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

Horned Figure Copper Tablet

An incised copper tablet from Mohenjo-daro showing a figure with large horns.
The large horns could represent the power or virility of the animal; whoever wore the horns would possess similar attributes. According to J.M. Kenoyer, they may depict powerful hunters, shamans or even some form of water buffalo or cattle deity. Asko Parpola writes "a male deity having similar long eyes and bulls horns, but a goat's beard in addition, is known from several terracotta masks and terracotta statuettes" (Indus Script, p. 234). See also Deity Strangling Tigers Tablet and Parpola's essay Deciphering the Indus Script.

Toys of the Indus Valley

Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 7.2 x 9.4 x 3.0 cm. Photograph by Georg Helmes.
Movable head of a bovine figurine from Harappa. Some movable figurine heads are pierced through the horns on either side of the head. The movable heads of figurines often depict cattle. They are usually pierced laterally through the neck and vertically or sagittally through the head in order to secure them to the bodies and control them with a cord. Also a toy cart from Nausharo, a bird whistle and a complete ox or water buffalo cart with figurine.

Steatite Wig

Black steatite wig from late Period 3C deposits in Trench 43 found at Harappa. This small stone hairpiece, here displayed on a modern clay mannequin, may have been set on an alabaster head like similar pieces found in western Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Southern Central Asia.

Unicorn Seal

Large square unicorn sealing (left) and seal from Mohenjo-daro. The unicorn is the most common motif on Indus seals and appears to represent a mythical animal that Greek and Roman sources trace back to the Indian subcontinent. A relatively long inscription of eight symbols runs along the top of the seal. The elongated body and slender arching neck is typical of unicorn figurines, as are the tail with bushy end and the bovine hooves. This figure has a triple incised line depicting a pipal leaf shaped blanket or halter, while most unicorn figures have only a double incised line.

Intricately Painted Jar from Chanhu-daro

One of the finest ancient Indus painted jars ever found, excavated at Chanhu-daro during the 1935-36 season led by Ernest MacKay. JM Kenoyer describes it as a "large storage jar with red slip and black painted motifs, including peacocks, vegetation and the famous intersecting-circle design. Such vessels were probably used as marriage gifts or for other ritual occasions, and the motifs undoubtedly represent auspicious blessings on the owner" (Ancient Cities of the Indus Civilization, p. 231). See also Finds and Chanhu-daro.

Humped Bull Figurine

Humped bull figurine from Mohenjo-daro with molded head that is twisted to the side, and a mold used to make the head. The legs were made separated rather than being joined together. Hand formed body and attached head. Eyes are carved with appliqué pupils as on the large hollow bull figurines. Material (Figurine and mold): terra cotta. Figurine – Dimensions: 5.23 cm height, 8.59 cm length, 2.92 cm width Mohenjo-daro, MD 832. Mold – Dimensions: 4.4 cm height, 3.7 cm length, 3.2 cm width. Mohenjo-daro, MD 1634. See also Seal with Two-Horned Zebu Bull.