The earliest evidence of the spice trade out of Indonesia goes back to 1700 BC. Cloves found in archeological excavations of household kitchens in Mesopotamia could only have come from the Maluku islands in what is now Indonesia. Merchants from the Indonesian archipelago probably carried the early trade. Evidence of this can be found in Madagascar. When Indonesian seafarers colonized the island nearly 2,000 years ago, the language they brought with them had not yet absorbed much Sanskrit, and therefore pre-dated the significant cultural influences brought by Indian traders.
Early evidence of Indian participation in this trade is found in the textile arts. The words used for cotton throughout the Indonesian archipelago derive from the Sanksrit karpasa, which seems to indicate that cotton arrived from India, though at an uncertain date after the Madagascar migrations ended. Vocabulary connected to weaving, however, shows indigenous origins, suggesting the technology pre-dated the use of cotton. Early weaving traditions probably used bast or abaca fiber.