The Forgotten an Approach on Harappan Toy Artefacts

A wide-ranging analysis of toys and their possible role in ancient Indus civilization through a close look at finds from Bagasra, Gujarat. Using social theory, microarchaeology, recent research in other civilizations, and a sophisticated approach to the question of "toys" in archaeology, the author offers one of the few deep dives into a kind of object that is found in great quantities across many ancient Indus sites.


This thesis proposes an alternative perspective to the general neglect of toy materials from deeper analysis in archaeology. Based on a study of selected toy artefacts from the Classical Harappan settlement at Bagasra, Gujarat, it suggests a viable way of approaching the objects when considering them within a theoretical framework highlighting their social aspects. The study agrees with objections in e.g. parts of gender archaeology and research on children in archaeology to the extrapolating from the marginalized child of the West onto past social structures. Departing from revised toy definitions formulated in disciplines outside archaeology, it proceeds with the objects’ toy identifications while rejecting a ‘transforming’ of these into other interpretations. Thus entering a quite unexplored research field, grounded theory is used as working method. As the items indicate a regulated pattern, the opinion on toy artefacts as randomly scattered around becomes questioned. Using among others the capital concept by Bourdieu, the notion of micropower by Foucault and parts of the newly developed ideas of microarchaeology, the toy-role of the artefacts is emphasized as crucial, enabling the items to express diverse social uses in addition to their possible function as children’s (play)things. With this, the notion of the limiting connection of toys to playing children becomes unravelled, opening for a discussion on enlarged dimensions of the toys and a possible re-naming of them as the materialities of next generation. While suggesting the items to indicate various social strategies and structurating practices, the need for traditional boundaries and separated entities successively becomes eliminated. The traditionally stated toy obstacles with cultural loading and elusive distinctions can with this be proposed as constructions, possible to avoid. The toy concept simultaneously emerges as particularly useful in highlighting the notion of change and continuity within the social structure and children’s roles in this.

University of Umeå, Dept. of Archaeology and Sami Studies, Umeå [Sweden], 2006