Symbols at War. The Impact of Corallium rubrum in the Indo-Pakistani Subcontinent

  • Massimo VidaleEmail author
  • Johannes Pignatti
  • Leonardo Langella
  • Giuseppe Guida
Part of the Ethnobiology book series (EBL)


The extraction, trade and ornamental use of corals in the Indo-Pakistani Subcontinent has been traditionally described from the exclusive viewpoint of the Indo-Roman trade, when red Corallium rubrum from the Mediterranean became a crucial export in the system of exchanges described in the famous Periplus Maris Erythraei. The present work focuses on a different version of the story, considering the much longer history of the exploitation and transformation of local Indo-Pacific corals. The historical trajectory presented in this paper examines the apparent rejection of local corals in the early and middle Bronze age and gradual acceptance of local corals in the late Bronze and Iron age. We argue that general replacement of local corals by imported Corallium rubrum in the early historical period is closely associated with the rise of the first Buddhist communities and their rejection of traditional Brahmanic values, in a new world globalised by long-distance trade and the imminent rise of the Kushan imperial political unification.


Corallium rubrum Indo-Pacific Mediterranean trade Roman archaeology Buddhism Brahmanism 



Many thanks to Edoardo Loliva (ISCR) for the photographs of the corals of Figs. 4.3, 4.4, 4.5 and 4.6, taken in Pakistan.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Massimo Vidale
    • 1
    Email author
  • Johannes Pignatti
    • 2
  • Leonardo Langella
    • 3
  • Giuseppe Guida
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Cultural Heritage, History of Art, of Music and CinemaUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Independent researcherTorre del GrecoItaly
  4. 4.Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione e il RestauroRomeItaly

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