What Makes a Pot Harappan?

"When we speak of Harappan material style, we need to include the whole package of raw material, technological know-how as well as shape and pattern," writes Dr. Heidi J. Miller, who goes on to present "a preliminary study of what defines a Harappan phase ceramic assemblage by comparing the assemblages from the sites of Harappa in the Punjab, Mohenjo-daro and the smaller site of Chanhu-daro, both in Sindh, and illustrating what is shared amongst these contemporary occupations." Indeed, while we think we know quickly what makes something "Harappan," it takes some discernment and consideration to specify exactly what those features are. As Miller has shown in later and recent work, this is important, not leastly because it can lead to mis-interpretations like assuming that so-called Jhukar-phase pottery at Chanhu-daro is from a non-Indus settlement phase and defines a different culture. More importantly, as she points out in this paper, it is not just visual similarity among objects that makes them representative of a similar culture or style, but the entire context within which an object comes to exist and live: from the raw materials and manufacturing processes to the way it is used and purposes it fulfills in different places.

There are many dimensions to a unified cultural style and resemblances across town and place. This paper is a clear and concise attempt to bring them together in a framework that can perhaps be applied to other Indus artifact classes. Another article from the rich Walking with the Unicorn volume in honor of Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, whose work has clearly inspired this author who fleshes out his description of "Harappan ceramics as a tool to integrate communities, a horizontal integration in contrast to a vertically stratified system" (p. 401).

Image: Large Indus pot from Chanhu-daro. With thanks to: Joint Expedition of the American School of Indic and Iranian Studies and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 1935–1936 Season, Indus Valley. 2600–2000 B.C. Overall: 48.3 x 38.1 x 38.1 cm (19 x 15 x 15 in.)