One of the most interesting trends to follow around ancient Indus studies is the increasing amount of research and knowledge of neighboring cultures and civilizations in time and place: the ancient Arabian Gulf, Mesopotamia, Central Asia (not to mention South and East India, even Southeast Asia).
A careful look at one of the least studied forms of Indus writing. "The painting of script on pottery. Painting script requires a specially prepared brush that could have been the same as that used for decorating pottery, but would have been selected to have the appropriate size and shape for the size of the script being painted."
This highly technical and scientific paper brings together all the recent evidence from Dharamjali Cave in the Himalayas over a 230 year period around 2000 BCE, when the ancient Indus civilization was in decline, to show "that repeated intensely dry periods spanned multiple generations. The record highlights the deficits in winter and summer rainfall during the urban phase of the Indus Civilization, which prompted adaptation through flexible, self- reliant, and drought-resistant agricultural strategies."
The author, who has been working in the larger region for decades exploring the long history of human habitation and industry going back tens of thousands of years, turns his attention to the geographic changes in the Indus delta region through the Bronze Age and what recent work shows us were the curious "islands" that once existed in lower Sindh (Dholavira, in Gujarat, is another example of such a later settlement).
"The reconstruction of Puabi fully adorned provides insights into the fabric that lay beneath the sumptuous ornaments. The queen’s spectacular accessories, though important, have diverted our attention away from the cloth that lay beneath the eye-catching ornaments, which deteriorated (or de-materialized) long ago and so has been mostly invisible to us in the present day."
Until Dr. Vermaak's paper (2008), no one had connected the known existence of a Meluhhan village in the Girsu/Lagash area with Guabba; the availability of more texts since the first connections were made by scholars like Asko Parpola allowed him to both locate it more precisely and tease out a number of other references that give us some sense of what these people did and were known for.
Archaeologists often assume that metals like bronze replaced the need for stone tools, but is this really the case given the evidence in these two areas not to mention select Mediterranean regions? In the Indus region, what was the use of these tools given their limited presence in Mohenjo-daro and Harappa?
The original article by Ernest Mackay on the excavations he led at a key ancient Indus site known for fine craftsmanship, with all 10 plates.
This thoughtful and enlightening paper starts with a clear statement of the writer's point-of-view: "On the other hand, to keep writing that Indus society in the 3rd millennium BC was uniform, acephalous, egalitarian and classless, that it was not a state, that its people rejected violence, elites
A technical paper which rewards the follower with valuable insights and serves, on a platter as it were, some complex puzzles in Indus iconography for further cogitation to the reader.
"In this paper," write the authors, "we present the preliminary results of a long-term and multifaceted study of the role of craft specialists and traders who were present in ancient Magan during the 5th-1st millennia BCE (Table 1), with a specific focus on beads found at sites in modern Oman, and
A comprehensive look at what we know about agricultural strategies during the ancient Indus period, and how truly varied and sophisticated these most likely were, with careful adaptation to local conditions and water availability.
"This article examines the diachronic developments of the interregional relationship between the two regions based on the ceramic evidence both from the Greater Indus Valley and the Arabian peninsula.
"Flint was the most important raw material exploited by the third millennium BCE Bronze Age inhabitants of the Indus Valley and its related territories." This uncompromising statement by a scholar and field researcher who has been working in the region for decades offers a window on what must
A superb framing of how we might think of the Indus civilization and its evolution as a larger entity in comparison and contrast with other ancient civilizations. How did Indus cities fit into a rural context? Were they ruled by elites? How did they manage to survive so long?
A detailed look at carnelian and agate sources and manufacture throughout the Gulf region, and how many of the beads found show clear evidence of ancient Indus manufacturing techniques.
A solid foray into the question of what the ancient Indus people, at least in Gujarat, cooked and ate, and how that might have changed after the civilization seems to have declined.
Dr. Guha goes through the epistemology governing each period's research and framing of the Indus Civilization with respect to those civilizations around, and those closer to home.
"In the year 2000," writes the author, "I initiated a large‐scale effort to identify the geologic sources from which peoples of the Indus Civilization (ca. 2600 to 1900 BC) acquired rock and mineral resources."
"The discovery of the rotational capabilities of the wheel was one of the most significant human inventions, and wheel-enhanced rotation is now pervasive in the tools and machines that we use in our everyday lives. Importantly, the wheel was a major contributor to a range of developments in craft production technology, perhaps most visibly in the various forms of potter’s rotational devices and wheels."
Another example of how modern data science and the re-analysis of data collected by early archaeologists are opening new frontiers of discovery. In this case, finds made in one area of Mohenjo-daro, excavated by K.N. Dikshit, are being tabulated and located precisely in relation to other objects and the strata or level they were found at.
"In spite of the challenges that face bioarchaeological research in South Asia, the results obtained from the investigations of the past 30 years have revolutionized our understanding of the peoples of the ancient Indus Valley, providing contemporary, scientifically informed interpretations from skeletal collections that were often collected decades ago."
A rare article looking in detail at something archaeologists usually do not focus on, but was and is of immense importance in art and human experience. Ancient Balochistan before the Indus period was known for some of the most vibrant colour pottery in South Asia.
"Geologically speaking," write the authors, "agate is not a particularly uncommon rock . . .. However, good agate – i.e, that which ancient lapidaries would have found suitable for beadmaking – is not widely available. Nodules of the size and quality required to make Harappan-style long-barrel carnelian beads are, in fact, extremely rare" (p. 177).
"The valleys of Kashmir and Swat in the Western Himalayan-Hindu Kush regions of India and Pakistan are home to an important prehistoric cultural complex beginning at around 5000 BP, loosely grouped as the “Northern Neolithic” (Coningham and Young, 2015), especially characterised by a rich agricultural tradition."
Jean-Francois Jarrige (1940-2014) and his wife Catherine (b. 1942) were two of the most important archaeologists in the South Asian region, whose excavations at Mehrgarh, the site in Balochistan which predates the ancient Indus civilization by thousands of years, helped determine how far back the development of various traditions found in that and other regional civilizations actually reached.
A succinct summary of some of the features and nature of the ancient Indus script by three Indian scholars who have spent a great part of their careers investigating it. Presented at the International Conference on Indus Script at Mohenjo Daro in January 2020, points are listed as clear statements that can help others puzzled by the script, or who wish to attempt or consider other approaches to "deciphering" the script.
A superb chapter from Cambridge Histories Online of the very complicated development of agriculture in the subcontinent, which is really the story of four different developments, in the northwest (including the Indus valley), north (the Gangetic plains), south and east, each with different timelines, crops and animal husbandry to account for.
The first in-depth look at stone beads from Indus sites besides Harappa, in this case two just south of Rakigarhi. Stone beads include those made of steatite (the vast majority, about 91%), carnelian (8%), as well as jasper, agate, lapis luzuli, limestone and more. Steatite and carnelian beads are found at levels corresponding to all time periods.