Blog posts about the art of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

Steatite Disc Beads

This set of steatite disc beads found at Harappa, each about 1 cm in diameter, were found in a Kot Diji phase (ca. 2800-2600 BCE) street and appear to be a necklace segment that was lost in the trash. The manufacturing marks are clearly visible. The matched nature of the beads suggests that a preform of raw steatite was shaped, drilled with a copper tube, and subsequently sewn into segments.

An Ancient Indus Plate

Copper and bronze plates were probably used exclusively by wealthy upper class city dwellers.
Ancient Indus food, drink and cooking vessels would likely not be out of place in South Asia today, so familiar are the designs and materials A copper/bronze plate from Mohenjo-daro, terra cotta cooking pots from Nausharo (2200-2300 BCE), a stone (fuchsite) drinking vessel from Mohenjo-daro, and a copper/bronze cooking pot from Harappa.

Harappan Female Figurine

"The importance of females as symbols of religious power [in Indus Civilization] is supported by the fact that figurines of women or mother goddesses are more common than male figurines." (J.M. Kenoyer). Shown is a female figurine from Harappa with four flowers arranged on the front part of a fan shaped headdress with cups at two sides and braided edging. This figurine is adorned with a triple strand choker with pendant beads and a double strand necklace with central disc pendant. See also Women of Harappa.

Pipal Leaves: Revisited

The impressions of a pipal leaf found in the upper clay levels of a drain in Harappa, shown here with a modern pipal leaf, indicate that what many think was a sacred tree even at that time was growing in the ancient city of Harappa. A well at Mohenjo-daro, a sealing from the city and the pipal motif on a unicorn seal are other examples of this critical leaf in Indus culture. See also Unicorn and Pipal Tree Seal.

Gender and the Indus People: An Unusual Male Figurine

An unusual male figurine found at Harappa with a fan shaped headdress and choker around the neck may be a representation of alternative gender in the ancient Indus civilization. These are usually characteristic of female figurines. For more on Masculinity, see also Men of Harappa A, Men of Harappa B and Nude Male Figurine. For more on Femininity, see Women of Harappa A and Women of Harappa B.

The First Indus Women, 1924

The first Indus women surfaced in the Illustrated London News on September 20, 1924. John Marshall was announcing the discovery of a civilization in India far earlier than Western archaeologists had surmised and these Harappan figurines were earlier than any others. Similar figurines from more recent discoveries at Harappa are also shown below, with captions. These are typical of female figurines from Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Why do you think there might be so many more female than male figurines? See also Embodying Indus Life: Terra Cotta Figurines of Harappa.

Indus Elephants

It is unknown whether elephants were domesticated in the Indus Civilization. However, one of the few elephant figurines from Harappa is a head with large stylized ears and red and white stripes painted across the face. This may mirror the custom of decorating domesticated elephants (red and white are common colors) for ceremonies or rituals that is still practiced in South Asia. Elephant bones have also been found at Harappa. Approximate dimensions (W x H (L) x D): 5.4 x 4.8 x 4.6 cm. Photograph by Richard H. Meadow. See also Hollow Elephant Figurine from Harappa and Elephant Head.

Mohenjo-daro Male Sculpture (Shell in Eye)

Seated male sculpture from Mohenjo-daro with shell inlay still remaining in one eye. The braided or combed hair lays back straight and a plain fillet or ribbon encircles the head and falls down the back of the neck. Two strands of a ribbon or braided hair hang over the shoulder. The stylized ear is a simple cup shape with a hole in the center. The upper lip is shaved and a short combed beard covers the lower jaw. The forward projecting head and large lips may reflect a specific personality or may be due to the particular style of carving. See also Men of Harappa and Ancient Indus Men's