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

Glimpses of Dholavira #1

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.

Harappan Sadhus and Fakirs?

It is not unlikely that ascetics, both men and women who had renounced their possessions and lived off of the land or the generosity of donors, wandered about between the Indus towns and villages. In later periods there are textual references to similar ascetics associated with various religious traditions. In Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Islamic/Sufi traditions, men and women, often in the later stages of life, renounced their possessions to focus on spiritual thought and service.

Burials at Harappa

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.

Another Skeleton from Harappa

Another skeleton from Harappa, this from Marshall's excavations published in 1931. He writes: "At Harappa several examples of this mode of sepulture [complete inhumation], which are unquestionably orthodox, have already been exposed in the lower stratum of Cemetery H, and more are likely to come to view as the excavation progresses." See also Burials at Harappa and Painted Burial Pottery.

Indus River Fishing and Fishmongers: A Look Back

These postcards from the early 1900s and albumen photographs from the 1860s give us a glimpse into some of the fishing technologies and practices that were in use at the time. Combining information from multiple sources, including archival images and narratives, enables us to draw conclusions about what the material culture and social practices of the people of the Indus Valley might have been like. 1. The first postcard is from the early 1900s, probably around 1905 in Sindh Province.

Gender and the Indus People: An Unusual Male Figurine

An unusual male figurine found at Harappa with a fan shaped headdress and choker around the neck may be a representation of alternative gender in the ancient Indus civilization. These are usually characteristic of female figurines. For more on Masculinity, see also Men of Harappa A, Men of Harappa B and Nude Male Figurine. For more on Femininity, see Women of Harappa A and Women of Harappa B.

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.
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.