Biggest Ivory Workshop in Ancient World Discovered in Bhambore, Sindh

Built on the mouth of the Indus River, Bhambore had been a busy port before the delta silted up; Pottery pieces found at the site originated in Iraq and Iran. Possibly the finest pieces came from China.

SoDATA (South Data) — Archaeologists revisiting the ruins of the 2,100-year-old port city of Bhanbhore (also known as Bhambore) in Sindh province say they have found evidence of the biggest-ever ivory carving industry in the ancient world, certainly in the Islamic period.

Ivory waste

No less than 40 kilograms (nearly 90 pounds) of ivory fragments from workshops that date to about 800 years ago have been unearthed in the ruins of the ancient city – and that’s just what the workmen of antiquity were throwing out.

In the ancient and medieval worlds, ivory was akin to gold and silver in value. It was a luxury item, from the Indus Valley and the Mediterranean to the Roman world and traded via land and sea, says a report in Haaretz.

Chinese potteries

According to the report, ancient Bhambore evidently exported worked ivory and in exchange seems to have gotten a wealth of items – including glassware and pottery, which may have been imported.

Steps, Ramp at Bhanbore

Pottery pieces found at the site originated in Iraq and Iran — the Iranian pottery has been dated to the 10th and 11th centuries.

Possibly the finest pieces came from China. The archaeologists found vessels made of porcelain, a fine-grained white clay that can be fired very thin.

The port city reached the height of its fame as the most important crossroad of the ancient trade route to China and Middle East during the Soomra period (1024-1351CE).

Bhambore was founded in the first century B.C.E. (Before Common Era), at the mouth of the Indus River, about 65 kilometers east of Karachi, until collapsing in about the 13th century CE (Common Era). Its name was not lost, though: Popular folklore names Bhambore as the hometown of Sassi, the “Juliet of Sindh,” and Punno, her Romeo, who was a trader. The story of Sassui Punhun was immortalized in the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.

The city has also been tentatively identified as the starting point for the spread of Islam in Sindh during the Early Medieval period.

In 711, Sindh province was conquered by Arab forces under the command of Muhammad bin Qasim.