The copper plates from Kollam

There are six copper plates in total, most of them inscribed on both sides. Their average dimensions are 25 by 9 cms. Photographs of the Kollam plates courtesy of M. Raghava Varier and Kesavan Veluthat, with kind permission of His Grace the Most Reverend Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan and His Holiness Basileus Marthoma Paulose II Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan.

There are six copper plates in total, most of them inscribed on both sides. Their average dimensions are 25 by 9 cms.

The Indian Ocean was among the first maritime spaces of human circulation and exchange but it is also one of the least well researched. We still know surprisingly little about the Indian Ocean world before the late 15th century CE when European powers – Portuguese, Spanish, English, Dutch and others – first sailed into this ocean.

This website presents some of the new research that is being undertaken at universities and museums around the world into the early history of the Indian Ocean and its connections to the ocean we know today. The research presented here focuses on a 9th century legal document which was written at the port of Kollam in present-day Kerala in 849 CE. In South Asia, even until very recently, legal documents were inscribed onto copper sheets. Known as copper plate grants, these are one of the main sources for early and medieval Indian history.

The project was led by De Montfort University in collaboration with The British Museum and was funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number AH/I025948/1). The project gathered a multidisciplinary team of thirty scholars from ten different countries to collaborate on new interpretations of the Kollam plates. The results of these meetings will be published in 2015 with Primus Books and will include a new edition and English translation of the Kollam plates.

All colour photographs of the Kollam Plates are reproduced here courtesy of M. R. Raghava Varier and Kesavan Veluthat with kind permission of His Grace the Most Reverend Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, and His Holiness Basileus Marthoma Paulose II Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

Text by Sarah Longair and Elizabeth Lambourn.

Original design by Hanbag Design & Photography Ltd., adapted for the web by Will J Robinson.