Technology and Material Culture

Wednesday, 09 July 2003

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An in-depth description, discussion and eventual synthesis of the Harappan Tradition.


Aldendorfer and Stanish (1993) have advocated the use of architectural remains in the identification of ethnicities. They note that architecture has several advantages over other classes of archaeological remains including a lack of portability and high durability in the archaeological record. Ethnic differences are reflected in the nature, size, composition, and material features of architectural remains (Aldendorfer and Stanish, 1993).

The utility of architectural studies are limited by the cost and time involved in the extensive excavation required to uncover large portions of sites under investigation (Aldendorfer and Stanish, 1993). In the near future, such noninvasive subsurface recognizance methods as ground penetrating radar, side aperture radar, and micro-band space based imaging may reach a level of sophistication at which we no longer need resort to destructive excavation to recover data.

The architecture of a site can be divided into three groupings. Corporate and political structures have in the past been the most studied. The primarily unit of research would be the household.

In reference to the Harappan Civilization, the accepted interpretation of the architectural evidence has been that of all powerful priest/kings ruled over a homogenous empire by wielding military power from fortified citadels. Their purely military power was reinforced by the collection and redistribution of grain from granaries located in the twin capital cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. This model is primarily personality driven and is not based on published evidence. The formulator, Sir Mortimer Wheeler based this view on a perceived parallel with Roman granary sites in Britain (Wheeler, 1968). Other than several brief articles, he never published his reasoning nor supporting evidence. A current look at the evidence in no way supports this conclusion.

The Mohenjodaro "Granary" lies on the Stupa Mound next to the Great Bath. (Diagram) It is 45.5 by 27.2 meters and consists of a series of 33 square brick blocks (Diagram). The blocks were 1.5m high with an east/west dimension of 4.5 meters and a length between 6 and 9 meters. They were separated by 0.73m wide brick paved passages. Along the north side, 2 meters below the passage paving was a 6 meter wide platform integral to the structure and running its entire length. Sir John Marshall suggested that this structure served as the ventilation space for a hamon or hot air bath (Marshall, 1931). Marshall’s discovery of paving and ash lend further support to this suggestion (Fentress, 1984).

The Harappa "Granary" rests on low mound next to the Indus River and is surrounded by ordinary domestic structures. (Diagram) It is 32.1 by 36 meters and consists of two long blocks oriented east/west and divided by central aisle. (Diagram) The blocks are subsequently divided into six 15.3 by 5.3 meter units. The units were each further divided by three short walls each of which was open to the outside by small vents (Fentress, 1984). It was surrounded on the south, east, and west sides by a brick retaining wall (Fentress, 1984). It is unidentifiable as a granary due to a lack of any particular evidence such as grain or storage jars. Also, it is unlikely that grain would be stored for extended periods in an area so near the river and in its flood plain. The center aisle was paved in brick and may have served as work area (Fentress, 1984). When compared to modern ethnographic evidence it may have been social or multi functional in use, acting as a meeting place, general storage, market and manufactory (Fentress, 1984).

citadels moved out of Sind Kohistan on to the Lower Indus Basin beginning in the 4th millennium B.C.E.

Compared city, town, and village plans correlate between size of site and function of area of site correlate with the site of pre Harappan, Neolithic, Post Harappan, and Iron Age.

Each site excavated has displayed features not present at the others (Tharpar, 1973). Harappan culture appeared suddenly at sites (1973). The large amount of variation in pre-Harappan materials suggests culture areas (1973). Most large settlement were fortified from the beginning (1973).


history of Harappan ceramic studies

The Harappans produced the earliest stoneware in the world (Dales, 1991).

(Dales, 1986)

aro and Chanhudaro never reached the oldest levels due to a high water table and the great depth of deposits. Little material was recovered by Wheeler at Harappa 1947 or at the excavations at Mohenjodaro. Less was ever published. His primary purpose was the training of young archaeologists. He set as the goal of his research to reach the lowest and earliest levels of the cities. As a result, he uncovered a non-Harappan pottery style now referred to as Kot Diji. He still conforms to Mackay’s work of 1931. Kot Diji was excavated in the 1960's by Khan to look at the change over time in a rural Harappan settlement. Mature Harappan finds were described as "typical" and treated summarily. Finds at Harappa, Kot Diji, and Amri have led to the establishment of an Early Harappan Phase of development. At Lothal, Rao fond a local style that was merged with the incoming Mature Harappan. Black and red ware is found in Gujarat in association with Mature Harappan ceramics. 1956-1962 At Amri a Early Harappan Phase different from that at Kot Diji or Harappa. At Kalibangan, Lal and Thapar uncovered a large Early Harappan site with a local ceramic type termed Sothi. Allahdino represented a totally Harappan settlement. Fairservis 1973-1983. Balakot Dales 1973-1976.

In the Pre-Harappan Period, diverse cultural and regional traditions have been recognized. These cultures are primarily defined by the differences in the ceramic assemblages. There is little apparent interaction between Amri, Kot Diji, and Kalibangan (Tharpar, 1973).

Amri the same motifs but executed differently (Starr, 1941). The ‘style’ transferred mut not the artist.

At numerous sites there was a continuation before and after the short lived Harappan Tradition had come and gone. At Rojdi, there was a marked coexistence of local and regional styles during the Harappan Period (Weber, 1999). Kot Diji~ as early as 3400 B.C.E. 85% of Kot Diji dates overlap with 80% of the Harappa dates (Shaffer and Lichtenstein, 1989). Rehmann Dheri continued into the early second millennium B.C.E. (Shaffer and Lichtenstein, 1989). numerous complexes- are equivalent to ethnic groups

The ceramics of Amri and Kot Diji are sparingly found at the type site of the other (Flam, 1984). At other sites, both wares were well distributed. Kot Dijian ceramics discovered at Nipper during Jemdt Nasr Period (3300 to 2900 B.C.E.). Jemdt Nasr ceramics found in Amri Phase at Ghazi Shah in Sind Kohistan. Lemberg-Karlovsky found Amri and Nal ceramics in East Iran.

Kulli linked to eastern Iran, Bahrain, and Mesopotamia in the Early Dynastic Period II (2700 to 2400 B.C.E.)

Qasid Hussain Mullah has recently completed a total survey of the Thar Desert (Mullah, 2000). He uncovered ceramic evidence for Hakra, Kot Dijian, and Harappan occupations. He found no evidence for a local ceramic type. This is reasonable. The earliest habitations or those from the earliest urban influence are where one would expect to find local types in the most abundance. These Hakra Period were the temporary camps of desert nomads. It is unlikely they would have developed ceramics.

The Mature Harappan

at Harappa Dales found stratigraphic and stylistic intermediaries between Early Harappan and Harappan

The Post-Harappan Jhukar Ware is seen to be an outgrowth of the Mature Harappan (Fairservis, 1975). It is typified by a sloppy corse production and a large proportion of vegetable inclusions. It is the result of a collapse in the industrialized production of the Mature Harappan. Non specialists, most-likely individual households trying to relearn and replicate the techniques of past specialists.

Single vessel of non-Harappan manufacture must be noted. It is a corse fast wheel thrown vessel with no slip but dark reddish-black bands at the shoulder, hard fired, with grog, pebble, and shell temper.

Early Harappan

Mehrgarh- domestic production

MD- domestic and in small bazaars with stalls on periphery of city- allocated space

Mature Harappan

2500BCE- two level updraft kiln

fast wheel

Late Harappan

MD- large industrialized production

Ornaments are worn for symbolic, ascetic, ammuletic purposes. Symbolically, they serve as traditional outward markers of age, sex, social status, ethnicity, and religious affiliation. Mark Kenoyer believes that there were regional differences in the way ornaments were used and discarded. Different types of ornaments were manufactured in various material qualities (Kenoyer, 1992). This may suggest that the design was of greater importance than material or that a design may have had the same meaning despite the status of the individual wearing it.

In the Early Harappan Phase, standard types of adornment were developed (Kenoyer, 1992). These types quickly and vastly diversified in the Mature Harappan to meet the need for more markers to identify and separate the increasingly complex combinations of ethnicity and status (Kenoyer, 1992).

One of the most prevalent ornament type used in the Harappan Civilization was the bangle. They were manufactured from various materials including; copper/bronze, faience, gold, shell, silver, stoneware, and terra-cotta (Kenoyer, 1992). Shell bangles were manufactured from two types of shellfish. Conch bangles were the most prevalent. The Meretrix casta, an edible bivalve was used in local areas of the lower tide zone of the Arabian Sea. No Meretrix bangles have been reported from major Harappan sites (Dales and Kenoyer, 1977). Conch bangles are more prevalent than those made from Meretrix. They likely represent a local ornament style either as a variation of Conch bangles where they are unavailable or as a local ethnic marker.

Kenoyer has recreated bangle manufacturing processes through experimentation and a careful examination of work areas at the coastal site of Balakot. Due to the limited distribution of working areas, shell artifact production was unlikely to be a cottage industry interested in production for household use (Dales and Kenoyer, 1977). Based on Kenoyer’s research, a skilled workman could produce about four to six bangles in a seven hour day. This estimate includes an allowance for fifteen to twenty percent breakage.

The Harappan Civilization utilized beads of diverse types with vastly differing manufacturing processes. Beads came in agate, alabaster, carnelian, faience, jasper, lapis lazuli, serpentine, shell, steatite, terra cotta, and turquoise (Kenoyer, 1986). Increased demand in industrial goods due to a dramatic increase in population and wealth forced bead makers to introduce simpler more cost effective means of production. The shell beads so popular in the neolithic and Early Harappan were replaced by the cheaper and easer to manufacture steatite beads of the Mature Harappan Period (Kenoyer, 1986). Banded carnelian was extremely popular and may have had religious connotations (Kenoyer, 1986). Several alternative means of meeting demand were utilized. Methods included: the painting of terra cotta beads; the incising steatite and filling the cuts with red paste; the joining of layers of carnelian and alabaster; the bleaching of portions of carnelian beads; and the manufacture of multicolored faience beads (Kenoyer, 1986).

Faience production was advanced in the Harappan Civilization. They utilized two techniques for the manufacture of faience paste (Kenoyer, 1994). The first was a mixture of ground quartz, flux, and colorant. This method resulted in coarse grained faience similar to that of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The second method began with a mixture of quartz and colorant that was then partially melted. The resulting frit was then reground and mixed with flux to create a faience paste which when heated produced a very fine-grained texture.

The flux used also came in two types (Kenoyer, 1994). First was an alkaline ash obtained from burning a desert plant called camel-thorn. The second is natron, a pale naturally occurring hydrous sodium carbonate.

What is the distribution of manufactory of different bead types and manufacturing processes? The two types of flux and faience manufacture?

Ornaments were generally highly polished and showed damage from heavy use.

The decline of the Harappans was partly due to a loss of control over the trade routes which had integrated the various cultural populations of the Harappan Civilization.

This culminated in Late Harappan with the disappearance of the Harappan and the continuance of local types.

In the Thar, a lack of

trade- salt, limestone, Rohri Hills flint, herding, leather

Thar materials at several sites including Harappa (Mullah, 2000).

The Harappan Civilization participated in a world economic sphere, and traded directly with Mesopotamia, the Gulf, and Central Asia. Harappan goods have been recovered from numerous sites around the Gulf. These goods include: ceramics (decorated wares, dish-on-stand, large storage jars), standardized weights, and etched carnelian beads (Wright, 1991).






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