Of all the objects in the National Museum of Pakistan's Indus Gallery in Karachi, none quite so grabs your attention with its innate character as this tiny faience monkey from Mohenjo-daro.

On a recent visit to Delhi, I found myself free for two hours and made my way in a rickshaw from Jama Masjid to the National Museum. It was a Sunday afternoon. After paying the entrance fee and breathlessly arriving at the Harappan Civilisation doorway, I found that it was closed for renovations! Momentarily dispirited, it turned out that there was another entrance and much of the gallery was still open – disaster averted.

A delightful romp through 10 themes in ancient India by a smart and engaging writer who knows her Indus civilization history and all that which followed. These brief essays give some sense of how engaging history can be in the hands of a good writer, not afraid to take risks and push material politically and theoretically while keeping her feet on the ground.

"Urban society is a highly complex system in terms of its institutions, hierarchy, integration, etc." writes the author. "A vast region is incorporated into one social system which is based on cities."

In the excellent new book The Story of India's Unicorns (Marg, 2018), which is all about the rhinoceros in the subcontinent, Shibani Bose writes in the section Evidence from Indus Sites that what "needs to be explained is the presence, and in cases like Kalibangan, the profusion of rhinoceros remains at some of the major urban sites of the civilization.

Do the many female figurines at Indus sites justify the belief that the worship of a "mother Goddess" was prevalent then? One of India's most distinguished archaeologists offers a contrary viewpoint in this deeply informed, multi-faceted analysis of these figurines.

There is so much going on in DNA studies – even if pre-figured by linguistic studies – that having a solid guide to stitch it all together, including papers that landed with a giant thud in 2018, would be so very, very nice. Someone who could put it together for the layman or intelligent observer who finds it hard to sort through headlines and the latest pronouncements (and simplifications).

An interesting paper about a recently excavated center of metallurgy in Bijnor, Rajasthan.

Shereen Ratnagar, in her brand new book The Magic in the Image Women in Clay at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa (soon to be reviewed here) offers an interesting conjecture around a set of male figurines found at the two iconic Indus sites.

Science is slowly transforming ancient Indus studies, from DNA analysis of skeletons that point to migration and disease, to isotope analysis that reveals the distant origins of raw materials. One of the cleverest – and potentially rewarding i terms of increasing the number of ancient sites to investigate – must be the use of old maps.

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