Sidis in the Agate Bead Industry of Western India

"Who are the Sidis and where did they come from?" ask the authors of this paper that, while not reaching back to ancient Indus times (although there is evidence for African grains in Gujarat during that period), does show how mobile communities were even two thousand years ago, when the first evidence of "Ethiopians" in Gujarat is found. Kenoyer and Bhan continue: "These two questions can only be answered conclusively through care­ful archaeological and DNA studies, but it is possible to make some sense out of the situation based on written documents and oral tradi­tions. Some early anthropological studies of different racial groups in South Asia have shown that there are some Negrito groups among indigenous populations of hunter-gatherers living in parts of the West­ ern Ghats (Kadar and Irular of the Kerala Hills), and in the Raj Mahal Hills of Bihar and Bengal."

The wide-ranging article that follows testifies to the importance of communities in different parts of the agate bead industry, which flourished in ancient Indus times as well, and is likely to have similarly been supported by specialized communities of practice. Also very interesting, and possibly relevant to even earlier times is the possible link between a spiritual leader (Gori Pir) and the harnessing of a communities energy around a lucrative craft, and other parallels that have endured for multiple generations. Most importantly of course, it also casts light on the important contributions of African communities to the subcontinent's history, one that extends far back into history, perhaps even farther back than we think today given how much cultural interaction we are discovering between people across the seas in Bronze Age times.

Image: During drilling, the tips of agate drills become hot and often spall [break] off. Fine screens allow the collection of the spalled drill tips, the finding of which confirms that drilling as well as shaping of beads was done in this area of the site during the Ravi phase.