The Muziris Heritage Project will soon uncover a well-documented but long unseen part of Kerala’s history. More than 2,000 years ago, Muziris, the coastal city of spices celebrated in epic and history, stretched over what is now Ernakulam and Thrissur districts, an area veined with estuaries and rivers. In the 1300s, a natural calamity wiped out the harbour, and the magnificent city vanished.

On the beaches now, where fishermen haul in nets and dry their catch on tarps, there is little to show that empires from West and East once sent their trading ships here. Nearby are temples of imperial scale, now echoing emptily. Unpeopled synagogues have become museums.

The heritage project is conceived as mostly conservation, with a tourism element to it. It will trace the spice route, marking significant shrines, forts, palaces, seminaries, cemeteries, boatyards, markets and excavation sites in Pattanam and Kottapuram. Museums in the region will highlight maritime trade and fisheries. The Kerala Tourism Office recently announced that many of these sites and monuments are now open to tourists. The project aims to reach beyond the archaeologists and historians to involve the people who live and work here, so that they add their oral histories to the vision of Muziris.

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