8 Kenoyer 2014 Indus Civilization - The Cambridge World Prehistory Volume 1 Africa South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Edited by Colin Renfrew The

8 Kenoyer 2014 Indus Civilization - The Cambridge World...

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I I I I I The Cambridge World Prehistory Volume 1: Africa, South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Edited by Colin Renfrew The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Paul Bahn Independent scholar ~~~~-~--~----~~~~-~~-·-- ! ..... :·: ..... CAMBRIDGE _ ::: UNIVERS_JJY PRESS I
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1.25 THE INDUS CIVILISATION JONATHAN MARK KENOYER Introduction The study of the Indus civilisation - or more broadly defined, the Indus Tradition - has seen major advances in the past decade that challenge many earlier interpretations and provide new insight into the organisation and character of this urban culture (Map 1.25.1). New surveys in areas that were once poorly studied have revealed the presence of numerous settle- ments prior to the rise of cities, as well as new towns and vil- lages that supported the major cities themselves. Excavations at the major cities, as well as at smaller settlements, have revealed new aspects of settlement and subsistence patterns; technological development; and aspects of socioeconomic, political and ideological organisation. The most frustrating challenge is the continued lack of bilingual texts that would help in deciphering the Indus script. However, some new discoveries in the study of the Indus writing system provide clues about its development over time and the patterns of sign use on specific types of objects. The decline, transformation and legacy of this urban civilisation are also aspects that have received considerable attention, with hotly debated topics that link it to later cultures in historical South Asia. The follow- ing chapter presents a general overview of the current state of research on the Indus Tradition along with some of the most significant new discoveries and questions that still need to be answered. History ofResearch and Current Challenges The Indus civilisation was first discovered in the 1920s as regional surveys and excavations were being carried out by the Archaeological Survey oflndia (Lahiri 2005). Sites such as Harappa had been reported by earlier Western travellers, but it WJs not until preliminJry excavations had been undertaken at both Harappa and Mohenjo-daro that the importance of the unique inscribed seals, painted pottery and figurines could be attributed to a newly discovered civilisation (Marshall 1924, 1931). Be~µse of the fact that the first excavations took place at Harappa, it was considered the type-site for this culture and led to the commonly used terms "Harappa Culture" and "Harappan Civilisation". The label "Mature Harappan" is gen- erally used for the main period of urban expansion, but most of the diagnostic features associated with this term are only found atthe end of the Harappan Phase, which is dated to around 2200 to 1900 BCE at Harappa (Period 3C; see Table 1.25.1) (Meadow & Kenoyer 2005). Sir John Marshall was the first to use the term "Indus Culture" and "Indus Civilisation", and repeat- edly emphasised that the religion and culture were uniquely Indian, while the population itself was probably heteroge- neous (Marshall 1931: 102ff). More recently, some scholars
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