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Talk by J M Kenoyer on Harappan Civilization

In May, 2010, Prof. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer — who has been conducting archaeology in India and Pakistan since 1986 — gave a talk on the trade relations between the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia. In the talk (watch video), he presented the latest scholarship regarding the Indus: on origins, on the script and on the cultural exchange between Indus and Mesopotamia. He also used the S-word, a taboo among eminent historians.

A quick summary:

  • The Indus civilization flourished around two rivers — Indus and Sarasvati. Yes, he mentions that Ghaggar-Hakra is that river of antiquity. (Additional Reading: The Lost River by Michel Danino).
  • Potter’s marks were found in pottery of the Ravi phase (from 3300 BCE) which is around the same time writing developed in Mesopotamia and Egypt. This writing evolved into the Indus Script, which he says is a writing system, which codifies multiple languages. It was used for trade, accounting and rituals. He is working with folks from TIFR on some theories about the Indus script.
  • One of the seals display a diety sitting on an elephant and grabbing two tigers. While many have suggested that this represents a scene from Gilgamesh, Prof. Kenoyer suggests that this independently evolved in India.
  • He showed one Mesopotamian seal, dated to between 3300 – 2900 BCE, made from a shell found near Karachi. This falls between the period of the Dhuwelia cotton and time of Sargon of Akkad. (Additional Reading: Trading Hubs of the Old World)
  • Wheeled carts were being developed around the same time they were developed in the steppes.
  • Water Buffalo (both motif and animal) went to Mesopotamia from India. Dr. Asko Parpola also made a similar point. (Additional Reading: The Indus Colony in Mesopotamia)
  • There is similarity between the head dress of women in Harappa and one region of Mesopotamia. Maybe the women went via marriage?
  • Swastika was painted in Indian caves about 10,000 years back and in the Samara culture. Swastikas were also found in the Indus Valley.
  • He could not find evidence of warfare and thinks that warfare was not used a mechanism for integration. No weapons were found. Even in the motifs, the fights are between humans and animals or between humans and supernatural beings; never between humans.
  • Yoga had its origins in Indus Valley.
  • There was intensive trade with Mesopotamia from 2600 BCE. He also mentions Queen Puabi. He also talks about the Meluhhan interpreter and Meluhhan villages. (Additional Reading: The Indus Colony in Mesopotamia).
  • There was a concept of a passport in Central Asian trade. They found seals with the Central Asian motif on one side and the Harappan motif on the other. No such seal exists for Mesopotamian trade.
  • Women who had wide bangles were burried separately. Similar wide bangles, crafted in the Indus, were found in Susa,Iran and he makes the argument that they were powerful nomadic traders.
  • There was a social hierarchy – land owners, elites, ritual specialists — and this was deduced from burial patterns.

 

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2 Responses to Talk by J M Kenoyer on Harappan Civilization

  1. froginthewekk November 8, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Do you know what his take on the authorship of Rig Veda is? Thanks.

    • jk November 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

      frog sir, don’t know the answer to that. will try to find out.

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