Posts relating to people, gender, artistic representations, and common types in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

Ancient Female Figures and Flower Headdresses

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.

See also Harappan Female Figurine.

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.
Holes along the length of the cart serve to hold wooden side bars and at the center of the cart two of the wooden side bars can be extended below the frame to hold the axle. A long stick inserted into the holes at the end of the cart would have been used to support a yoke. The two wheels were found lying next to the cart frame. Period III, Harappan, 2300-2200 B. C. Similar carts are still used in rural areas of Pakistan and India.
Among the most convincing cases for figurines as toys are the hollow bird figurines that have a hole either on the back near the tail or in front of the torso that allowed them to be used as whistles. Similar terracotta "bird whistles" are still found in South Asia. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.8 x 5.5 x 5.3 cm. Photograph by Richard H. Meadow.
Terracotta figurines have long been considered toys, often without question. Other objects such as carts, wheels, and charpoi (cots) made of terracotta at a similar scale may reinforce this interpretation for at least some of the terracotta figurines. Several styles of carts as well as wheels made of terracotta have been found at Harappa. These were probably originally held together by wooden components that have not preserved.

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.

Ancient Indus Men's Hairstyles

Male hair styles and fashion in Ancient Indus

Ancient Indus males of stature seem to have had their hair tied in close buns, and with headband to further articulate their head. This is true of the priest king, shown here in a possible colored replica, the original, and in profile soon after being found in the 1920's. The figure below, with the same hair hair arrangement and headband, was found at Mohenjo-daro. Mark Kenoyer writes "Finely braided or wavy combed hair is tied into a double bun on the back of the head, and a plain fillet or headband with two hanging ribbons falls down the back.

A Story Tablet from Harappa

One side of a planoconvex molded tablet found in 1995 in Mound ET at Harappa. Mark Kenoyer writes about his narrative scene depicting the killing of a water buffalo: "A person, possibly a man, with hair tied in a bun on the back of the head, impales a water buffalo with a barbed spear. The hunter's foot presses down on the water buffalo's head as he thrusts the spear into its shoulder. In Later Hindu rituals, the water buffalo sacrifice is associated with the worship of the goddess Durga, but on this seal the sacrifice takes place in the presence of a priest or deity seated in yogic position.

Possible Indus Crown

Not yet absolutely clear that this is an ancient Indus-style crown, but the chances are pretty good with find first reported in August. Reports on follow-up excavations in December by A.K. Pandey of the Archaeological Survey of India suggest it really could be from ancient Indus times, though final stratigraphy is awaited. The fact that the crown includes faience and carnelian, two typical ancient Indus precious materials, is promising.

The August story can be found at Archaeology News Network.

Read also the December report 4,000-Year-Old Copper Crown in India and a seal example of a similar

Harappan Burial Pottery

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.

Burials at Harappa

The most prominent pendant bead is made of a rare variety of onyx with natural eye designs in alternating shades of red, white, tan and green. Gold beads were placed at each end to frame this important ornament. The other two stone beads were made of banded jasper and turquoise, with a single gold bead at one end of the turquoise bead.
"Four burials of what are probably adult females were found with shell bangles on their left arms. The bangles were arranged on both the lower and upper arm, with the characteristic Harappan chevron motif pointing counter clockwise. One burial had 14 shell bangles, another had seven, another had five, only had only two." (Richard H. Meadow, Harappa Excavations 1986-1990: A Multidisciplinary Approach, p. 194.)
His burial was disturbed in antiquity, possibly by ancient Harappan grave robbers. Besides the fact that the body is flipped and the pottery disturbed, the left arm of the woman is broken and shell bangles that would normally be found on the left arm are missing. The infant was buried in a small pit beneath the legs of the mother.

The body may have been wrapped in a shroud, and was then placed inside a wooden coffin, which was entombed in a rectangular pit surrounded with burial offerings in pottery vessels. The man was buried wearing a long necklace of 340 graduated steatite beads and three separate pendant beads made of natural stone and three gold beads. A single copper bead was also found at his waist.

Note that the entire book describing these discoveries, Harappa Excavations 1986-1990: A Multidisciplinary Approach edited by Richard H. Meadow is available with each chapter a single PDF download.

Glimpses of Dholavira #1

Photograph by Sunil Shanbag
Photograph by Sunil Shanbag
The site is about 100 hectares surrounded by agricultural fields.
Photograph by Sunil Shanbag

Dholavira is located on Khadir Beyt, an island in the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat State, India. It was excavated between 1990 and 2005 by R.S. Bisht (the field research reports still await publication). In the same size range as Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, it has some of the best preserved stone architecture from the ancient Indus period. The city flourished between 2650 and 2100 BCE and seems to have been abandoned about 1900 BCE. It is thought to have controlled the movement of goods between the resource areas of Gujarat and core areas of the Indus plains.

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.


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