Mark Kenoyer | Meluhha: the Indus Civilization and Its Contacts with Mesopotamia

Mark Kenoyer | Meluhha: the Indus Civilization and Its Contacts with Mesopotamia

I wanted to welcome you all, here, this
evening, to our main Members’ Lecture. And it’s really a pleasure to welcome
tonight’s speaker. One of the things that, I think, is of greatest value about being
at the University of Chicago, and especially at the Oriental Institute, is
the fact that we have such a broad community of scholars, and such a broad
community of interests. And, it’s really interesting to try and look for
linkages between areas where we might not normally seek connections. And
tonight’s lecture, I think, is a perfect exemplar of the tremendous value of
making these kinds of connections, of looking beyond the areas with which we
spend most of our time. Of course, the the Oriental Institute focuses on the
ancient Middle East. But it’s the connections outward that add a
tremendous dimension of richness to our understanding of these ancient
civilizations. And the connections between the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia,
I think, are one of the most striking examples of connections and
relationships that can really enrich our understanding of both of those
civilizations in a way that we wouldn’t have if we just looked at them in
isolation And it’s, to my mind, impossible to find a better person to
explore those interconnections than Mark Kenoyer. Mark is a professor of anthropology and currently the the chair of the
Anthropology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s, has
a very, very deep involvement with the culture and archaeology of the South Asian subcontinent, both India and Pakistan. He grew up in India, and he
speaks Hindi and Bangla fluently. He knows Sanskrit. In fact, he went to
school with, what was it, Maeve’s mom. So there’s, that’s yet another connection.
Not that there was any kind of inside fix in inviting him here. But Mark is
a remarkable scholar. He’s been excavating at Harappa, the, the type site
from which the entire Harappan civilization is named. He’s been working
there since 1986. And the main focus of his research has been on the Harappan, or
Indus Valley, civilization. And his interests are–we each have different,
sort of, ways into understanding ancient civilizations, and the pathway that
Mark has really distinguished himself in is using ancient technology as a window
into the Indus culture. And he’s been able to do this both as an archaeologist
and as an anthropologist, and also drawing on his very deep knowledge of
Indian culture from having grown up there. And he carries this focus on
technology in very interesting directions. It’s a mark of, I think, a
really great scholar, that you can focus on very, very tiny details, and draw from
them deep, fundamental, synthetic understandings of a culture. And that’s
something in which Mark really excels, and has for a long time. He received his
Bachelor’s degree, Master’s, and PhD all from University of California,
Berkeley, where he worked with George Dales, who was one of the leading
figures in the study of the Indus Valley, Harappan civilization. He’s
written numerous books and articles, on both his work at Harappa and on the
technologies of third millennium and second millennium India. And I can attest
to the interest of this kind of technological approach. I remember
visiting Mark in Madison, once, and seeing the the class projects from a
course he taught on ancient technology. And I think that the best item you had
there was, I think, one of the students had taken a baseball bat and
had stuck into it all these razor-sharp, obsidian blades and had recreated an
Aztec fighting sword, I believe. And I thought, “This is finally useful knowledge
a college education.” So, this is clearly a man of formidable intellect and
formidable abilities, and he’s exactly the person to talk to us on tonight’s
topic, Meluhha, the Indus civilization, and its connections with Mesopotamia. So
please join me in welcoming Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. [Applause] Thank you, Gil. It’s really great to be
here. I kind of got into archeology from coming to this institute, as a kid. My
father was from Gary, we’d come up here and see things, and. I started in biblical
archaeology, I actually did two years in Wheaton College before I realized that
it wasn’t quite for me, and I moved to Berkeley.
They prayed, they told me they would pray for me in Berkeley, and I think their
prayers worked, because I’ve had a very successful career in South Asian
archaeology. I’d like to thank Gil for inviting me, and the Oriental Institute for
having me down here, again. Some of you may remember, I gave a talk in 1999 on
the Indus civilization in 2000 B.C. Well, I’m going to give you a span today that
goes from about 3500 B.C. to about 1900 B.C. So I’m going to cram a bit more in the
same time period. I also want to thank the Department of Archaeology and
Museums, government of Pakistan, and the Archaeological Survey of India. Just a
second, I forgot to turn my mic on here. The Archaeological Survey of India, for
allowing me to work in both countries to do research on the ancient civilization
that is in those regions. And also all my colleagues who have shared their data
and knowledge with me as I’ve worked in these regions. I had lots of funding. I
want to acknowledge that. Especially Harappa dot com. Which is a colleague of
mine that set up the site called www harappa dot com. If you ever need any images,
you’re welcome to go there and download ’em. The more images we see on the Indus
Valley, the more people understand about this region. And, also, Global Heritage
Fund, which is trying to help now to build a museums in this, in India, and I’m
working with the Pakistan government for similar museums in Pakistan. The region
that we know of as the Indus Valley is one of the largest areas covered by any
early civilization. And it’s not trying to make it bigger and better than
anything else, it just is different. Because to cover and encompass a large
area requires different technologies, different ways of integration. And we can
use that to understand that what’s happening in the Indus Valley may
be different from what was going on in other regions. Earlier scholars used to
think of these areas as being isolated. I think we know now, very clearly, that
these regions have been connected through trade networks and movement of
goods, and I’ll talk about that a bit today. But the, even though people do
interact, and we know that there’s a lot of genes flowing across these regions, as
well as knowledge, people are gonna make decisions about their culture based on
their needs. So they’re not going to adopt anything, they’re not going to
change anything unless they really need it, and it works for them. So each of
these civilizations evolved on their own trajectory, using what worked best for
them, even though there may have been some knowledge flowing in between. The
chronology that I put up here gives you a general idea of the framework
which we can use to compare them. And we see that people were developing early
food producing commodities, and domestication of plants and animals
about the same time. The blue area shows you the period of regional cultural
development. And regional culture refers to different styles of pottery, different
ways of living, different ways of organizing your society, so that you can
interact and also trade. And then the red shows the beginnings of urbanism, and
city-states, and the establishment of hierarchical social organization that
evolves in some areas. Each of these regions has it evolving at different times.
And depending on who you, who you listen to, developing cities was not always the
best thing that people did. It would have been much more fun to be
hunter-gatherers, living out there, spending most of your time, you know,
hunting, gathering, and making love, and relaxing, rather than trying to make a
living, which is what you do when you’re in a
city. So, Mesopotamia was the first region that had to break down and figure out
how to integrate people in urbanism. Then we see Egypt, and the Indus Valley, and
eventually China. The Indus Valley, itself, is not in isolation, even within South
Asia. It didn’t just emerge in a, in a
hinterland of a bunch of hunter-gatherers, but there were many
other complex cultures evolving in the subcontinent. We see them in Baluchistan,
to the west of the Indus Valley. We see it in the Malwa Rajasthan region to
the east. And then, other areas, Bactro-Margiana, which is now northern
Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan. And the Helmand region, which if you read
your papers, you know the Taliban are still very strongly in control in the
Kandahar area and the area of the Helmand. The Ganga-Vindhya, which is the major
alluvial plain to the east, and then the Deccan, which is the core area of the
subcontinent. All of these surrounding regions had a role to play in the
emergence of Indus civilization and the cultures that we see in the technologies.
Eventually, these regions become incorporated into a new form of urbanism,
which we can, we refer to as the Indo-Gangetic Tradition, which is when we
see the first empires emerging in South Asia. That doesn’t happen until about 300
to 400 B.C. during the Mauryan Empire. I won’t be talking about the entire
trajectory today, but I would like to give the big picture, so you
understand the Indus is part of a long term trajectory of tradition that
eventually connects to later historical South Asia. I’m going to start with the
first phase of urban, of development in the alluvial plain, where we eventually
see the urban center of Harappa emerging. And I’ve been working at Harappa since
1986, and we have a very good collection of data that helps us understand the
emergence of cities and their linkages to surrounding areas. The first people
who lived at Harappa, settling down there, were already connected to all
areas of the Indus Valley. They were getting shell from the sea. They were
getting minerals from the west, and the east, and the north, and bringing these to
this alluvial plain, and using them to make different types of objects. So they
had vast networks that were connecting them to a whole region around them. The mound
that you see at Harappa today is about 17 meters above the surrounding plain.
And when the first settlers came, this plain was flat, as you would see at the base.
And all of that mound is the result of human cultural development
over the generations. In the very earliest levels of this mound is where
we see the first village. And in this village, we see evidence for different
types of hand-built pottery, pottery made only, not with a wheel, but by
turning it on a piece of potsherd and building it by hand, painting it with
various decorative designs. And on some of this pottery, we start seeing two
different types of inscriptions. One is what we could call a potter’s mark,
Inscribed on the pottery prior to its being fired. And this is a kind of mark
that you see in many parts of the world, used for identification. If your
sister-in-law and you are making pottery, and she’s not very good and her pots
always break, you at least know that your pots are the ones that survived the kiln.
So the potters’ marks are probably used for identification, and don’t
necessarily connect with writing. They continue on through history, and they
even are found today. But along with this, we see potters’ markings on pottery that had
happened after the potters had made the pottery. And this is what I think is the
beginnings of the writing tradition of the Indus Valley. You see an example on the
left, which shows three signs that connect together to create a more
complex motif, which I’ll show you later. Might be an ancestral sign to some of
the later writing system itself. So this dates to around 3300 B.C., which is about
the same time that we see writing developing in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, and
also in China. Not all people argue that the Chinese potters’ marks and
painting on pottery is writing. I think it is. We also see it, Harappa, during this
early phase. the development of ideologies. And those ideologies reflect
a cosmology, a way to see the universe, that helps to establish their social
organization. One of these signs is the swastika. And all we have in Harappa is
this tiny little fragment of what is the edge of a swastika. And most people
normally associate swastika with Nazis and later time period in history, but
swastika, there’s swastikas dating from the very early periods, Samarra period in Mesopotamia. There are swastikas from cave
paintings in India, 10,000 B.C. And this swastika in India, we think, represents
order out of chaos. If you have chaos, you divide it into four quarters, you turn it
in the right direction, it brings profit and benefit to society.
Harappan houses, during this time period, were oriented north-south and
east-west. There, whether they were made of mud brick, or whether they were made
with reeds and wattle and daub. We also see ornament styles developing, which
indicate hierarchy among the social communities at Harappa.
Shell bangles ,which have to come from the coast, 800 kilometers away. And they
were being made at Harappa. And you can make them thin or thick.
Women who do heavy labor have to wear thick bangles, because if you are
chopping wood and you’re wearing thin bangles, they will break. So women
wearing thin bangles, we can assume, are doing less manual labor and less heavy
duty labor than women who are wearing thick bangles. People who wear clay
bangles, they’re cheaper to make, anybody and their mother can go down to the
river, get clay, fire them, make bangles. So here, you start seeing the the hierarchy
of technologies that are used to reinforce social order. The, during the
Ravi Phase, we see trade networks emerging that link all over. The first
map I showed you was one that I did, based on my limited knowledge of source
areas. And Randall Law, who is happening, who happens to be here, raise your
hand Randy. He has just finished his PhD in Madison. He did his dissertation
looking at every piece of rock we excavated from Harappa, and finding where
the sources were. So this is his map showing its precise locations, or as
close as we can get, to where those pieces of stone may have come. And it
tells us that the Ravi Phase people primarily got their stuff from the north,
but they also got things like carnelian from way in the south in Gujarat and in
Kutch. And they very specialized types of drills for making beads. And they made
carnelian, and lapis, and jasper, and all kinds of hard stone beads that require
special drilling technologies. They also still continued to make clay beads, so
people could have different styles of ornaments of different qualities. And so
this is the time period–so, the Ravi Phase goes from about 3300 B.C. or maybe 3,500 B.C. to about 2800 B.C. And this is a time period when we see
development of villages, and throughout Mesopotamia, and networks of trade
linking different cities in Mesopot–or towns in Mesopotamia. And, it’s, the question is
whether or not Harappa would have had any contact with this region at this
early time frame. Recently–not recently, but several years ago, there was an
exhibit in the Met called “Early Cities.” And in that exhibit, I was able to see
that middle cylinder seal, which I’ve seen in publications for years, and everyone has called a limestone seal. But I did my doctoral dissertation on shells,
shell industries of the Indus Valley. And there’s one species of shell, found only
on the coast of Karachi, that has a thick central column that can get up to three
centimeters in diameter. It’s the only species in the world that has that thick
of a column. And that shell is made–that seal is made from that shell. And this is
a late Uruk Jem, or or Jemdet Nasr period seal that dates between 3300 and
2900 B.C. So this indicates that sometime, even before the Harappan cities and the
Mesopotamian cities had emerged, there were trade connections linking
Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. And they were bringing shell, a valuable
material, to make cylinder seals, to Mesopotamia. What were the Indus people
getting in return? I’ll talk about that in a minute. So, they had to get something
back for trading across such a large distance. By about 2800 at Harappa, we
start seeing the settlement itself grow from a small village to a large town. And
this town was divided into two sectors that were adjacent to each other. Both of
them had massive walls built around them, and these walls were clearly not for
defense, because you don’t build two walled settlements right next to each other. But
they had, the walls were primarily for control of access into and out of the
settlement. So controlling trade, and controlling materials, and controlling
the politics of a part of your settlement. They may have protected from bandits or
something outside, but the main focus would have been control. And this dates
from about 2800 to 2600 B.C. And we refer to this as the Kot Dijian period
settlement. To build huge city walls requires new transportation technologies.
And we know that by 2800, ox carts and bullock carts were used, and we have
models of these, were being used extensively. Roadways were being
developed. Moving timbers, moving bricks, mud brick, and other commodities and
rocks to the city. There’s a possible early cart fragment at about 3700 from
the Ravi Phase, but I only have one fragment, and I can’t write a
dissertation on one fragment. But I still think there’s evidence of that. And we
have evidence from other sites in India. A site called Girawar, which has wheels
that date to about the same time period. So if wheeled carts were being developed
in the Indus Valley at the same time that they were being developed somewhere
in the steppes of Central Asia or Europe, and, I think we have evidence of multiple
locations for the invention of wheeled vehicles. These walls that were first
developing, the ones in blue, were made primarily of mud brick. They didn’t fire
and use fired brick at this time. But they spent a lot of time building
these walls, and I’ve calculated how much time it would take. And it would take
about 450 men–or men, women, children about three months to build the first
city wall around the settlement of Harappa. With, you know, concerted
effort. The walls that they built were used to enclose a settlement that was
laid out in a grid pattern, with north-south and east-west streets. We can
see the cart tracks on these streets that start at 2,800. And those same
streets were used throughout the Harappan history, until 2600 and 1900. And
we can see, and the ones that you see there are 2200 B.C. Directly above the
earlier ones that I’ve been able to map in this street. So these early roads, once
they were established, were maintained throughout the history of
the settlements. In some areas of the site, we see the development, during the Kot Diji
Phase, of complex craft technologies that were used to create items
of high value, using artificial technologies, meaning firing something to
make something that was artificial. So, faience is a frit, it’s a ground
rock that you fire, and heat, and you glaze, and it has a glazed surface. The
one you see on the bottom right is kind of bleached out, but it originally would
have been blue, and that blue color was probably imitating turquoise. Turquoise
is very hard to get in the Indus Valley. It would have had to come from Iran,
across all of Afghanistan, into that region. But they liked it enough that
they invented a fake turquoise which you can see in faience, and they use that
extensively. They also built furnaces and kilns in certain houses. In other houses,
there is no evidence of crafts, so clearly some people were doing crafts,
some people were controlling them. At this time, we also see the beginnings of
the appearance of a lot of silver and gold ornaments. And some of these are
found in hoards, some of them are found lost on a street. And another study that
Randall Law is doing is to trace out where the silver comes from in the Indus
Valley. And silver can be traced by looking at lead isotopes. Silver is
associated with lead ores. And he’s been able to find that but a lot of the
silver of the Indus Valley comes from Baluchistan.
But then there’s some silver, we don’t know where it comes from. And we know
that Mesopotamia was famous for its silver. And Anatolian Plateau was famous
for its silver. So, possibly some of that material is coming from those regions.
And I’m hoping that we can develop a project with the Oriental Institute to
test the silver here, which we know is from Mesopotamia, and see if we can’t
match up some of the stuff from the Indus Valley. So, when you have silver and
gold, it means that some people are getting pretty wealthy. And when you lose
silver buttons or gold buttons on the street and don’t bother to pick them up, clearly you have enough that it’s not going to matter. So, some people were
getting wealthy enough to be able to control and dominate these cities. We,
Randall has also done a map of the raw materials from the Kot Diji Phase, and we
see a lot of different, new types of raw materials being used. This indicates that
people are out there, prospecting, and trying to find new, competitive resources to
break into a market. You can imagine old families that have control of the chert
or the steatite, and now somebody finds a new source, and comes into the market
and sells it cheaper. So this type of competition results in growth and
expansion. And the Harappans began expanding and getting many new sources
for raw materials during this time period. Predominantly, they’re still to
the north, but some extending now to the south. The people who control these
resources began to demonstrate their power through a continued use of
writing, and seals, and weights, and sealings to control goods being stored
in store rooms. And I don’t have time to go into all of this tonight, but I just
wanted to give examples of some of the button seals that we have. A sealing that
was clearly used to close a storeroom. A broken seal that they were making with
an elephant motif, and elephants are an indigenous, South Asian motif. So clearly
these are local elites, using their local animals. And then, a weight, which was
standardized, probably for weighing gold or silver dust. Very high value but
small volume material. The pottery itself shows beginnings of a lot more signage
than had been found in the Ravi Phase. I also have a bigger sample. But on the top
line, you see some of the Ravi symbols that are post-firing graffiti. And
directly beneath them, you’ll see the signs that, I think, connect to the Ravi
Phase graffiti that show the development of a Harappan style of writing. Or
earlier Harappan, Kot Diji Phase writing. And, eventually, on the seal, you’ll see Harappan writing, which is during the formal phase, which is using those same signs. So
we can trace, now, the beginnings of writing symbols, their evolution, and then eventual codification and use in formal seals from around 3300
B.C. to 2600 B.C. This 2600 B.C. is when we see the beginnings of what is called the
Harappa Phase. And some people refer to this as “Mature Harappan,” but technically
that word is not accurate. The period of time,
the Indus civilization, in this tradition, Harappa Phase, refers to a timeframe
between 2600 and 1900 B.C. 700 years of integration using various mechanisms. And
it’s during this time period that we see many cities emerging. And they were all
probably getting, emerging, in the same trajectory as Harappa. So: Mohenjo-daro,
Harappa, Rakhigarhi, Ganeriwala, Dholavira. These are big cities located
along two major rivers. And the Indus River is the one that’s flowing today.
But in antiquity, there was also another river, called the Sarasvati in the North.
It also has the name Ghaggar or Hakra and Nara. It has four different names as you
go down its length today. And it’s now dry, but it had many cities of the
ancient civilization along its banks. So this is the regions that are
integrated by these cities. Who were the rulers? These rulers had names. They used
a writing system that wrote down their names, and their genealogies, and their
linkages. But we can’t read it. The main reason we cannot read it is because
there is no bilingual text that has allowed us to break this writing system.
We would not be able to read cuneiform if we did not–if we hadn’t had
found the Behistun inscription. We would not be able to read hieroglyphics if we
didn’t have the Rosetta Stone. So we can, we can’t read the Indus until we have
the similar bilingual text, and it hasn’t been found yet. And we’ve been looking
for over 150 years, or 100 hundred and some years. But it is a writing system,
and it probably codifies names or positions. One of the most common symbols
on these seals is not an animal that we have living today. It’s a mythological
animal. An animal that was created by the Indus people as a symbol of one of their
communities. And this is the unicorn. And this unicorn is shown in the
three-dimensional figurines, it’s shown on the seal in a two-dimensional
way. But it’s clearly not a bull seen from the side, with only
one horn showing. And I don’t have time to go into all of the data for this, but
we have many figurines from many sites that show an idea of a unicorn. But we
have no animal bones for it. We’ve looked in every site, but there is no unicorn animal
bones. So clearly it’s a myth. And we just have to accept it as that. In this
writing, the question of writing is how, what language was it codifying? And I
don’t think it was probably codifying any single language, I think it had, it
probably was codifying multiple languages. If scholars had been a little
more open to understanding ancient cultures, they would not have tried to
figure out ancient Mesopotamian languages as Mesopotamian, but they would’ve realized
that many linguistic groups live in this area.
Cuneiform is used to write many languages. And they didn’t figure this
out until much later. But now we know that it is, in fact, used for many
different languages. So the languages that would have been present are:
Proto-Dravidian, which is a language mainly spoke in parts of southern Pak–or, in
southern Pakistan and Balochistan, southerin India; Mundari, which is a
tribal language spoken in a belt all the way across Central India to Southeast
Asia; Indo-Aryan languages, which are in the north; Sino-Tibetan languages,
which are in the very far north, probably in the areas where Afghanistan and the
lapis sources are; and then Language X, which is a language system that was the
first language that people used to name animals and trees and plants and plows
and sickles, that is still embedded in Hindi and Urdu today. So 60% of the names
for those types of materials found in modern South Asian Hindi and Urdu
cannot be traced to any modern language family. So they are the Neolithic
language that was there at the very beginning. It was written from right to
left. We can tell that by pottery, writing on pottery. And it’s found on a
wide variety of materials. So people who used Indus writing had a versatile use
for it, they used it in many different ways. Stamping materials, writing on cones, using tokens that may have been used for
credit or exchange or ritual. And it was used on pottery. And we see it, also, being
produced in workshops that were highly regulated. You couldn’t just go and set
up a workshop to make seals anytime you wanted to, or writing. This was controlled
by the state, or by some elites, and very prescribed. And only a few parts of the
sites were where we find evidence for producing writing. When they did use it,
they used it in various mechanisms. And this top left-hand slide shows sealings
on a blump of clay with four different seals. So four people with different seals,
stamped piece of clay. That’s corporate ownership or bureaucracy. So four people
have inspected the goods, they know it’s been passed, you can send it out of the
city. Or all four of us own it equally, and this is attesting to our ownership.
We also have large seals that may never have been stamped into anything, because
they’re very big and awkward. They may have been symbols. And then we have
circular seals, which were used by traders in the Gulf. And they used the Indus writing system, but statistical analysis of this writing system on the
Indus seals from the Indus Valley and the circular Gulf seals shows that the
sequence of signs is not the same. Now, English can be written, used to write
Hmong, Vietnamese, English, French. So the same alphabet can be used to write many
different languages. And the sequence of those signs is not going to be the same
in those different languages. So here, we have an example of Indus script being
used to write Gulf language, whatever it is. The Indus seals in the last phase,
around 1900 B.C., also show a very subtle change in the sequence of writing. And
I’m working with two scientists in India today, Mayankh Vahia and Nisha Yadav, at the
Tata Institute for Fundamental Research. One’s an astronomer, the other one’s a
statistician. And we’re trying to analyze the sequence of signs on different types
of seals. And preliminary results suggest that there are new signs coming in in
the later time period, when we can date certain seals to being late. And other
signs appear early, and disappear. So this suggests that the writing system was
changing over time, and possibly new languages came in. When
Egyptian hieroglyphs started, there was no word for horse. But when horse was
introduced into Egypt, there’s all of a sudden new hieroglyph for horse. And that
came from somewhere else. So that word for horse clearly wasn’t Egyptian. And we
can see that. So I think we’re going to see that kind of thing happening in the Indus
writing system. And this writing was also used for ideology. And this link to
ideology was key to understanding its eventual disappearance. So we see it
associated with rituals and events that are happening. And here you see a deity
in a tree with worshippers in a procession, and writing in the top frame,
there. The presence of trees as a motif also suggests that this may explain why
we don’t have any large physical temples in the Indus Valley. There’s no big
structure that we can call a temple, and no area that we can call a ritual space.
So they may have been doing it outside under trees, which is still a common
place for rituals in South Asia today. We know they did have rituals, and these are
depicted on images and narratives that are found on seals. But these seals occur
during the last phase of the Indus period, which is between 2200 and 1900 B.C.
And the kinds of narratives that we see? A deity grabbing two tigers by the throat,
standing on an elephant, and a wheel above the head. Now, those of you with a
Mesopotamian background would say, “Well, that’s the Gilgamesh epic, translated
into India.” I would argue, no. Gilgamesh is an epic of the ancient times. It’s not
something that we can identify with a specific time period. When heroes could
grab two lions by the throat, that was probably in the Paleolithic. It was a
very, very deep tradition that goes very, very–it’s very old in history. In South
Asia, the same kinds of Paleolithic myths were probably present. And I think
that they’re translating this into their own regional ideas, and that it
doesn’t have to spread from one area to the other. But they’re emerging at the
same time. A guy talking to a tiger from a tree, it’s a safe place to be when you
talk to tigers. And the sacrifice of a water buffalo.
Using a trident-like spear. A deity sitting in yogic position in front of it.
These are narratives which we will never be able to explain fully, until we know
the writing system. But we can see how those narratives are copied and followed
in later iconography in South Asia. The killing of the water buffalo represents
a deity conquering a power that is disturbing the balance of the universe,
and is a sacrificial form that is seen today in some of the Tantric iconography. So this is a goddess killing the evil water buffalo demon. The water
buffalo was a motif that was spread to Mesopotamia from the Indus Valley. Some
scholars are wondering whether water buffalos might also have been
domesticated in the lower Euphrates Basin in Basra area. But so far there’s
no concrete evidence for that. The iconography of the seals, and the
iconography of these Akkadian cylinder seals, suggests that the motif and the
animals probably came from the Indus. And the way it was incorporated into Indus,
into Mesopotamian iconography. So water buffalos are great to have, they have
good milk, and we know from Mesopotamian texts that they were kept in the temples
and used as special offering animals, and watered for the deities. We also have
some new seals that have just come out. This is from the site of Dholavira, which
has been excavated by Dr. Bisht from the Archaeological Survey of India. This
one has a very complex motif showing a giant holding two people by the waist. And
it’s not clear if the giant is going to bite their heads off, or what.
And on the other side is a deity, a horn deity, with possibly upraised arm. We
don’t know what’s in it. And then another deity, or horned figure, bowing down. So,
when we do see evidence of conflict on seals, it’s usually between supernatural
beings, or between humans and animals. But never between people at the same level.
Yoga is another important technology that was being developed in the Indus.
And yoga is used today in South Asia for developing power, internal power,
meditation. And it seems to have been something that was being developed in Indus cities as a part of their religious ideology. And probably also a mechanism
linked with writing, which we see on this top seal. In later periods, yoga can be
used, and it was used, in Buddhism and Jainism and Hinduism in various ways. And
we’re not saying that the Indus people invented all the ways that we see today,
but that there’s clearly a link between this development in the Indus and later
times. So I mentioned before that there’s no indication that the walled cities
were used for warfare. And we also have no evidence of people fighting people or
killing people or enslaving people in India, in any of the Indus iconography. One
example that might be an exception to this shows two men with spears pointed
at each other, and a woman standing between them. This is a viable reason to
fight, okay? And it’s not like warfare against cities,
but it’s possibly conflict between two communities over a bride. And there’s a
deity standing beside, behind her, ready to protect her. Indus people had spears,
they had daggers, but they had no swords. Spears and daggers can be used for
lots of things. Hunting. And they hunted water buffalo and elephant and
rhinoceros. But we don’t have any evidence for war weapons, which would be
swords and battle-axes of the type that we see in Mesopotamia. None of the cities
of the Indus Valley have ever been burned and destroyed by warfare. And
though many of them on the border areas have strong walls and defensive
gateways, none of them have been attacked. So I think that during the development
of Indus cities, warfare was not one of the mechanisms for integration. The
threat of warfare may have been, but not actual warfare. Here’s an example of
Harappa, based on our excavations and a drawing that I’ve done to try to
picture what the city might have looked like. Multiple walled areas, right next to
each other. Each of them have their own gateways. Outside of some of the walls,
you have a settlement, which is a caravanserai. So
if you come to the city late at night and the gates are closed, you can stay
overnight. It’s like a motel. The cemetery was always to the south and west of the
settlement. And you can see that on the left part of the slide. And these city–the craft workshops that we see at Harappa are replicated within each of
the walled areas. So we’ve been able to find shell workshops in each one of the
areas. Faience workshops. But only one or two seal workshops. So the one seal
workshop I showed you is in the left part of that central, mud-walled area.
And that seal workshop produced seals for all of the city. So clearly some
control of production of writing material. But who were the rulers? And we
can get some idea of this from some of their sculpture. And this figure of a
priest-king, or large image of a male with a beard, has been thought to have
represented one of the elites. And it probably is. He may not have been a
priest or a king, but he was clearly somebody with a lot of power. Originally,
it would have been painted with red and blue or green, and that same type of
textile made with madder and indigo is produced today in South Asia.
The gold bead on his forehead, we found an exact identical one in our
excavations at Harappa. These elites would have been distinguished by their
textiles. And we have evidence for textiles made of cotton and wool, and
most recently, we have threads of silk that were used to thread ornaments of,
copper ornaments, and beads, microbeads. They didn’t weave silk, yet, but they used
silk for for ornaments. These types of robed, male figures are found at other
sites. Dholavira, and several of them are found at
Mohenjo-daro. So they may have represented clan leaders, or individuals
from certain communities who were powerful. But they weren’t monarchs, they
weren’t rulers that lasted for the whole, or had hierarchical rule over these
cities. We also have very elaborately decorated women. And this figure on your
left is a Harappan figurine, showing a woman with elaborately ornamented
necklaces and belts. And we have hoards of this type of jewelry that are
buried under floors, or behind a wall, and hidden away. And that gives us an idea of
what they might have been wearing. So, silver necklaces, toe rings and finger
rings, headbands, carnelian, jasper, agate beads. And this beautiful carnelian and
bronze belt. In looking through the Mesopotamian figurines, I’ve come across
one figurine from the site of Mari, which has a very distinctive headdress,
which is identical to Harappan figurine headdresses. And when I showed
this to some of my Mesopotamian colleagues, they just laughed. They said, “Nah,
there’s no way. This can’t be Harappan.” But no other figurines in all of
Mesopotamia have this type of headdress. It’s only from one site, and Mari happens
to have a lot of Indus beads and Indus- type material in it. So I’m wondering if
some of the merchants that were connected between Indus and Mesopotamia
might have sealed relationships through marriage. And we know that this happens
in later times, that you marry your daughter into some family in another
city. That makes sure that when your goods get there, they get the proper
credit, and you get the things sent back home that you need to have. So anyway,
it’s something that we can address, and I’ll talk about how we can do that. We
have, also, evidence for Indus materials, beads and lapis lazuli, coming from
Afghanistan, either through Iran or through the Indus, sea. Sealings of
seals from the Gulf, and Indus seals, as well. So this indicates that we have
trade beginning around 2600 B.C., possibly, or maybe even earlier. And around 2450 is
when I would date most of the materials found in the royal burials at Ur. And
we’re going to be working on the Kish material at the Museum of Natural
History. And I think that that material probably dates to about the same time. Figurines that are found at Harappa have
very distinctive headdresses, which are with flower ornaments. And the only
figures in Mesopotamia with that type of flower ornament are
found in the royal burials of Ur. And this is a photo of one of the serving
girls from that, one of those royal burials. During Caspers, a Dutch
archeologist, argued that these were the royal court or courtiers from
Mesopotamia coming to the Indus Valley. Well, if they did, they only–they flew,
because they landed at Harappa, and they’re not at any other city. The
question is, some ladies from Harappa could have gone the other direction and
ended up in Mesopotamia. How do we test this? One way of testing it is through
strontium isotope analysis. So strontium is a mineral that accumulates in your
enamel, when you’re a child, or in your womb. And if you can–whatever you were, your mother was eating, and what you are eating up to the age of 8
becomes a signature. So if Indus people went to Mesopotamia, we can find them. If
Mesopotamian people came to the Indus, we can find them.
Just keep that in mind. The other thing about the royal burial is that
it’s filled with, has lots of warriors, and serving girls, and many of them have
cylinder seals. Harp players, etc. Some of them have lapis cylinder seals. Lapis
comes from Afghanistan. And some of them have shell cylinder seals. And I was just
talking with Gil Stein about the seals that are in this museum collection. Some
of them are clearly shell from the Indus Valley. And most of the warriors in the
royal tomb with Puabi had shell cylinder seals, that were from the Indus Valley. So
the question is, were they Indus men that were carrying with them a cylinder
seal from that region. The Indus didn’t make cylinder seals. So they sold them
the shell, and then they carved it in Mesopotamia. In a later tomb, but in the
cemetery, you also have this cylinder– this stamp from a Persian Gulf
sealing. So there’s lots of connections between Indus and the Gulf, and Indus and
Mesopotamia at this time period. Even in the later Akkadian period, when Sargon
claims to have ships from Meluhha in his court, in his port, we have continued evidence of not only carnelian, but a dark green stone, which is called bloodstone. And
this is being made at a site called Dholavira on the island of Kutch. At this
time period, in the Akkadian period, we also have cylinder seals, one of which
says, “This is the seal of a Meluhhan interpreter.” So we know that people were
there interpreting for Meluhhan traders.
We have texts that say that Meluhhan villages were there. And there’s
statements by Mesopotamian rulers that they conquered Meluhhans. Now, we have no
evidence of Mesopotamians going to the Indus Valley and having warfare. But
there may have been Meluhhan villages that had to be put in order and
conquered by these rulers. So the Meluhhans had a presence in Mesopotamia, both
both through trade and actually living there. We know, also, that the craftsmen
were there, because this is a belt from Harappa, or from Mohenjo-daro, made with
carnelian. And on the on the right hand side are a bunch of cylinder s–of similar
beads, from the royal burials at Ur. The top four are probably from the Indus
Valley, and definitely made in the Indus Valley. And I’ve examined these using
various techniques. The bottom one is a stone that we don’t have in the Indus
Valley. But it’s made with the technology of the Indus craftsmen. So I think that
the Indus craftsmen were living in Mesopotamia and making things, catering
to the elites of the Mesopotamian courts. And this is what we’re hoping to be able
to identify through the study of the Kish beads at the museum. Another example
is this top bead, on the left here, which is a faceted carnelian bead. Mesopotamians
liked faceted beads. They made them in lapis, they made him in carnelian. Indus
Valley people never faceted their beads. And never, in any workshop, do we have a
faceted bead. But clearly these beads were made by Indus technology, and
being, catering to Mesopotamian elites. I’m looking at trade from the
Indus Valley to Mesopotamia, and that’s been my focus today. We also have
evidence of trade from the Indus Valley to Central Asia. We have trade, and some
of the beads from Central Asia may have eventually gotten to China. And in August, I’m going to China to study these beads that you see on the top right. They come from Western Zhou period tombs, that date to
about 1500 B.C., a thousand years after the Indus period, when they were being
made. But in China, things were curated, and handed down, often from generation to
generation, and then put in tombs. And eventually, they probably started copying
them. The lower ones are probably copies. And so I’m hoping to see if we can trace
that, that trade and technology to a further distant area. So I want to
continue just a bit more about the technology of these Indus beads, because
you need to show, I need to tell you how I can prove that they’re Indus beads
and Indus technology. The Indus people developed techniques for drilling that
were unique. They found a specific type of stone that is very hard. We still have
not been able to find the source of it. And that stone, I’ve called “ernestite,” after Ernest Mackay, who’s actually first found drills in Kish, who he claims
were from the Indus Valley, or he says that they may be, and we’re going to look for
them in the collections now. But I’ve never seen a photograph of them. And
these black stones, here, are ernestite drills. They were used for drilling
these long, carnelian beads. The top drills, over on the right, most of the
brown ones, are churt. They’re not hard enough to drill carnelian. And you can’t
drill through long beads with them. So the Indus developed a special drilling technique.
And we can study it by taking drill hole impressions. And I do this the same way
your dentist makes your dentures or your broken tooth replacement. You stick a gum
in your teeth, and you take an impression, and you make a mold. So I stick that inside
the drills, holes of the beads, and I pull it out, and I can see exactly the surface
of that drilling, drill hole. So the bead on the right is an Indus carnelian bead.
And mesopotamian beads have that same striation and identical surface position.
And I won’t go into the details of how the drilling process works, but it’s a
very specialized technology that allows them to drill strong and long straight
columns right through the center of the bead, without
making a big hole. That technology was used for grinding, not–drilling, not
only carnelian, but vesuvianite. Vesuvianite is a dark green
stone. It looks like jaded and many of the earlier publications called it jade. And
Randall Law found out that this is found only in one part of northern
Pakistan, and mined in an area, then brought down into the Indus cities.
There’s possibly a vesuvianite cylinder seal, he mentioned to me. So vesuvianite clearly came from the Indus Valley to Mesopotamia. The only way you
can carve it without diamonds is with an ernestite drill. And so they used
ernestite to drill these very, very, very hard stones. So these cities were
there to develop high quality technologies. They controlled it
indirectly, through, by putting a wall around the cities. Anybody coming in or
out had to pay taxes. You don’t have to have warfare to conquest, conquer an
entire region. Just put a wall around your settlement and have a couple guards
there. And then, then that way, you can control. They used very complex weight
systems that were highly standardized. And the same between all of the cities.
And they have a weights, a very highly standardized calibration that is almost
identical between every city. And it’s, they’re cubicle weights. We also have some
truncated spherical weights that conform to the same Indus standard, but
they may represent a weighing of certain other commodities. But overall, it’s the
same weight system. There is a similarity to the Egyptian beqa system, but
this is possibly coincidence, and there is no indication that Egyptian
connect, there was an Egyptian connection between the Indus Valley. Mesopotamian
weight systems were not highly standardized. We have many different
weight systems for every different cities. And up to 15 different weight
systems, or numbering systems, for counting different kinds of
commodities. So, a very different economy than we see in the Indus. Indus number
systems, we can’t translate the writing, but we can figure out that one slash
means one, two slashes means two. And if you look at this, you’ll see that four is a very important number. Now four, you have four, and eight, and
twelve, and sixteen. And in South Asia, even today, you count with four fingers.
And then you count by 1 2 3 digits. 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3. Count it and you’ll get the
number. It’s exactly what you get, 24. Or 12. So you can get the same kind of 4
counting system that we see in the Indus seals, that you see in South Asia today.
Indus merchants did trade with Central Asia. And to do that, they
had passports. This is a terracotta sealing with a Central Asian seal on one
side and a Harappan seal on the other. And it’s found in Mohenjo-daro. So it
means that somebody from Central Asia came to Mohenjo-daro, in what’s
now Pakistan. Stamped this piece of clay, they fired it, and they said, “Okay, you come
up to my little shop in Bactria, and you can trade, and you know, you get credit
for X, Y, and Z.” So this indicates these interactions within Central Asia. We
don’t have this. For Mesopotamia to the Indus. We have no
Mesopotamian sealing in the Indus. We only have Harappan sealings in
Mesopotamia. So this suggests that there’s a different trade relationship
between the Indus and Mesopotamia. And my feeling is that Mesopotamian trade was
probably through Oman. And it’s the Oman intermediaries that were doing this. This
isn’t my idea, George Dales and many other scholars have proposed it earlier.
But we’re finding more and more evidence to suggest that this was the main
mechanism towards Mesopotamian trade. This is a wig fragment on the top right
that we found at Harappa. So some Central Asian merchant, with their little idol or
household god, came down, but the wig fell off, and we found it at Harappa.
They took the rest of it home, and we haven’t found the rest of the body. And in the
cities, we have very clear evidence for elites. And one of the people–one of the
arguments that people have had about Indus settlements is:
“You don’t have palaces, you don’t have temples, so it’s not a state. It’s just a
chiefdom.” But I argue that we do have elites. And those elites are the
people who are actually buried in Harappan cemeteries. They are healthy adults,
many of them living to be 35 to 40 years old. And the males and females
are about equal in terms of numbers in these cemeteries. They’re not buried with
wealth. They’re buried only with a few personal ornaments. And shell bangles are
usually worn on the left hand of women. What we found is that the women in the
early part of the cemetery tend to have wider bangles, in the later part of the
cemetery have very, very thin bangles. So if you remember back to that first thing
from the Ravi phase, ladies who have thin bangles don’t do hard work. So in the
last phase of Harappa, the women at Harappa were ordering servants around,
they were telling them what to make for dinner. They were not making their food.
Because if you try to knead dough with those thin bangles, they would break. And
this suggests that these women became more and more elite, more and more
removed from physical labor, over time at Harappa. Outside the cemetery, we still
find big, wider bangles, big, old, hunky things. So they weren’t buried in that
cemetery. Though these women weren’t buried here, their bangles were taken off
and given to somebody else. And these may be the nomadic women or the trader women.
We have bangles like this at Susa. We have them in Iran, made from the Indus Valley
and taken to Central Asia, to Susa. So these were the women who were the
traders, and they may have been very powerful traders, carrying their
ornaments with them. We also have some men in the cemetery, about equal number
of men and women. And some of the men are buried with special ornaments, but again,
not a lot of gold. Those three tiny gold beads are the
maximum amount of gold found in any Harappan burial. Lady Harappans
did bury some more stuff, but in the Harappan period, that’s it. But notice the
top bead. Now, the second one is turquoise, that came from very far away, as well. But
the top bead is important, because we found a block-let of that unfinished
stone in a workshop in Harappa. And the bead around the neck of this
guy in the cemetery. And Randy and I were working on material from Dholavira, which
was is down in Kutch. We found the raw material. So clearly,
this material is coming from Kutch to Harappa, worked at Harappa,
and buried around some guy’s neck. Now, is this man who was buried in the cemetery
a Harappan merchant who went to Dholavira to collect the rocks, or is he
a Dholavira merchant who came to Harappa to set up shop? How can we identify
that? Strontium isotopes. So right now, there’s a big project going on with
several different scholars trying to identify the strontium of teeth
throughout the Indus Valley region. We’re working on this in the Harappa cemetery.
And this is just a view of the cemetery. I’m working with Dr. Doug Price and Jim
Burton in Madison. And we’ve done the preliminary analysis of some of these.
And basically, we find a lot of local people. And you can tell the local people
by comparing the strontium of the teeth of animals, especially pigs, which don’t
wander a whole lot of long distance. They are locally, they live locally, they die
locally. Cattle tend to be, you can herd them over greater distances. So the pigs’
teeth. And a lot of the women and men in the central part of the cemetery have
the same strontium. They were born and raised at Harappa and died in Harappa. In
other parts of the cemetery, we have people who were not born at Harappa, but
buried at Harappa. And the question is, where are they from?
So right now, several scholars are working on this, to try to get the
signatures from Dholavira and other parts of Pakistan. And eventually, we’ll
be able to map the the movement of what I call elites throughout the Indus Valley,
to see who was marrying whom, and how they were linked across this vast area.
This is a matrix chart showing some of the stars, mean local. And we have local
females and non-local males. And the physical anthropologists have argued
that most of the women in the cemetery are more genetically related to each
other than the men, based on their skeletal form. Which would mean that the
men are being married next to their wives. And the wives are being buried
next to their mothers and grandmothers. Now, you might immediately
jump to matriarchal society, but no. Matra-local burial does not mean
matriarchal society. It means matra-local burial. So people
were being buried next to their mothers, okay. We don’t know what the society
was organized as. But it’s an interesting pattern. And we are also
going to be able to compare this with late Harappan populations. And this is
material from a burial in, near Delhi, dug by the Archaeological Survey of India,
which has people wearing a variety of ornaments. Now, we start seeing a lot of
gold. It’s in the late Harappan period. But we’re also doing the strontium isotope
analysis of these skeletons. The Harappa cemetery summary, and kind of conclusion,
suggests that cemeteries reflect social hierarchy. There’s a strong indication
that only certain communities were being buried. And they were the ones–the one
group of Harappan elites, landowners, traders, and ritual specialists, who were
probably controlling the society. Some indication that they were hereditary
communities, based on skeletal-based, genetic trait analysis, and also the
artifact-based, stylistic analysis. So I think that those cemeteries indicate the
elite communities and that they were linked over great distances through
marriage alliances. And this is the trade networks that we see which reinforce the
urban centers. So. thank you very much. [Applause]

35 thoughts on “Mark Kenoyer | Meluhha: the Indus Civilization and Its Contacts with Mesopotamia

  1. Great presentation! Thanks for your research. Hopefully the day that we find a "Rosetta Stone" for the Indus Valley Civilization is not far away.

  2. Fantastic! The first thing that strikes me is how 'civilized' these people were – the fusion of science, culture, trade, relative non-violence, spiritual development is compelling. Thank you Mark!

  3. I personally believe that all the great cities evolved around rivers and garths were used to supply fresh fish for these settlements and of course the fresh water was eventually used for farming, so garths and weirs were built before most of the other activities took place, I also believe it is possible that some of the structures in ancient cities may have been to contain live fish for fresh sea food.

  4. Wow, excellent upload and some very interesting information about Indus Valley which i never knew before. Stunning artwork on on the artifacts.
    And what an excellent speaker, why weren't my university lecturers like this?

  5. And also, he doesn't want to go into detail about their drilling techniques, but i would certainly like to see someone today to replicate their drilling techniques.

  6. The Akkadian seal impression shown at 44:10 is fascinating when you realize the visitor from Meluhha/Mleccha carries a goat=mlekh It's a rebus.

  7. who can top that intro? I was just browsing through but ended up hearing the intro and now here I am, 40 minutes later still listening.

  8. din't mention that the seated deity was shiva , it is clear from the seal it has 3 heads and if you see shiva in indian temples also has 3 heads dipicted sometimes as trimukhi shiva as in elephanta caves in mumbai.This is a clear link which every one tries to underplay .Shiva is known as adi yogi or first yogi and in the seal he is sitting in mula bandhana asan not easy lotus posture

  9. It's evedince water buffalo came from Dravidian mahisasuran.It's show we TAMILS spreading civilization to all over earth.

  10. The very core reason for these great cities and cultures that sprang up along these rivers, was for the collection of GOLD.

  11. Very intriguing presentation to me since I visited lothal and dholavira. I guess Indus civilisation arises when Sumerian’s migrated from Mesopotamia after defeat by assyrians or some others. In course of time assimilated already extant people of Indus region.Or they migrated from east Africa the birth place of mankind and develope their own civilization. We need another lecture only on origin and migration of people of Indus civilization.

  12. Indus valley civilization, most peaceful and egalitarian, was built by ancestors of South Indian people. They had Binary counting system. They were superb metal workers but archaeologist found no trace of weapon of any kind. Shifting of monsoon forced these people to move to the Gangetic plain in the east where they developed iron making utilizing their knowledge of metallurgy. Climate change affected the ancient civilizations and will affect future generation too. Their peaceful life style may have influenced Buddhism which developed about 1500 years later. There is absolutely no evidence of any invasion or destruction of the IVC cities.

  13. I hope you have included L A Waddell in your studies as he claimed to have deciphered the seals of the Indus Valley in 1925. Waddell READ the Indus Script and the seals!

    A scholar by the name of Barton influenced the academic circles to regard this as ridiculous but he was very prejudiced as he adhered to the Semitic view of the appearance of civilization [biblical]. The decipherment is in my book 'The Rise of Man in the Gardens of Sumeria – a biography of L A Waddell 1854-1938; Sussex Academic Press, 2009. It was a thesis in the Ancient History Department Swasea University. It 's a guide to Waddell;s theories and makes reading his books easier. [refer to the Special Collection at the University of Glasgow's Library where Waddell's works are kept]. My book is on Amazon, Chistine Preston.
    FOR INSTANCE: SEAL I: Official Signet of AS S'IAS' the Barugu of Bhrigu [Fire-priest], Lord of Edin. Vedic priest 'Aus'ija Kakshivan' reputed author of several hymns in the Rig Vea, styled 'the far-famed merchant'…The place name is EDIN. Phonetic: KHA, HA AS ASSI AS BAR, MAS U GU, HAR, GA EDIN AS.
    [I can't copy all of it but here is an interesting one:]
    SEAL III identified as Kan priest of Khaitisig [Kaiti city of Hittite city is the name for Harappa] KAN GAN WE[Me] SIB AS KHA, HA ITI SIG.TAB EDIN AS
    SEAL V was the signet of Prince S'US'ENA of Edin later King S'u-sin of the Ur Dynasty of Mesopotamia.
    SEAL VI: official signet of TAX minister of SIRGANA OF AGDU [Sargon I of Agade] identified as the Vedic Daxa S'AKUNI or Sagara of Ayodhya.
    SEAL XIII death amulet of Uggu the Gad, Kad, or Phoenician,a identified as the Vedic Uccaih king of Kuru-Panch[alas] meaning Syrio-Phoenician. Translation: O setting Sun Fish, the sage Uggu the Gad lift up from grave, bring to life, at Edin [O Setting Sun Fish, bring to life the sage Uggu the Gad from his grave].

    See chapters 10 – 13 and Epilogue in my book.

    I am on Facebook christine Preston now Shrewsbury. I have 243 videos on Youtube see Secret Garden II and Mario Gattoaladino.

  14. This is a fascinating lecture. It's strange to think people were trading with each other, covering vast distances.

  15. Just captivating summary ! What an interesting time of human history. Mr Kenoyer brings it alive and keeps it accessible. He shows a true desire to share in his passion and life work, thank you to him and the institute.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *