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A Second-Century B.C. Shipwreck in the Indian Ocean and the Role of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara as the Protector of Mariners

October 24, 2012
Price Auditorium
Free with museum admission

Osmund Bopearachchi discusses the recent discovery of a shipwreck, three miles from the ancient site of Godavaya, at a depth of 110 feet that has revolutionized our knowledge of the history of ancient maritime trade in South Asia, particularly between India and Sri Lanka. In December 2010 and January 2012, two test dives were carried out by an international team composed of divers and archaeologists from Sri Lanka (Department of Archaeology), the USA (INA, University Texas A&M and University of California at Berkeley) and France (CNRS). Carbon 14 analyses carried out on three wood samples date the shipwreck to the second century B.C., making it the oldest ever found in the Indian Ocean. Given the importance of Godavaya as the main maritime trading center of the southern coast, it is no wonder that so many images of Avalokiteśvara, as the protector of mariners, were found along the Walwe Ganga.

Osmund Bopearachchi is a director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS-ENS Paris). He is also a visiting professor of Central Asian and South Asian archaeology and art history and a member of the Doctoral School VI of the Paris IV-Sorbonne University.