By Aftab Kazi, PhD
Silk was among the items exported from the ancient Indus Valley emporiums to Mesopotamian city-states approximately 4000 years ago through both land and sea-borne silk-routes. Historically China has maintained cross-continental trade through the port cities of the Indus Basin River state, i.e. Sindh, Ind, Hind, Al-Hind respectively, the land areas that are now called Pakistan. Most recent early medieval example is that of the Kushan Empire (included land areas comprising modern Central Asia, Pakistan with a thin inland incursion into Bharat up to Mathura) which also had an excellent relationship with China. Both empires traded silk, spices, malmal (cotton cloth made in Sindh), indigo, etc all the way to Roman Empire through the Indus port city of Barbarikon (ruins of Barbarikon are likely to be that of Bhambhore located approximately 50 klometers from modern Karachi. This was the sea-borne silk-route link. Suez Canal did not exist then.
Ships sailed from Barbarikon via the coast of modern Oman and Arabia, entered Red Sea, from where they used the delta canals of River Niles to enter Mediterranean, hence traveled to Greece and Rome. There were two routes to sail. One for winter and the other for summer. I have cited this sea-borne Silk-route in my chapter on Pakistan in SF Starr (ed.) New Silk Roads:…, (Washington, DC: Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Johns Hopkins University, 2007). Earliest records of ancient Silk-routes are available in the travel accounts of Sindhbad, an inhabitant of Sindh (modern Pakistan) under the title of “Sindhbad’s travels”, also spelled as “Sindbad”. Although somewhat fictionalized, this book is the most earliest treatise available on ancient Silk Roads. This book was translated from ancient Sindhi to Persian in medieval times and has been further translated into several modern languages including the English language…
Source – http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/inside/staff/staff_ web/aftab_kazi.htm