Mysteries

Mysteries and unsolved archaeological puzzles of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

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.

Proto-Historic Objects from Balochistan

Today an unusual and spectacular exhibition opens at the National Museum of Oriental Art (MNAO) 'Giuseppe Tucci' in Rome, Italy. Living Symbols presents a group of painted protohistoric objects from the 4th and 3rd millennium BCE, illegally excavated in Balochistan and seized in 2005 by the Italian police. Although much about their provenance is lost, they are apparently from the little know Nal Buthi and Kulli cultures that preceded (Nal) and accompanied (Kulli) the height of Indus culture.

Wheeler's Harappan Trench

Sir Mortimer Wheeler's famous trench at Harappa in 1946 and today, when it has been filled in once again. Wheeler writes of the incision he orchestrated: "The monsoon-cutting was filled with mud-bricks, which were carried up in bricks and mud to form an anti-flood 'bolster'' or bund, spreading protectively beyond the outer foot of a great defensive wall 45 feet wide at the base and tapering upwards. The main bulk of the wall was of mud-brick but there was an external revetment of baked brick four feet wide as preserved.

Mohenjo-daro Restaurant?

Was this an ancient Mohenjo-daro restaurant? Sir Mortimer Wheeler writes "Of another kind is a building fronting upon one of the main streets, 'First Street', in VR Area [Mohenjo-daro]. Its outside dimensions are 87 by 64.5 feet, but within that considerable framework are included not only residential quarters around the courtyard but also, towards the street, industrial or commercial premises of some note: in particular, three rooms neatly paved with bricks on edge, one room with five conical pits or holes sunk in the floor and lined with wedge-shaped bricks, apparently to hold the pointed

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.

Mystery of the Pillared Hall

What was the large pillared hall at Mohenjo-daro used for? The hall was approximately 27.5 meters square (90 feet square) with twenty square brick pillars arranged in four rows, only two of which are still preserved. Strips of paved floors sloped from south to north and each strip of flooring had row of bricks set on edge along both sides. The cross wall in the foreground was built later and divided the hall into smaller rooms. Its purpose remains an enigma.

The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro A

The great bath at Mohenjo-daro at dawn and in context. Surrounded by a brick colonnade, it measures approximately 12 meters north-south and 7 meters wide, with a maximum depth of 2.4 meters. In the background is a massive brick structure with narrow passages that was first identified as a hammam or hot-air bath, and later as the state "granary," but this is not certain.

See also The Great Bath of Mohanjo-daro B.

Ritual Mask or Amulet

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.

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