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Background: Several friends have urged me to send articles to our local papers so that they are informed about what I am doing (local means Lake Placid NY or the Tri-Lakes area or the Adirondacks or another one of those "North Country" areas).
I shall make them available here as well. If you are a newsletter editor, you ware welcome to use this material, just give credit to us: "by permission from Peter Francis, Jr., Director of the Center for Bead Research, as posted on www.thebeadsite.com."
Older releases will be archived at links below. The illustrated text of the talk is here.
For Immediate Release
FRANCIS TO ATTEND CONFERENCE IN ITALY
Pete Francis, Director of the Center for Bead Research in Lake Placid, has been invited to attend an International Conference in Ravenna, Italy. The conference, entitled "Early Navigation and Trade in the Indian Ocean," will be held the first week of July. Francis has been especially invited to the conference and his expenses are being paid by the sponsors, the Flaminia Foundation of the University of Bologna.
Francis will speak on the bead trade in the Indian Ocean, with an emphasis on what he has discovered about the trade by studying the beads from Berenike, Egypt and his other research, particularly in India and Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).
Berenike was founded in 275 B.C. as a port on the Red Sea and for a thousand years was the principal link between Egypt, and later the entire Roman Empire, and what was called "the East." To the Egyptians and Romans, "the East" included East Africa, Arabia, and the Indian subcontinent.
"It is really amazing what we are finding at Berenike," Francis said. "Indian coins, pottery, inscriptions, wood, peppercorns, bamboo, and other plants, cloth, and, of course beads are very prominent." Francis has been a member of the Berenike excavation team since 1998. Dr. Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware heads the excavation. Francis and Sidebotham met while working together on an excavation in India, where there was considerable evidence for contact with the Roman West.
Another interesting find uncovered in 2001 is that of a large church built in the fourth century A.D. It joins several other pagan temples that had been uncovered earlier. Francis points out that the church was built at the time that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, when Egypt was part of the Empire. The massive structure was built right next to the Red Sea (there is now an extensive mudflat separating the sea and the site) and no doubt proclaimed to all who sailed into the port that, "We are Christians now."
The bead evidence from Berenike tells many stories, according to Francis, and will be the focus of his talk at the conference. For one, there was a change in where the Roman sailors went between the second and fourth centuries A.D. (during the third century there was virtually no Roman-Indian trade, for a variety of reasons). Up to the second century, the imported beads were all from India, but beginning in the fourth century they were coming from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), not from India proper. There was also the discovery of a bead that had been made in eastern Java, at a time when no Roman even knew that Java existed.
More information and pictures of the Berenike excavation can be seen on Francis' and the Center for Bead Research's web site (www.thebeadsite.com) by clicking on the "Ancient Beads" link.
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