Recent revelations in Nature suggesting the cloth now called the Turin Shroud may have originated in India reminds us of the legends about the Apostle Judas Thomas who likely traveled to Muziris on the Malabar Coast in A.D. 52. There he founded several church communities. The story of his sea journey to India reminds us there was active trade with that city and other seaports on the Indian subcontinent. Maybe we should be looking in India for examples of linen cloth similar to the Shroud.
Pictured, the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle in Mylapore, India.
Muziris was an ancient seaport and urban center in the Malabar Coast (modern day Indian state of Kerala) that dates from at least the 1st century BC, if not before it. Muziris has found mention in the bardic Sangam literature and a number of classical European historical sources.
The port was a key to the trade between southern India and the Phoenicians, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Roman Empire. The important known commodities exported from Muziris were spices (such as black pepper and malabathron), semi-precious stones (such as beryl), pearls, diamonds, sapphires, ivory, Chinese silk, Gangetic spikenard and tortoise shells. The Romans brought money (in gold coins), peridots, thin clothing, figured linens, multicoloured textiles, sulfide of antimony, copper, tin, lead, coral, raw glass, wine, realgar and orpiment. The locations of unearthed coin-hoards suggest an inland trade link from Muziris via the Palghat Gap and along the Kaveri Valley to the east coast of India. Though the Roman trade declined from the 5th century AD, the former Muziris attracted the attention of other nationalities, particularly the Persians, the Chinese and the Arabs, presumably until the devastating floods of Periyar in the 14th century.
The exact location of Muziris is still not known to historians and archaeologists. It is generally speculated to be situated around present day Kodungallur, a town situated 18 miles north of Cochin. Kodungallur in central Kerala figures prominently in the ancient history of southern India as a vibrant urban hub of the Chera rulers. A series of excavations were conducted at the village of Pattanam in North Paravur by Kerala Council for Historical Research (an autonomous institution outsourced by Kerala State Department of Archaeology) in 2006-07 and it was announced that the lost port of Muziris was found. The rapid conclusion invited criticism from historians and archaeologists and started a healthy debate among historians of south India.