Ancient Indian Art Slides
2) Stamp seal and a modern impression: unicorn or bull and inscription,, Mature Harappan period, ca. 2600–1900
B.C. - Indus Valley
Material: Burnt steatite
Stamp seals were used in antiquity as marks of ownership and badges of
status. In the large urban centers of the Harappan civilization, hundreds of square-shaped stamp seals were found in
excavations. They are engraved with images of wild or domestic animals, humans, fantastic creatures, and possibly
divinities. The bull is the most popular animal motif on the Indus Valley glyptic art. In this example, the animal is rendered
in the typical strict profile, standing before what might be an altar. Its shoulder is covered by a decorated quilt or harness in
the shape of an upside-down heart pattern. Most of the square stamp seals have inscriptions along the top edge. The Indus
script, invented around 2600 B.C., is yet to be fully deciphered.
Seated male sculpture, or "Priest King" from Mohenjo-daro
(41, 42, 43)
white, low fired steatite
Fillet or ribbon headband with circular inlay ornament on the forehead and similar but smaller ornament on the right upper
arm. The two ends of the fillet fall along the back and though the hair is carefully combed towards the back of the head, no
bun is present. The flat back of the head may have held a separately carved bun as is traditional on the other seated figures,
or it could have held a more elaborate horn and plumed headdress. Two holes beneath the highly stylized ears suggest that a
necklace or other head ornament was attached to the sculpture. The left shoulder is covered with a cloak decorated with
trefoil, double circle and single circle designs that were originally filled with red pigment. Drill holes in the center of each
circle indicate they were made with a specialized drill and then touched up with a chisel. Eyes are deeply incised and may
have held inlay. The upper lip is shaved and a short combed beard frames the face. The large crack in the face is the result
of weathering or it may be due to original firing of this object. Described as a "priest-king" although his identify is not
specifically known. His facial features are typical for figures of the Indian sub-continent.
Male torso from Harappa, c.2000 bce. Red sandstone, 3 3/4" high.
The soft, fleshy (that is, not muscular) body in
males and females becomes typical of the art of India.
Very unlike the male figures of the Near East or ancient Greece. The
red sand-stone torso of male is particularly outstanding for its realism. The modeling of the rather heavy abdomen appears
to belong to later style of sculpture. This seems to suggest that the figurine was produced later but some accident found its
way to the lower stratum. However, figurine has certain features, notably the strange indentations on the shoulders.