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.
A well-illustrated 140 slide PDF that explores the Indus script, origins, writing direction and more. While the slides by Indus scholar Dennys Frenez lack his narration, many of the slides are self-explanatory and provide a rich visual overview of the Indus civilization its writing and the many issues involved.
Very little is known about the subcontinent's history hundreds of thousands of years ago, say 300,000-30,000 years ago, which would have been the Middle Paleolithic period for example, except for small clues left at places like the Rohri chert (flint) mines and along the Indus in Sindh and else
The results of two seasons of excavations 2012-2014 at a small site to the west of Rakigarhi in Rajasthan, on the modern River Chautang (Drishdavati). Largely destroyed by irrigation construction a few years previously – "it can now be assessed that at least 70% of the fortified settlement was destroyed" write the authors (p. 16) – Karanpura has nevertheless yielded an impressive set of artifacts from about 2800-2000 BCE.
"British scholarship of Indian history during the colonial period produced an essentialist construct of an Indian cultural tradition that was deemed unchanged since antiquity and recoverable through archaeological excavations" (p.
The intriguing question this paper takes on is whether or not chert blade (also known as flint, used for lighting fires) production could have taken place here, 500 km as the crow flies from the Rohri Flint Quarries, a massive site with evidence for mining going back hundreds of thousands of years and covered in detail by numerous scholars.
An interesting paper which looks at the extensive finds of what are likely game pieces, boards and other related artifacts from Mohenjo-daro. The author tries to relate finds at the site with contexts, and while this is difficult given poor documentation from earlier excavations, it does seem as if game play was extensive.
"A detailed analysis of the animal bone assemblage at Gola Dhoro here throws light on the expansion of the Indus civilisation into Gujarat. A square fort, imposed on a settlement of livestock herders in the later third millennium BC, was shown to have contained people who introduced a broader diet of meat and seafood, and new ways of preparing it. These social and dietary changes were coincident with a surge in craft and trade."
An exciting new study that looks at food residues ancient Indus pots found in sites around Rakigarhi to decode the foodstuffs that once were in those pots. By examining the lipids or fatty acids that can be extracted from pots and pottery fragments, investigators were able to determine some of the foodstuffs in the pots.
"Talcose stone was used primarily to make beads, seals and tokens, but also for inlay pieces, small figurines and sculptures. In contrast to faience, massive talc was not commonly used to produce either small vessels or bangles.
An important paper - given the painstaking analysis of data - which shows just how careful one has to be in attributing the demise of the Indus civilization to climate change.
Another important and recent (October 2020) paper by Asko Parpola. He examines the 2018 finds from the Late Harappan site of Sanauli near Delhi in light of his research on early Indo-Aryan languages in the subcontinent and their origin in Central Asia.
"The building material for the villages and cities of the IVC [Indus Valley Civilization] was predominantly mud brick.
A richly illustrated slide journey through seals and sealings, how and why they were used in other ancient civilizations, and primarily what we might know and deduce about their use in ancient Indus cities. Dennys Frenez has been studying a large group of accidentally fired Lothal sealings for many years, and is joined by other distinguished archaeologists in what was originally a symposium on bead and seal technologies at the University of Padua, Italy, in 2019.
A provocative paper which claims that "the Indus civilization reveals that a ruling class is not a prerequisite for social complexity" (p. 1). The author, who is at Cambridge University where he has long been involved with the groundbreaking Two Rains project, starts with John Marshall and other
Italian archaeologists have been critical to unearthing the distant human past in Sindh and Balochistan for many years.
"The contexts of script and changes in the writing over time indicate that the Indus script was versatile and that it was probably used to communicate complex ideas as well as multiple languages.
"There was a frequent use of new, artificial materials during the Indus Integration Era, or Mature Harappan period (ca. 2600-1900 B.C.E.)," writes Heather Miller. "Looking more broadly, this seems a characteristic not only of the Indus, but of many of the Western Asian civilizations of the third and second millennia."
This comprehensive look at the development of the Indus script makes a clear and cogent case that its origins likely can be traced to the pre and post-firing graffiti marks found on pottery throughout the region.
"This chapter [in the forthcoming book Pratnamani: Felicitation Volume for Professor Vasant Shinde, 2020] explores previously reported variation in the mortuary practices of two Indus cities—Rakhigarhi and Harappa—to describe the typical range of variation for Indus cemeteries."
"The theme of this volume has forced us to consider and grapple with what activities occur at night and how that can be applicable to the archaeological record of the Indus civilization. In doing so we have focused on water and sewage system maintenance, a traditional nighttime activity of the modern world, to demonstrate how the common spaces and activities of maintenance would have constructed a shared sense of belonging for participants and/or imposed shared identities upon them by outside viewers," write the authors.
The eminent archaeologist George F. Dales (1927-1992, author of Excavations at Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan: The Pottery) looks at a "creamy buff soft stone" sculpture, just under 10 centimeters in height, that he was shown and photographed in Afghanistan in the early 1970s.