Bali Gold Hoard Reveals Untold Links With Roman Empire1

Bali’s Relationship with the Roman Empire Revealed with Similar Gold Ring Clasps


Trendingcips.comBali Gold Hoard Reveals Untold Links With Roman Empire. Archaeologists excavating in Bali have presented the biggest collection of Roman gold-glass beads ever discovered in early Southeast Asia, which proves the existence of an ancient trade route where the Bali gold was obtained from.

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Pangkung Paruk may be a village in Seririt sub-district, Buleleng Regency, Bali Province, Indonesia and consistent with a new paper published on, following the invention by the landowner in 2009 of an oval-shaped stone sarcophagus, excavations were conducted in 2009 and 2011 by the Bali Institute of Archaeology (BALAR), at its cemetery.

Bali Gold Hoard Reveals Untold Links With Roman Empire2

Excavation of sarcophagus A and B in 2009, where the Bali gold was found. (R. Westerlaken / Antiquity Publications Ltd )

Now the location has yielded the biggest collection of Roman gold-glass beads in early Southeast Asia found so far, and what’s more, a set of elaborate gold ornaments and two Han Chinese bronze mirrors make this discovery “unprecedented” in Southeast Asia.

Bali’s Golden Grave Goods

The late prehistoric/ Iron Age open-air site of Pangkung Paruk is found 2km inland from the northern coast of central Bali, on a hilltop overlooking a bay in Buleleng Province. Analysis of those new finds and comparisons with other examples from across the Mekong Delta as an example, those from Oc Eo in Vietnam, a serious southern Vietnamese center of trade, and other sites on the Thai-Malay Peninsula, have provided insights into the first to mid-1st-millennium AD trans-Asiatic trade networks that when linked Southeast Asia to South Asia, with China and also the ancient Roman world. Must read: Askia’s Tomb: Revolt Leader to Powerful Songhai Emperor


Indonesian Map

From the late 1st millennium BC, Bali was linked via the Sunda Island chain maritime route to South Asia, the western Indian Ocean and via mainland Southeast Asia to China. Must read “Splashy Study of the Last Position of Homo Erectus“. This is often all now evident within the results of excavations at the Pangkung Paruk site, which the scientists concerned have called “a rich and diverse assemblage.” the invention includes four stone sarcophagus burials and imported burial goods, including hoards of shell and bronze artifacts, Roman gold-glass beads, two pairs of elaborately decorated solid gold ear pendants and two Chinese bronze mirrors.

A second sarcophagus was discovered containing a flexed inhumation and gold, glass, gold-glass, carnelian, shell and bronze artifacts matching those within the first sarcophagus. Also within the second sarcophagus, a bronze drum was also found placed with other artifacts over and round the individual’s skull and an “unenclosed, flexed inhumation” was also found next to sarcophagus B.

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Pangkung Paruk glass beads

Pangkung Paruk glass beads. (A. Calo / Antiquity Publications Ltd )


Evidence Of Hitherto Unknown Trade Routes

In total, the Pangkung Paruk burials have yielded 43 gold-glass beads, which the researchers found to be of “Roman-era Egyptian” origin, representing the most important collection of such gold-glass beads from any pre-historic context in Southeast Asia.

Additionally, 19 gold-glass beads, with evidence of production where thin layers of foil was inserted between two layers of transparent glass, were excavated at Oc Eo, consistent with the paper. These were typically found at western Indian Ocean sites, like Berenike on the Red Sea , in Nubia and therefore the Persian Gulf.

Comparison between Bali gold ear pendants (left) and Oc Eo gold ear pendants with the circles highlighting the similarity of the ornamental schemes.

Nine beads were analyzed by Dr. James Lankton and Dr. Bernard Gratuze, using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), and their results were compared against an outsized database of prehistoric glass found in Asia. All nine gold-glass beads had been crafted from natron glass, which Pliny the Elder describes as being widely used for much of the primary millennium BC and AD to the sixth century.

But these particular gold-glass beads were made in Egypt and within the coastal Levant, during the primary to fourth centuries AD. The authors say gold-glass beads formed a crucial part of the Roman glass trade the mid-1st-century AD which they were taken to southeast Indian ports and onwards to the Ganges Delta. From here they were sent eastwards to trading zones located along the Thai-Malay Peninsula.

ring roman vs bali

Comparison between gold ear pendants from Khlong Thom (another excavation site on Thai-Malay Peninsula) and Pangkung Paruk. (left: A. Reinecke & right: A. Calo / Antiquity Publications Ltd )

Mapping The Crumbs Of Ancient Bead Traders

As the mother of the biggest collection of Roman soda-natron gold-glass beads, Pangkung Paruk adds significant new information to scientists’ knowledge of the first first-millennium AD distribution of such beads across Africa and Asia. The Paruk gold-glass beads were produced in Egypt during the primary to fourth centuries AD and match Roman glass excavated on the southern Indian subcontinent and along the Thai-Malay Peninsula, confirming the suspected ancient southern maritime trade route between the western Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia.


Maps of the Indian Ocean

Furthermore, the scientists’ comparative compositional study of gold excavated across Southeast Asia provides critical data regarding the origins of imported gold because it has compatible signatures with gold from central Vietnam and Laos, and it is often traced to the Sepon copper source in Laos.

Having now proven that the people of Paruk imported artifacts at Oc Eo and other sites within the Mekong Delta and on the Thai-Malay Peninsula, the researchers suggest that Bali and southern Vietnam may have also been connected along a north-south route passing through northwestern Borneo, also as via the higher understood route from the Thai-Malay Peninsula to Indonesia.

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