Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 31 in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/router/package.module.router.php on line 465

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 30 in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/router/package.module.router.php on line 465
Indus Valley Civilization Archives - Page 8 of 10 - varnamvarnam | Page 8
Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/themes/canvas/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160
Tag Archives | Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Script – Decipherments

(Asokan inscription in Brahmi)

Read Part 1

When say “deciphering the Indus script” there are two aspects to it. The first is the structural analysis which looks at the signs which are used the most, the relationship between the signs etc and the second is assigning various sounds to the symbols to attempt a reading.

Dravidian

In 1968, the Russian linguist Yuri  Knorozov who assisted in the Battle of Berlin and later decoded the Mayan script found internal structures in the Indus seals using software analysis. Based on that he read the text as proto-Dravidian. One of the signs in the Indus script is that of a man carrying a stick. This for Knorozov  represented the posture of Yama or Bhairava hence he thought it was one of the predecessors of one of such gods. He also read the script and one such reading is ‘[day of the [god] -guardian honored leader, lightning of the cloud worthy hero’. The criticism of Knorozov is that while his analysis was useful, the reading was pure guess work[1].

But how did Dravidians, who currently live in the four Southern states, end up in the Indus Valley? According to one version, Proto-Dravidian speakers moved into the Indus Valley from Iran some time between 6500 and 3000 B.C.E. These people, who derived Proto-Dravidian from Proto-Elamite-Dravidian, developed the Indus culture over a period of 2000 – 4000 years[1]. When the Indo-Aryans arrived, sometime after the collapse of the Indus Valley, Dravidian was the dominant language.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 5 }

The Indus Script – Introduction

(Lothal, according to the ASI)

4000 year back, in Lothal, Gujarat, a merchant walked from his home in the lower town towards the wharf. As he walked past the bead factory, he saw the artisans already at work there; some of these beads were in demand in lands as far away as Mesopotamia. Crossing the public drain and the acropolis he reached the wharf. There were quite a few ships waiting to carry goods to Dilmun, Ur, and Lagash.

He glanced to his left, in the direction of the worker’s barracks, located at the far end of the wharf and quickly walked to the opposite end – towards the warehouse. All the goods were bundled and tied as expected. As he walked to the first bundle, one of his workers put some wet clay on the rope. He took a rectangular seal from the folds of his dress and pressed it hard on the clay. Satisfied with the impression, he moved on to the next bundle. When the recipient got the shipment, he would know exactly what is contained.

There are good reasons to believe that such a scenario could have happened. One probable use of Indus seals was  in economic activity; the seals found in Lothal had impressions of a coarse cloth on their reverse and sometimes several seals were used to mark the goods. Besides this, there is enough evidence of trade relations between the Harappans and Mesopotamia going far back to the time of Sargon of Akkad (2270 – 2215 B.C.E) and even before that to 4000 B.C.E with the find of Baluchistan cotton in Jordan.

Seals

In 1875, Major-General Clark, who was the Commissioner of Awadh, discovered the first seal which had the engraving of a hump-less bull and six signs above it in Harappa[3]. 134 years later we don’t know what is written on those seals; there are many decipherments, but no consensus. While papers are coming out, applying various statistical methods to find out if the Indus seals encode a linguistic system, there is another debate over if these small palm size steatite seals with random looking inscriptions represent Indo-European, proto-Dravidian, Munda or some other language.

Why is decoding the Indus script and language so hard when Egyptian hieroglyphics, Linear B and cuneiform have been deciphered? In the case of Egyptian hieroglyphics and cuneiform there was bi-lingual encoding, like the Rosetta stone, which helped. When it comes to the Indus, which is an unknown script representing an unknown language, we don’t have that luxury. Linear B was deciphered without bi-lingual text which gives hope, but then Indus seals are short. The average length of a seal is 5; the longest single sided inscription has seventeen signs. With such data, deciphering the seal is a hard task.

When it comes to the Indus seals we want answers to these questions:

  • What is the script?
  • What is the language?
  • What is the subject matter?
  • Were the Harappans Vedic people or Dravidians?

Continue Reading →

Comments { 10 }

The Aryan Debate: Horse

In 1974, archaeologists J. P. Joshi and A. K. Sharma found horse bones in Surkotada, a Harappan site in Gujarat. This was a sensational discovery: first, it was the bones of a horse and second, it was dated to the period 2265 B.C.E. to 1480 B.C.E, which corresponds to the Mature Harappan period[1].

Finding horse remains, especially from India, are always controversial. For example, one of the earliest claims of horse is dated to 4500 B.C.E in the Aravalli range in Rajasthan – the same place from where the Harappans got their copper. This period is the same time when horse was first domesticated in the world. So there are questions: was the artifact obtained from a Bronze Age level even though the site was Neolithic? Was it really a horse — the Equus Caballus —rather than a donkey or onager.?

Due to the large size of bones and teeth of an onager, it is hard to distinguish it from a horse. Also sometimes the reports that come with excavations have insufficient measurements, drawings, and photographs required for independent assessment[1]. Due to this the findings are always suspect; it is always concluded that the horse arrived quite late to India.

Such questions arise because in the Indo-Aryan debate — if Vedic civilization pre-dated, co-existed or followed the Harappan civilization — a key factor is the horse. In this debate the main argument against Harappa being Indo-Aryan can be summarized as follows.

  1. According to the popular version of Indian pre-history, horse — an animal not native to India — was bought to India by the Indo-Aryans when they came in 1500 B.C.E. There is no evidence of horse in India before 1500 B.C.E.
  2. Among the numerous seals found in Harappa there is none which represent a horse, while other animals like the bull, buffalo, and goat are represented.
  3. In Rg Veda, the horse (asva) has cultural and religious significance. Since there is absence of horse in Harappa, it can only mean that the Vedic people arrived after the decline of the Harappan civilization.

The find at Surkotada upset this narrative because it crossed a lakshman rekha into Mature Harappan and also violated the threshold for the Indo-Aryan arrival. Hence the findings themselves became suspect – at least till 1991.

The eminent archaeozoologist, Sandor Bokonyi, was in Pune to attend a workshop on ‘Prehistoric contacts between South Asia and Africa’ at the Deccan College. Following the conference he spent some time in Delhi where the Excavation Branch of the ASI showed him the finds from Surkotada which consisted of six samples, mostly teeth. After examining the artifacts, he concluded that they were not of a half-ass, but a real domesticated horse[7].
Continue Reading →

Comments { 6 }

Trading Hubs of the Old World – Part 2

Photobucket
(The Arabian Sea Network)

(Read Part 1)

In 1881, the Theosophist Henry Steel Olcott, said, “We Europeans..have a right to more than suspect that India 8,000 years ago sent out a colony of emigrants[6].” New evidence suggests that Olcott was right about the time, but wrong about Indians emigrating in the Old World.

During the third millennium BCE that trade relations between India and Mesopotamia prospered: Burial sites in Mesopotamia had shell-made lamps and cups produced from a conch shell found only in India; Early Dynastic Mesopotamians were consumers of the Harappan carnelian bead. Also the Gujaratis were exporting hardwood  and there are even unverified reports of spices from the Malabar coast reaching Mesopotamia. But now there is a debate over if a colony of Indians lived in Mesopotamia — in a Meluhhan village — at that time[7].

The interesting news is that these trade relations happened much earlier than was previously believed. The important question is: did Harappans have knowledge of the monsoon winds to travel to Mesopotamia?

Soon trade with Mesopotamia declined because Oman developed as a trading hub; the Harappans did not have to travel as far as Mesopotamia for trading. Oman imported both luxury goods and basic commodities: wood, carnelian, combs, shell, metal objects, seals, weights and possibly large volume storage jars. What was considered luxury – copper, cereals — became common goods with coastal communities playing a major part.

The bitumen coated reed boats of the third millennium BCE were replaced by the plank-built wooden boats by the second millennium BCE. Instead of a few major players, there were many minor players creating a distributed network.

While there is evidence for sea-faring Harappans traveling to the Persian Gulf, there is no archaeological evidence of Mesopotamians reaching India during that period. Since no large ports, warehouses have been found in Harappa, it is assumed that the trade involved small-scale ports belonging to local communities; the Lothal dock and warehouse is of late Harappan period.

The other interesting development is the trade with East Africa. The Arabians and their neighbors in Levant and Mesopotamia used wheat and one species – the bread wheat – came from the Indus and the other – emmer wheat – from Africa. The pearl millet which was domesticated in Mali and Mauritania around 2500 BCE was found in Gujarat  by 2000 – 1700 BCE. African crops like sorghum and Ragi started appearing in South India after this period, possibly via Gujarat. There was a Western transmission of crops too: moong dal (third mil BCE), urad dal (2500 BCE), pigeon pea (1400 BCE), sesame (2500 BCE), and cotton (5000 BCE) made their way to both Africa and Arabia.

(Zebu)

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.

The Omanis developed wooden boat technology and deep-sea fishing around the time the African crops reached India. If they had knowledge of monsoons, the Omanis could reach India directly, else they had to travel around the Makran coast and reach India via Iran. It is also possible that the Omanis got their wooden craft technology from Indians; after all they imported wood from India.

(Ramses II)

An interesting development happens in 1200 BCE. Among the dried fruits kept in the nostrils of the mummy of Ramses II was pepper and there was only one place in the world where pepper was produced. While this points to the first contact between the Malabar coast and Egypt and the origins of the spice trade, what is not known is how the pepper reached Egypt.

The Harappan trade meanwhile shifted from Oman to Bahrain — Mesopotamian textual sources start mentioning more of Dilmun than Magan — and so Dilumn became the transit point for goods to Mesopotamia from India, but this change in the transit point did not affect the goods. Many millennia later when When Ibn Battuta visited Calicut, the chief merchant was an Ibrahim from Bahrain with the title shah bandar (the port master or chief of harbor)[5].

This is the point we see the rise of an early capitalism with private Mesopotamian citizens funding seafaring merchants who operated in a complex exchange system. Business was risky, but Dilmun communities thrived on the profit.

Then slowly we see the merchants in Dilmun adopting Harappan administrative standards. Thus goods were sealed with the Harappan style stamp seals and not the cylindrical Mesopotamian ones. The Indus weight system was also used and it was known as the standard of Dilmun. Meanwhile certain seals found also in Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, which were inspired by the Sumerian seals

By Iron age, there was a technological break through with the mastery over monsoons. The Arabians were already using monsoon winds to reach India. At the same time the Egyptians too started doing the same — with boats with sharp bows and triangular sails — skipping the middlemen in Arabia due to which South Indian ports gain prominence over Gujarati ones.

Finally

Since our minds are locked in to the “Aryan migration/trickle down” 1500 BCE time frame, we rarely look into the interactions before that period. A recent paper in Nature, on the origins of Indian population, showed that the rise of Ancestral North Indians and South Indians was connected to human. Between these two events, Indians had extensive trade contacts with the Old World and hence the door was not closed after the ANI and ASI established themselves. There was movement of people, animals and plants, both into India and out of India for many generations. It is worth investigating what impact this interaction had in the cultural transformation of the subcontinent.

A painful lesson India and Africa learned is that trade usually ends up in colonization. But looking at the trade network of this period, there is no such evidence, even in a place like Bahrain which was central to the global trade. Trade, free of colonization, would take place even during the medieval period till the Portuguese showed up in Calicut in 1498 looking for “Christians and spices.”

References:

  1. Himanshu Prabha Ray, The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  2. Nicole Boivin and Dorian Fuller, Shell Middens, Ships and Seeds: Exploring Coastal Subsistence, Maritime Trade and the Dispersal of Domesticates in and Around the Ancient Arabian Peninsula, Journal of World Prehistory 22, no. 2 (June 1, 2009): 180, 113.
  3. Jack Turner, Spice: The History of a Temptation (Vintage, 2005).
  4. Jacques Connan, “A comparative geochemical study of bituminous boat remains from H3, As-Sabiyah (Kuwait), and RJ-2, Ra’s al-Jinz (Oman),”Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 16, no. 1 (2005): 21-66.
  5. Mehrda Shokoohy, Muslim Architecture of South India: The Sultanate of Ma’bar and the Traditions of Maritime Settlers on the Malabar and Coromandel Coasts, 1st ed. (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003).
  6. Edwin Bryant, The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate (Oxford University Press, USA, 2004).
  7. C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky,Archaeological Thought in America (Cambridge University Press, 1991).

Notes:

  1. Most of this article is based of Reference [2].
  2. From Wikipedia: “In 1974, Egyptologists visiting his tomb noticed that the mummy’s condition was rapidly deteriorating. They decided to fly Ramesses II’s mummy to Paris for examination. Ramesses II was issued an Egyptian passport that listed his occupation
    as “King (deceased)”. The mummy was received at Le Bourget airport,
    just outside Paris, with the full military honours befitting a king”

Images: (via Wikipedia)

Comments { 4 }

The Harappan angulam

(Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves at Barabar, Bihar, in 1870)

During the time of Emperor Asoka and his successor Dasaratha, seven caves were constructed in Barabar and Nagarjuni hills, about 47 km from Gaya; during the Mauryan times, these hills encircled the city of Rajagriha. In the thirteenth year of his reign Asoka donated two caves in Barabar hills to Ajivikas. He donated one more in the 20th year of his reign while the Third Buddhist Council was going on, and all these were documented carefully with inscriptions inside the cave. The caves in Nagarjuni hills were the work of Asoka’s successor – his grandson Dasaratha – and these caves, like the ones in Barabar hills were donated to the Ajivikas[5].

These caves had circular roofs and the surfaces were polished. When these caves were measured, it was found that they were not constructed to random dimensions, but to a well known measure from the Harappan period: the angulam[2].

The urbanized Harappan civilization with elaborate town planning had knowledge of geometry and standardized measures. Statistical analysis of various Harappan settlements has shown that the basic unit of measurement was 17.63 mm[3]. This is taken to be one angulam and 108 angulams one dhanus. Various dimensions in the Harappan site of Dholavira are  integral multiple of dhanus. Now at a different site — Kalibangan — a terracota scale was found and when the measure between the tick marks was analyzed, it was found to be 17.5 mm. This also matched the measurement found in ivory and metal scales and shell markings at other sites[1].

The angulam is approximately 1.763 cms in Harappa, 1.75 in Kalibangan, and 1.77 in Lothal. The Arthashashtra derives larger units from angulam: garhapatya dhanus is 108 angulams; 1 danda, 96 angulams.

In the Mauryan caves, it was found that the danda measured the cave perfectly. For example the Lomas Rishi cave was 6 dandas long and 3.5 dandas wide and the Sudaman cave, 10 dandas long and 3.5 dandas wide. There is some fine print here as the Arthashastra provides confusing descriptions for various measures: one hasta is either 24, 28, or 54 angulams and one danda is 96 or 192 angulams. Since 96 was used by later texts, that measure was chosen.

What makes this interesting is that while cutting caves through hard rock, the Mauryans did not randomly dig through; the caves were carefully planned and constructed with pre-determined dimensions. Two caves in  Nagarjuni hills had the same dimension, so did two caves in Barabar hills. This also reveals that the Harappan measures were used in the Gangetic plain, even after 2000 years.

References:

  1. Analysis of terracotta scale of Harappan civilization from Kalibangan, Current Science, VOL. 95, NO. 5, 10 September 2008, R. Balasubramaniam, Jagat Pati Joshi
  2. New insights on metrology during the Mauryan period by R. Balasubramaniam in Current Science, VOL. 97, NO. 5, 10 September 2009
  3. Unravelling Dholavira’s Goemetry by Michel Danino
  4. New Insights into Harappan Town-Planning, Proportions and Units, with Special Reference to Dholavira, by Michel Danino, Man and Environment, vol. XXXIII, No. 1, 2008, pp. 66-79
  5. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas by Romila Thapar

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Comments { 10 }