The Beginnings of Art, Symbol and Technology
The Indus Valley civilization developed out of earlier farming and pastoral communities that inhabited the plains and western mountainous regions of Baluchistan and Afghanistan.
These communities are referred to as pre- or Early Indus cultures and each had its own distinctive artistic style. These regional styles are most clearly observed in various painted designs on pottery, different types of clay figurines, toys, seals and ornaments.
Although the styles of expression are different, trade and exchange networks connected the various regions and allowed for the distribution of raw materials, finished goods, technological knowledge and food items.
The gradual dispersal of specific artistic styles and motifs along with specific types of ornaments indicates that there was a gradual integration of these communities though marriage alliances, ritual interaction and eventually political treaties.
Located at the base of an important pass, the site of Mehrgarh in Baluchistan, Pakistan ( Indus Civilization Map 1) provides evidence for the earliest agricultural and pastoral communities in South Asia. The first inhabitants of Mehrgarh, dating to around 6500 B.C.E., were farmers who cultivated wheat and barley as their main grain crops and had herds of cattle, sheep and goats.
Although in the earliest period they had not yet begun to make pottery, they lived in mud brick houses, wove baskets and adorned themselves with elaborate bead ornaments made of shell and colored stones. Some of these beads appear to have been traded from distant areas or were collected during pastoral migrations.
The earliest forms of pottery have shapes that are similar to baskets and many of the designs on the vessels may replicate woven motifs on the earlier baskets. These decorative motifs were not simply for ornamentation, but undoubtedly had some ritual significance and were symbols that served to distinguish different family groups or communities.