Social Scientist. v 20, no. 226-27 (Mar-April 1992) p. 3.


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PURSUING THE 1 IISTORY OF INDIAN TECI INOLOGY 3

hump is especially suited for drawing weights, without any need for specialised yoke or harness. The ox^plough in turn revolutionised agriculture; and this can be seen from the long list of crops known to be grown within the Indus culture areaŚwheat, barley, ragi, millet, rice, and, above all, cotton.

While the coming of the cart and plough indicate the introduction of two important technological innovations, the absence of the bronze shaft-hole axe in use in contemporary Mesopotamia has been treated as an early example of 'the inherent conservatism of the Indian culture.*15 Once the blade of the axe is given a hole to accept the shaft of the handle, its efficiency as a cutting tool is greatly magnified. And yet the shaft-hole axe only appears at Mohenjodaro and Chanhudaro in the post-Indus Jhukhar culture levels, c. B.C. 1500, and at Shahi Tump in Baluchistan at about the same date.16 Bronze shaft-hole axes are also found at Mundigak in Afghanistan at about the same period.17 It is singular however that the device did not extend eastwards beyond Sind and Afghanistan to any bronze or copper culture in India. Its first occurrence in the Cangetic basin is only with the appearance of iron;

the iron shaft-hole axe is here first documented at Noh B.C.c.800. Its subsequent diffusion into peninsular India was slow, and with a variation: here iron cross-bands helped to attach the blade to the handle, instead of a true shaft-hole.18

In considering such obstructed diffusion, especially when peasant communities had still to clear the monsoon forests of the Cangetic basin and the Deccan valleys, we can only hazard guesses, since we are not convinced of an 'inherent conservatism* in our culture. Did the Aryans take the shaft-hole axe with them wherever they went, first in bronze (Jhukhar culture) and then in iron (Painted Grew Ware)? And had there then to be a forcible overthrow of one society by another to introduce a new product of the copper and iron-smiths?

II

How political and military intrusions could become the focal points of technological diffusion is illustrated by the next phase of changes we would be studying. Alexander's conquest of Afghanistan and Northwest India (B.C. 327-24) made Gandhara, with its celebrated capital Taxila, almost a part of the Hellenistic world. Archaeological finds at Taxila have indicated two important new mechanical devices which India seems to have obtained from the Mediterranean world.

Shears, or their smaller version, scissors, are an effective cutting device with the minimal use of muscular power. The Sanskrit term for them, kartari, does not seem to go beyond the treatises of Charaka and Susruta, whose texts were written not earlier than the second century A.D. and probably much later.19 From stratum I of Sirkap, Taxila, assigned to the first century A.D., have come the remains of a 'handle



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