Blog posts about the art of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.
Painted and unpainted burial pottery from Harappa. The two largest vessels were found in the same burial and are described below. The other smaller vessels were found in an earlier burial and represent an older style of pottery. The bottom images shows a collection of burial pottery which come from one of the later burials towards the end of the Harappan period, possibly dating to 1900 BCE. Tall jar with concave neck and flaring rim: The rounded base was originally supported in a ring stand. The black painted geometric designs are arranged in panels with a red slip as background.
'"Pendant or medallion [from Mohenjo-daro] pictures the unicorn combined with many sacred symbols of the Indus religion. The body of the figure has a womb-shaped symbol in its belly, the same motif is elaborated to form the frame for the pendant, which is also a common design for shell inlay. Two leaf shapes of the sacred pipal tree are depicted at the animals shoulders and rump. A ritual offering stand is placed in front of the image. The deeply incised frame and the symbols on the unicorn would have been set with inlay." (J.M. Kenoyer, Indus Civilization, p. 188) See also The First Unicorn
Figurine with flower headdress from Harappa and a reconstructed headdress in gold found with a serving girl found with Queen Puabi at the royal burials at Ur in Mesopotamia ca. 2600 BCE. Note the carnelian beads around her neck whose only source at the time was the ancient Indus civilization. More at the video lecture Meluhha: the Indus Civilization and Its Contacts with Mesopotamia by Dr. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer.
Loosely included under the rubric of terracotta "figurines" are the terracotta masks found at some Harappan sites. This mask clearly has a feline face with an open mouth with exposed fangs, a beard, small round ears and upright bovine horns. It is small and has two holes on each side of the face that would have allowed it to be attached to a puppet or worn, possibly as an amulet or as a symbolic mask. The combination of different animal features creates the effect of a fierce composite animal.
J.M. Kenoyer describes it as a "square seal with animal whose multiple-heads include three important totemic animals: the bull, the unicorn, the antelope. All three animals appear individually on other seals along with script, but this seal has no script. The perforated boss on the back is plain, without the groove found on most seals." (Ancient Cities, p. 194). E.J.H. Mackay wrote that "a possible explanation of this unusual devices is that its owner may have sought the protection or assistance of three separate deities represented by the heads of these three animals" (Further Excavations,
One of the most evocative seals from Mohenjo-daro, depicting a deity with horned headdress and bangles on both arms, standing in a pipal (sacred fig) tree and looking down on a kneeling worshiper. A human head rests on a small stool and giant ram and seven figures in procession complete the narrative. Asko Parpola writes "An anthropomorphic figure has knelt in front of a fig tree, with hands raised in respectful salutation, prayer or worship. This reverence suggests the divinity of its object, another anthropomorphic figure standing inside the fig tree.
Figurine of a cheeky spotted dog from Chanhu-daro shows the personality Indus craftsmen could imbue a 7 cm sized figurine with. From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston collection based on the 1935 US-led excavations at Chanhu-daro, Sindh. More at Museum of Fine Arts (Boston). For more painted animals and Chanhu-daro craftsmanship, see also an Intricately Painted Jar featuring a peacock motif.
First it is necessary to make the faience paste and the steatite molds. Then the paste is formed into a rectangle and impressed on both sides by the molds. Finally the molded tablets must be dried slowly with air flowing on all sides to allow efflorescence of the glazing flux that is mixed with the faience paste. See also Reconstruction of Faience Tablet Manufacturing or see more images in Harappa 2000- 2001 slideshow.
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.
The rounded base was originally supported in a ring stand. The black painted geometric designs are arranged in panels with a red slip as background. After initial firing, the entire painted design was obliterated with a red slip and fired again at a low temperature that turned the exterior layer of the slip red through oxidation, but the inner layer remained gray. This overslip was not well bonded to the previously slipped surface and was partially eroded when first discovered.