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5000 year old cows

cow figurines from gilund (photo by Teresa P. Raczek)

cow figurines from gilund (photo by Teresa P. Raczek)

By 2000 BCE, the the Harappan maritime activity shifted to Gujarat. Around that time the trade between Africa and India intensified. While crops moved from Africa to India, genetic studies have shown that the zebu cattle went from India via Arabia to Africa.  These Bos Indicus, who reached Africa, met some Bos taurines and before you knew, sparks were flying, setting the African Savannah on fire. There is also evidence of the migration of zebus from Indus to Near East via Iran in the late third millennium BCE. Some of this zebu movement involved travel by boats along the Arabian coast and points to a trade on a much larger scale. Thus the transportation of a giraffe in 1405 by Zheng He’s fleet from Africa to China does not look that far fetched.[Trading Hubs of the Old World – Part 2]

While we know that Bos Indicus were important components of the Indo-African trade of 2000 BCE, we have new evidence of one of the oldest representations of these cows. These come from an excavation at Gilund, a site about 100 KM north of Udaipur. Gilund was part of the Ahar-Banas culture, and existed during the same period as the Harappans. In fact one of the earliest pieces of  burned brick was found at Gilund.

The terracota figurines of the cows have the following characteristics

They are most often of fired terracotta, but there are also a number of unfired clay specimens. Nearly half of the collection is comprised of humped animals, interpreted as humped cattle, or Bos indicus .There is significant stylistic variety within the collection,for example, the way the face, legs and hump are shaped;the range in size; whether or not the artisan added such details as ears under the horns, or incised eyes, nose andmouth, etc. (Figure 3.3). In particular, the humped cattlefigurines share stylistic affinities with those recovered atAhar, Ojiyana and Purani Marmi. Similar humped cattle figurineshave also been reported from Mahidpur in MadhyaPradesh[The Gilund Project:Excavations in Regional Context (via e-mail from Carlos Aramayo)]

Another site, Ojiyana, too revealed such cow figurines and they have modeled udders. These are in fact the oldest representations of cows from that region.

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