25. Was feminine beauty exemplified by a race different than the one inhabiting the IVC?

Female figurine with three sets of chokers and necklaces and common fan shaped headdress with cups on either side of the head. Discovered at Harappa in 1991. More

A stark contrast between the features of human figurines and masks of IVC period strikes me. Men have a narrow sloping forehead like a Neanderthal, whereas women exhibit a prominent vertical forehead with a much higher hairline. If my observation stands scrutiny, one possibility that comes to mind is that: Feminine beauty was exemplified by women of a race other than the one inhabiting the IVC. Somewhat like all Barbie dolls possess long limbs irrespective of which race they are supposed to represent. Does that hypothesis make sense? Submitted by Vasant Dave

Jane McIntosh
Most of the Harappan figurines and seal depictions of humans are fairly crude in their depiction of the human face and I think it would be difficult to draw any conclusions from them on either the racial affinities or the ideals of beauty of the Harappans. The sculptures are more life-like but there are so few that it is difficult to generalise from them. I would conclude that the Harappans, like most cultures, would have had their own ideals of feminine and masculine beauty, but that we have little evidence to show us what these were like.

Rita Wright
It’s possible, but then who were they. We need to look at what art historians say about artistic conventions for representation that often have nothing to do with what real people look like. Short people may represented as tall, tall as short, broad as narrow, etc. Your question is an interesting one. I think the mask images and many others are supernatural characters; for example, take a look at images on Mesopotamian cylinder seals. The human/animals represented do not look at all like the statues of people that were produced there. In that same way, the figurines, masks, etc. look nothing like the few statues we have of Indus people. I would say we are looking at stylistic conventions, but your question certainly is worth pursuing.

Shereen Ratnagar
Do you think the masks are intended to represent some kind of grotesque element? Look at Shashthi and how she is portrayed in Bengal these days—no question of “beauty”: is her face not like that of an animal? She is a (now domesticated) being/godling who carried away new-born babies.

Inez During Caspers wrote a paper assimilating all portrayals of people and concluded that there was a very cosmopolitan population in Harappa and Mohenjo-daro.

Actually as far as I know the West does valorize the “long-legged beauty”.