinions that occur both in the Vedic and Avesta writings, he says: «In the Vedas as well as in the older portions of the Zend-Avesta (see the Gathas), there are sufficient traces to be discovered that the Zoroastrian religion arose out of a vital struggle against a certain form of Brahminical religion had assumed at a certain early period». After contrasting the names of the Hindu gods and the Zoroastrian deities, he continues: «These facts throw some light upon the age which that great religious struggle took place, the consequence of which was the entire separation of the Ancient Iranians from the Brahmins and the foundation of the Zoroastrian religion. It must have occurred when Indra was the chief god of Hinduism» (Essays on the Parsees).
It is not easy to ascertain when the Hindu colonization of Persia took place. It is certain, however, that it took place before the Mahabharata.
Col. James Tod writes: «Ujamada, by his wife, Nila, had five sons, who spread their branches on both sides of the Indus. Regarding three the Puranas are silent, which implies their migration to distant regions. Is it possible that they might be the origin of the Medes? These Medes are descendants of Yayat, third son of the patriarch, Menu and Madai, founder of the Medes, was of Japhet’s line. Aia Mede, the patronymic of the branch of Bajaswa, is from Aja ‘a goat’. The Assyrian Mede in Scripture is typified by the goat» (Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan: or the Central and Western Rajput States of India – Volume I).
Apart from the passage in Manu (Manusmriti is much older than Mahabharata), describing the origin of the Ancient Persians, there is another argument to support it. Zoroaster, the Prophet of the Ancient Persians, was born from the emigrants from India had settled in Persia long enough to have become a separate nation. Vyasa held a grand religious discussion with Zoroaster at Balkh in Turkistan, and was therefore his contemporary. Zanthus of Lydia (B.C. 470), the earliest Greek writer, who mentions Zoroaster, says that he lived about six hundred years before the Trojan war (which took place about 1800 BC). Aristotle and Eudoxus place his era as much as six thousand years before Plato, others five thousand years before the Trojan War (see Pliny,Historia Naturalis, XXX, 1-3). Berosus, the Babylonian historian, makes him a king of the Babylon between BC 2200 and BC 2000. It is, however, clear that the Hindu Colonization of Persia took place anterior to the Great War.
In the first chapter (Fargard) of the part which bears the name Vendidad of their sacred book (which is also their most ancient book), Hurmuzd of God tells Zapetman (Zoroaster): «I have given to man an excellent and fertile country. Nobody is able to give such a one. This land lies to the east (of Persia) where the stars rise every evening… when Jamshed (the leader of the emigrating nation), came from the highland in the east to the plain, there were neither domestic animals nor wild nor men».
Count Magnus Fredrik Ferdinand Bjornstjerna (1779-1847) author of the book The Theogony of the Hindoos with their systems of Philosophy and Cosmogony says: «The country alluded to above from which the Persians are said to have come can be no other than then the north-west part of Ancient India — Afghanistan and Kashmir — being to the east of Persia, as well as highland compared to the Persian planes».
The Chaldeans were originally migrators from India. Count Bjornstjerna writes: «The Chaldeans, the Babylonians and the inhabitants of Colchis derived their civilization from India».
The Assyrians too were of Hindu origin. Their first king was Bali Boal or Bel. This Boal or Bali was a great King of India in ancient times. He ruled from Cambodia to Greece. Professor Maurice says: «Bali was the puissant sovereign of a mighty empire extending over the vast continent of India» (Hindu Raj in the World - by Krishan Lal Jain).
The code of Manu, India’s great law book, states that Dravidas, Yavanas (Greeks), Sakas (Scythians), Pahlavas (Persians), Kambojas (Tibetans, Siamese, Burmese), and Sinas (Chinese), are sprung from Kshatriyas (The Power of India - by Michael Pym).
Difficult as it is to pin point exactly when communication between Egypt and India commenced, it is nevertheless intriguing to note the remarkable parallels which go as far back as the second millennium BC. According to both the Egyptian and Indian traditions, it was the principal duty of the king to establish order in place of disorder or chaos. Other interesting points of similarity between the two ancient cultures were the deification of the forces of nature, faith in magical chants, deep-rooted mysticism, and an emphasis on symbolic expression.
There is a close proximity between Hindu mythology and Egyptian mythology and rituals. The brightest evidence of India’s direct relations with Egypt is, however, preserved in the Mauryan Emperor Ashok’s thirteenth rock edict, inscribed in the early decades of the third century BC. In it, Emperor Ashoka refers to his contacts with Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt (285-246 BC), in connection with the expansion of his policy of the propagation of the Law (dharma). In the Ashokan records of Ptolemy II is referred to as Turamaya. There can be little doubts that official embassies were exchanged between the Mauryan court and that of Ptolemy II. Pliny names the Egyptian ambassador of Ptolemy II to India as Dionysius.
Ashoka, in his second rock edict, refers to the philanthropic activities undertaken by himself. He records that he had made arrangements for the medical treatment of men and animals in the territories of his own empire as well as in the region ruled by Antiochus Theos II of Syria (260-246 BC) and its neighbouring kingdoms, which also included Egypt.
With the growth of India’s links with the West, there was brisk communication in the area of trade with the Hellenistic world including Egypt, and it is believed that Indian traders reached the land of the Pharaons. A Hellenistic writer, Agatharchides, the learned tutor of Ptolemy Soter II informs one about a colony of Indians on the island close to the mouth of the Red Sea, named Socotra, which in Sanskrit would be sukhottara-dvipa(“island of great joy”). Socotra must have functioned as one of many intermediary ports between Egypt and India.
Interestingly, it is stated that the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy IV, Philopator, lined a part of his yacht with Indian stones. The presence of Indians in Egypt in the third century BC has been attested by Athenaeus who observes that the processions of Ptolemy II Philadelphus also included women, cows, and hunting dogs from India.
Historians have long known that Egypt and India traded by land and sea during the Roman era, in part because of texts detailing the commercial exchange of luxury goods, including fabrics, spices and wine. Among their finds at the site near Egypt’s border with Sudan: more than 16 pounds (7 kilograms) of black peppercorns, the largest stash of the prized Indian spice ever recovered from a Roman archaeological site.
Ships would sail between Berenike and India during the summer, when monsoon winds were strongest, Wendrich said. From Berenike, camel caravans probably carried the goods 240 miles (386 kilometers) west to the Nile, where they were shipped by boat to the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, she said. From there, they could have moved by ship through the rest of the Roman world. Mediterranean goods, including wine from the Greek island of Kos and fine tableware, moved in the opposite direction. This Indian cotton textile was excavated from a Roman trash dump in the ancient Egyptian town of Berenike. Local Ababda nomads dig in one of the streets in Berenike, which holds an array of artifacts that scientists say reveals an “impressive” sea trade between the Roman Empire and India.
The extensive maritime activities of India in the remotest time led to her earliest contacts with Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, Judea and many other countries. There are strong indications showing that Egypt in remote antiquity derived her civilization from India. Those who went from India must have mixed themselves with the natives of the land and the indigenous culture absorbed, rejected or modified the impulse from India. Eusebius and Philostratus believe that Indians first colonized Abyssinia and gradually descended to Egypt watering her civilization. The earliest Ethiopian tradition says that they came from a land situated near the mouth of the Indus. While there can be little doubt that trade occupied a central position in the relations between India and Egypt through the ages, it must be remembered that commercial transactions brought in their wake intellectual and cultural exchanges.
Sir William Jones says: «Of the cursory observations on the Hindus, which it would require volumes to expand and illustrate, this is the result, that they had an immemorial affinity with the old Persians, Ethiopians and Egyptians, the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Tuscans, the Scythians, or Goths, and Celts, the Chinese, Japanese, and Peruvians» (Asiatic Researches).