Previous Page [Digital South Asia Library] Next Page

Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. 265.

Switch to image view

questioned. Additionally, the large walls that encompass sections of settlement do not appear to have been defensive in nature, and evidence for intersite conflict is rare. Large and small Harappan settlements reveal examples of public architecture; but many im- portant building types associated with ancient civilizations else- where are absent.

(3) Although hundreds of Harappan burials have been exca- vated, none have extensive grave goods other than pottery, despite a highly developed craft industry. Unlike other ancient civiliza- tions, Harappan burials indicative of high status and wealth have not been identified. At the same time, most craft items, including those entailing metallurgy, are broadly distributed, not only in the large towns, but also in small settlements, (e.g., Allahdino, near Karachi, 24°ree;52'N67°ree;20'E), suggesting that they were available to wider segments of society than in other ancient civilizations. Con- cepts of wealth, social status, and power appear to have been dif- ferently organized in Harappan society than elsewhere in the an- cient world.

(4) The Harappans maintained extensive and intensive internal South Asian exchange networks for various commodities. Harap- pans were also aware of cultural groups to the west, as indicated both by Shortugai's location (see above) and by rare, recently dis- covered, Harappan artifacts in Central Asia, southeastern Iran, Qatar, and Muscat. At the same time, artifacts from the west are ex- tremely rare in the Harappan area. Most scholars maintain that external western trade was an important aspect of Harappan cul- ture; but debate exists about whether the structure, intensity, and impact of such intercultural trade compares with that for other an- cient civilizations.

(5) Harappa and Mohenjo-daro continue to dominate our image of Harappan urban centers. Recent discoveries, however, have lo- cated other comparable urban centers: Ganweriwala (Bahawalpur, 28°ree;35'N71°ree;9'E); Rakhigarhi (Haryana, 29°ree;17'N76°ree;07'E); Dhola- vira (Gujarat); and, perhaps, a few other sites in the Punjab. Al- though these sites, except Dholavira, have not been excavated, they are comparable in size and, presumably, in cultural complex- ity, to Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. This similarity is one of the most intriguing aspects of Harappan culture in that no site has emerged as the major urban center or "capital." This situation is quite unlike that for other ancient civilizations.

The above factors, and other evidence, suggest to some scholars that Harappan sociopolitical organization may best be compared to that of a "complex" chiefdom, rather than a unified state. Al- though most scholars still maintain that some form of state-level organization characterized Harappan culture, there is a growing awareness that Harappan sociopolitical organization did not mirror that of other ancient civilizations. These alternative interpretations are also consistent with major changes in our understanding of the subsequent, so-called Post-Harappan Period in the north.

Harappan culture did not fall, die, or come to a more or less abrupt end. It did, however, experience a series of changes caus- ing major sociocultural reorganizations after c. 2000 B.C. One ev- ident change was that many, but not all, settlements in the Indus Valley were abandoned, not destroyed, leading to a concomitant increase in the number of settlements found in eastern Punjab and Gujarat. Average settlement size seemingly decreased and the pre- vious large urban centers disappeared. However, some new and relatively large (but unexcavated) sites were established, suggest- ing to some scholars that urban centers did continue. Some Har- appan traits, such as the script and stamp seals, do, inexplicably, disappear and, overall, a greater degree of regional variation in material culture develops. Despite the disappearance of many characteristic Harappan artifacts during the 2d millennium B.C., a majority of artifacts from this later period still betray a distinctly Harappan heritage. Explanations for these changes are diverse; but a "Late Harappan" rather than a "Post-Harappan" Period is now generally recognized. The still limited knowledge about the Late Harappan Period reflects an insufficiency of research and not an absence of cultural complexity as implied in Chapter II. Although concentrated in eastern Punjab and Gujarat, Late Harappan sites are found as far south as Daimabad in Maharashtra and as far east as Hulas (29°ree;42'N77°ree;22'E) on the Ganga-Yamuna Doab east of Delhi. Only a few sites have been excavated; of these the most important are Bhagwanpura (30°ree;04'N76°ree;57'E) and Dadheri (30°ree;40'N76°ree;19'E) in Haryana. At both sites Late Harappan and Painted Grey. Ware (early Iron Age) groups were stratigraphically contemporaneous. Their associated ceramics suggest a direct cul- tural affiliation between them. These findings indicate: (1) that Late Harappan groups persisted into the late 2d millennium B.C.; (2) that there was a direct cultural link between Bronze and Iron Age developments that affected the formation of Early Historic states and, hence, that there was no South Asian "Dark Age"; and (3) that serious questions now exist about the Indo-Aryan invasion hypothesis as it was advanced by many early scholars.

Early Village Farming Cultures of the Gangetic Plain, Rajasthan, and Central and Peninsular India

Changes in the chronology of cultural developments in various parts of India have altered many earlier theoretical formulations. For example, Banas settlements, such as Ahar, in Rajasthan, now dated as early as c. 2500 B.C., were contemporary with Harappan Civilization. More evidence for Harappan and Late Harappan in- teraction with regional groups to the east and south has appeared, though the exact cultural interaction is not fully understood. Ce- ramic similarities which link Black-and-Red Ware and Painted Grey Ware groups suggest to many scholars that the former, like the Late Harappans, were directly involved in the formation of Early Historic states. Recent archaeological research indicates that there existed a more cohesive sequence of cultural development from the Harappan to the Early Historic Period.

Between c. 2500 and 1500 B.C. Banas cultural groups, such as the one at Ahar, with their characteristic white painted Black-and- Red pottery were distributed from southeastern Rajasthan to Kay- atha, near the Chambal River on the Malwa Plateau. The degree to which Banas culture reflects Harappan interaction with local Mesolithic groups is unknown; but, since metallurgy was initially important to Banas groups, some cultural connection between the two seems possible. Banas pottery appears unrelated to that found in northern or northwestern regions; but its presence in Late Har- appan occupations at Surkotada and Lothal indicates some degree of contact. Although Ahar and many other sites were abandoned following the last Banas occupation at Kayatha, they were suc- ceeded by a Malwa occupation. The Kayatha sequence, and the fact that Banas pottery is found in early Malwa occupations at several sites, such as Navdatoli and Eran, suggests that some type of cultural relationship links these groups; but, again, the precise nature of the relationship remains obscure.

The Malwa and Jorwe cultures, c. 1700 + –1500 B.C., and c. 1500–700 B.C., respectively, are now considered to represent a single cultural entity, the "Central Indian Chalcolithic." In the Tapi Valley of northern Maharashtra, and possibly at Daimabad and Apegaon (19°ree;36'N75°ree;29'E) in the upper Godavari Valley, an earlier, related Savalda culture complex, dated c. 2000–1900 B.C., has been defined. The Savalda culture included acquistion by Me- solithic groups of food production and complex technologies, wheel- made ceramics, and metallurgy, obtained via trade with Saurashtra- based Harappans. Although ceramic technology may have been acquired from other groups, Savalda black-on-red decorated pot- tery was distinctive from the beginning. Tapi Valley data suggest that Late Harappan groups were present and coexisted with local Savalda groups by c. 1800 B.C, a date consistent with that for the Late Harappan occupation at Daimabad (c. 1900–1800 B.C.). The relationship between Late Harappan and Savalda groups and be- tween them and early Malwa groups is among the most interesting of current regional archaeological problems. Most scholars main- tain that Malwa culture had an independent origin. Others suggest it reflects a merging of Late Harappan with local Deccan groups, such as that of Savalda, into a single cultural identity that contin- ues as "Jorwe" into the early first millennium B.C. By the first millennium B.C., increasingly dry conditions forced the abandon- ment of many sites until the Early Historic Period, when this re- gion came under direct cultural influences from the north.

At Songaon the Malwa occupation was preceded by one with handmade grey ware comparable to that associated with the South- ern Neolithic (see the discussions of Maski, Brahmagiri, Piklihal, etc., in Chapter II), and similar pottery was found at Daimabad in the Savalda occupation. These occupations are dated to c. 2000 B.C. and suggest that some type of cultural interaction linked more southerly areas with the central Deccan region. At Utnur (16°ree;40'N77°ree;38'E), in western Andhra Pradesh, and northern Kar- nataka sites, the Southern Neolithic complex dates to at least c. 2500 B.C. and perhaps as early as 3000 B.C. By 2000 B.C. settle- ments were distributed throughout peninsular India's southern re- gions. Because regional research efforts concerning the Southern Neolithic complex have not been intense, knowledge about these developments is correspondingly inadequate. The problem of Southern Neolithic culture origins remains unresolved; but several scholars believe there were cultural interactions between Deccan and local Mesolithic groups. The Southern Neolithic's distinctive pottery, while handmade, was technologically complex from the beginning and was unrelated to northern pottery. Southern Neo- lithic groups persisted throughout the 2d millennium B.C. and in- teracted with Jorwe-related groups whose decorated pottery occurs at several sites. These interactions were based partly on trade in- volving metals, suggesting that this region was one possible source for Harappan gold and perhaps for other metals as well. During the 2d millennium B.C., Iron Age Megalithic complexes had their origin among Southern Neolithic groups, rather than from across the sea as suggested in Chapter II.

The major new finding in the eastern Gangetic region was the definition of the Vindhyan Neolithic, as noted above. Vindhyan Neolithic villages were similar to later examples, such as Sonepur and Chirand (described in Chapter II), with later settlements hav- ing grey and Black-and-Red pottery and rare metal objects. Chir- and, the best-dated sequence, indicates that such settlements were established as early as c. 2000 B.C. and remained occupied into the first millennium B.C. Similar Iron Age villages dotted the Gan- getic landscape throughout the Early Historic Period.

New Sources (in addition to those in the General Bibliography)

D. P. Agrawal and D. K. Chakrabarti, eds. (1979); B. Allchin, ed. (1984); B. Allchin, A. Goudie, and K. Hegde (1978); D. K. Bhattacharya (1989); S. Asthana (1976), (1985); D. K. Chakra- barti (1990); E. Curaverunt, G. Gnoli, and L. Lanciotti, eds. (1985); G. F. Dales and J. M. Kenoyer (1986); A. H. Dani (1981); S. B. Deo and M. K. Dhavalikar, eds. (1983); S. B. Deo and K. Pad- dayya, eds. (1985); M. K. Dhavalikar (1985); M. K. Dhavalikar, H. D. Sankalia, and Z. D. Ansari (1986–88); K. N. Dikshit, ed. (1985); K. Frifelt and F. Sorensen, eds. (1989); A. Ghosh (1973); A. Ghosh, ed. (1989); H. Hartel, ed. (1981); R. Hooja (1988); J. Jacobson, ed. (1986); K. A. R. Kennedy and G. L. Possehl, eds. (1984); J. M. Kenoyer, ed. (1989); B. B. Lal and S. P. Gupta, eds. (1984); J. R. Lukacs, ed. (1984); M. S. Nagaraja Rao (1978), (1984); B. Narasimhaiah (1980); K. P. Nautiyal (1989); J. N. Pal (1986); B. M. Pande and B. D. Chattopadhyaya, eds. (1987); S. Pastner and L. Flam, eds. (1982); G. L. Possehl (1980), (1986); G. L. Possehl, ed. (1979), (1982); G. L. Possehl and M. H. Raval (1989); K. S. Ramachandran (1980); S. Ratnagar (1981); S. A. Sali, ed. (1986); J. Schotsmans and M. Taddei, eds. (1985); J. G. Shaffer (1978); R. K. Sharma (1982); H. N. Singh (1982); K. M. Srivastava (1980); M. Taddei, ed. (1979); V. K. Thakur (1981); P. Yule (1985).

N.B. Many edited volumes listed above have chapters relevant to the Iron Age.


Major changes in theoretical paradigms about South Asia's early Iron Age are currently emerging. Elimination of the "Dark Age" separating the Bronze and Iron Ages (discussed above), together with new data, establishes a framework emphasizing cultural con- tinuity and thus challenges several long-accepted interpretations concerning this period. For example, prior paradigms emphasizing a Western, Iranian, or Central Asian origin for the Iron Age with subsequent migrations of "Indo-Aryan/European" peoples into the Gangetic Plain are no longer justifiable interpretations. Hypotheses predicated on the importance of specific historical events to ex- plain phenomena such as the rise of South Asian states must, ac- cording to many scholars, be replaced by explanations focusing on the local circumstances surrounding long-term indigenous cultural change.

The Bhagwanpura and Dadheri excavations (see above) have defined cultural and stratigraphic connections linking Late Harap- pan and Painted Grey Ware (hereafter PGW) groups, a major chronological association for this period. Late Harappan groups, therefore, either persisted into the first millennium B.C., or PGW and the Iron Age were earlier than 1100 B.C., which is the oldest radiocarbon date for PGW. It is entirely possible that iron metal- lurgy was indigenously developed in South Asia as early as the mid-second millennium B.C. This position is argued by some scholars based on revised chronologies for Ahar, Chirand, and Eran, and the stratigraphic contexts of iron objects found there. At these sites early iron objects were associated with Black-and-Red Ware pot- tery that shares vessel forms and decorative styles with PGW pottery. In the south at Hallur, iron objects were associated with Black-and-Red Ware in strata relating to the Southern Neolithic- Megalithic transition, dated at c. 1400–1100 B.C. At Paiyam- palli (12°ree;13'N78°ree;36'E), in northern Tamil Nadu, and Palavoy (14°ree;31'N77°ree;09'E), in southwestern Andhra Pradesh, this transition dates to an even earlier period, c. 2000–1500 B.C. Current data indicate that iron metallurgy was independently developed by local PGW and Black-and-Red Ware groups, who were the immediate predecessors of early state-level societies of the Gangetic Plain.

Numerous new Iron Age sites in northern India have been tested. Among these, Sringaverapura (Allahabad District, Uttar Pradesh, 26°ree;35'N81°ree;40'E) is the most important. This central Gangetic Val- ley site, associated with the Rāmāya&ntod;a, has a sequence beginning before 1000 B.C. and continuing until A.D. 1300. The initial oc- cupation, similar to that of a Vindhyan Neolithic village, had red ware pottery comparable to the Ochre Color Pottery usually asso- ciated with eastern Punjabi Late Harappan or Kot Dijian groups, making Sringaverapura the easternmost location for such groups. By the end of Period II (c. 950–700 B.C.) Black-and-Red Ware pottery and a few examples of PGW pottery replaced Ochre Color Pottery, but other settlement characteristics remained unchanged. During Period III (c. 700–200 B.C.), an occupation phase associ- ated with the Rāmāya&ntod;a, Northern Black Polished Ware was intro- duced along with fired brick architecture. The following occupa- tion, Period IV (c. 200 B.C.–A.D. 200), was characterized by early historic red wares and the construction of two connected "monu- mental" water tanks, the combined length of which exceeded 160 m. Periods V (c. A.D. 300–600) and VI (c. A.D. 600–1300) reflect Gupta and post-Gupta occupations. Research at Sringaverapura, when completed and combined with that at other sites, will in- crease our understanding of the transition between the pre-/pro- tohistoric and historic periods in South Asia. In addition, impor- tant settlement pattern studies have been carried out in Allahabad and Kanpur Districts, Uttar Pradesh. These focus on regional in- tersite relationships and throw light on the internal social dynamics of state formation on the Gangetic Plain. Archaeological data, then, indicate that state formation was not simply the result of such his- torical occurrences as presumed human migrations which origi- nated outside of South Asia or of specific technological innova- tions. None of this, however, necessarily leads to the conclusion that significant local migrations did not take place or that techno- logical innovations had no socioeconomic consequences for the groups involved.

The major development in peninsular India's early Iron Age has been the definition of a direct cultural relationship linking Mega-

Previous Page To Table of Contents Next Page

Back to Schwartzberg Atlas | Back to the DSAL Page

This page was last generated on Monday 18 February 2013 at 16:26 by
The URL of this page is: