Thursday, September 23, 2010

Study on Harappan world

This account of the Harappa civilisation presents, in 11 somewhat repetitive chapters, a history of discovery, environment, prehistoric background, the formative period, urbanism and states, subsistence and craft economies, trade, “landscape and memory” (the cemeteries mainly), religion, and the decline. The best parts are the ones on topics the author knows first-hand: patterns of settlement along the Beas and the Ravi; the development of village life at Mehrgarh; exquisite grey pottery with black-painted designs; and the sequence at Harappa. Rita Wright worked with the Harappa Archaeological Research Project, and we are reminded that a consolidated report is long overdue.

After the recent flooding in Pakistan — its scale now ascribed to deforestation and interference with river flow — environmental change is of special interest. I wish there had been more detailed accounts of the use of spring water and of flood water capture as sustainable systems. (Until recently, spate irrigation has been important for the region from the Helmand to the Sutlej-Jumna Divide.) There is useful material about changes in river courses and the relative incidence of monsoon and cold-weather rainfall, a factor that probably affected crop choice.

Wright does not, however, mention Pakistani work on shifts of the Indus delta or changes in the level of the Arabian Sea and hence the Ranns. The deep tank with baked brick walls at Lothal belongs to an environment quite different from that of the rock-cut reservoirs of Dholavira, and these cannot be clubbed as representing the same phenomenon as she has done. Let not the unsuspecting student believe that American research along the major rivers is all that we need to know about recent trends in Harappan archaeology.

Full report here Hindu

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