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

Fuchsite Drinking Glass

A drinking glass with finely polished exterior surface and sparkling internal crystal facet.

Mark Kenoyer writes: "One famous stone vessel found at Mohenjo-daro is a tall glass with concave sides that is similar in shape to ritual columns found in Balochistan and Afghanistan. This green stone, called fuchsite, is rare, but it can occur with quartzite which is common throughout Balochistan and Afghanistan. When this fuchsite vessel was first examined by a geologist in the 1930's, the only know source was Mysore State, over 1600 km south of the Indus Valley.

Kulli Plate

A Kulli plate very similar to ancient Indus plates with two tigers facing each other and motifs similar to those of the Nal culture of Balochistan (see also the related post National Museum of Oriental Art- Tucci). A recent article, Commodities and Things: The Kulli in Context by Rita P. Wright, looks at the mysterious Kulli culture of Balochistan that both pre-dated and was contemporaneous with ancient Indus culture, and apparently was part of an elaborate trading network that stretched west as far as the Jiroft culture in Iran.

Composite Tubular Gold Bead

This artifact was found on Mound AB at Harappa in 2000.

A composite tubular gold bead found on Mound AB at Harappa in 2000. Greenish corroded copper-alloy from an interior wire covers part of the gold bead. "Gold was easily obtained from the sands of the upper Indus river where it is still panned by itinerant miners. Another source of gold was along the Oxus river in northern Afghanistan where a trading colony of the Indus cities has been discovered at Shortughai. Situated far from the Indus Valley itself, this settlement may have been established to obtain gold, copper, tin and lapis lazuli, as well as other exotic goods from Central Asia," (J.M.

Painted Harappan Dish

A painted dish of a pedestaled vessel from Harappa found in 1993. The painted design includes two peacocks and a sacred tree. Mark Kenoyer writes: "Painted dish portion from a dish-on-stand. The black-on-red painted decoration is arranged in panels that are divided into four sections. Two peacocks are depicted on one side, and a many-branched tree with short leaves is painted on the opposite panel section. Between these two motifs are multiple lines of loops with circle-and-dot designs and hatching which totally fill all of the empty space.

Men of Harappa A

Most male figurines from Harappa sit with knees bent and arms at the sides of the legs or around the knees. Some of these figurines have facial features and even genitalia, and a few have stylized legs joined into a single projection.
Other male figurines stand with their hands on their hips and their legs pressed together, a common posture for female figurines. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.0 x 9.7 x 2.8 cm.
Male figurines may be distinguished by genitalia and/or small flat nipples. A few male figurines wear chokers with pendants very similar to those worn by females. Some males are depicted with bowed legs. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D) of the largest figurine: 5.3 x 9.0 x 1.5 cm.
A few male figurines demonstrate unusual postures such as one with one leg extended forward and the other extended behind. Male figurines also sometimes wear a simple headband around the top of the head. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.3 x 7.2 x 3.2 cm.

Although there are fewer male than female figurines to be found at Indus sites, these terracotta males from Harappa give some sense of the principles underlying their representations. Shari Clark writes: "After many decades of research, the Indus Civilization is still something of an enigma -- an ancient civilization with a writing system that still awaits convincing decipherment, monumental architecture whose function still eludes us, no monumental art, a puzzling decline, and little evidence of the identity of its direct descendants.

Women of Harappa A

Photographs by Richard H. Meadow
Photographs by Richard H. Meadow

Image A:Two female figurines nursing infants found at Harappa. The female figurine usually holds the infant's head to her breast with one or both arms encircling the infant.

LEFT: The female figurine usually holds the infant's head to her breast with one or both arms encircling the infant. The infants being nursed by female figurines are usually very schematically represented by a bent and pinched roll of clay with or without applied eyes.

RIGHT: The head, body, and legs of the infant are usually pressed against the female’s breast and torso with the legs dangling or gripping the female’s

Shell Bangle Workshop in Gola Dhoro

Complete raw shell Turbinella pyrum (right and left).
Gola Dhoro excavated gateway on eastern side of the mound.

Why was this shell bangle workshop suddenly abandoned in Gola Dhoro, Gujarat? Great wealth was left behind. Archaeologist Kuldeep Bhan writes: "One of the most important craft activities pursued with great vigor at the site was the production of shell bangles from Turbinella pyrum. One of the fascinating discoveries associated with this craft was the recovery of a rectangular mud brick structure measuring approximately 5.60 x 3.20m with an adjoining chamber, situated on the northwestern periphery inside the fortification.

Two Wide Shell Bangles

Two magnificent wide shell bangles, each made from a single conch shell (Turbinella pyrum) found at Harappa.

Two magnificent wide shell bangles, each made from a single conch shell (Turbinella pyrum) found at Harappa. "The use of marine shell in the manufacture of ornaments and ritual objects provides one of the most striking examples of the continuity between the Indus cities and later cultures in South Asia. Along the coastal regions of Makran, Kutch and Gujarat, the conch shell or Turbinella pyrum was collected throughout the period following the decline of Indus cities.

Lady of the Spiked Throne Figurines

The terracotta model from the left side.
The first female figurine of the right side.
Detail of the bull's head.
The enthroned lady.

An exceptional and controversial recent find in a private collection is analyzed by a leading Italian archaeologist in a fully illustrated complete online volume with possible implications for understanding ancient Indus culture. Massimo Vidale writes: "In Autumn 2009, I was invited by a private collector to see an artefact that was mentioned as unique and very complex, and reportedly belonged to the cultural sphere of the Indus civilization.


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