Mehrgarh culture

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Mehrgarh is the site of the earliest known agrarian settlements in the South Asian subcontinent and lies to the west of the Indus River.[1] Dubbed the Mehrgarh culture, this Neolithic settlement is now considered to be a precursor to the Indus Valley civilisation. The ancient people that settled at Mehrgarh were nomads and preferred cattle-herding over hunting. They soon developed agricultural technologies that let them cultivate crops like wheat, barley and cotton.[2]

Mehrgarh[edit]

Mehrgarh is a 495-acre (2.00 km2) archaeological site located in the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, Pakistan. It is situated near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River at the banks of the Bolan River and between the Pakistani cities of Quetta, Kalat and Sibi. Much of what we know about Mehrgarh today comes from its excavation in 1974 by French archaeologists Jean-François Jarrige and Catherine Jarrige.

Archaeological significance[edit]

Mehrgarh is considered to be one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology. It is now considered to be a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilisation.[3] Its discovery shed new light on the development of agricultural technologies and agrarian lifestyles of the ancient Stone Age people of South Asia. Many historians regard Mehrgarh to be the first settled village settlement in the world.[4] and certainly the first within Pakistan.[5]

People[edit]

Nearly all the miniature figurines discovered at Mehrgarh depict women with elaborate hairstyles and protuberant breasts. These may or may not be depiction of a fertility goddess.[6] It is only later in time that male figurines make an appearance.
Togau ware A–C: Stylistic depictions of the Togau Ware found at Mehrgarh indicate that potters moved away from using intricate designs and adopted simplistic designs for mass-production purposes.

The ancient Neolithic settlers at Mehrgarh were nomads. They had come from the mountainous regions in the north to settle in the open pastures in the south. Being away from the mountains meant that they had to develop ingenious technologies to replace stone tools. They slowly moved away from a life of hunting-and-gathering and started preferring cattle-herding. They raised sheep, goats and cattle.[7]

The inhabitants of Mehrgarh became agriculturists and began cultivating crops like wheat and barley. It is because of these agricultural pursuits that this period of the South Asian Stone Age is known as the Early Food-Processing Stage (ca. 7000–5500 BCE).

Lifestyle[edit]

The people of Mehrgarh initially built small circular or rectangular houses with mud and reed.[8] Living close to the Indus River meant that when the river flooded, the water would wash away the mud houses. Thus, the people ingeniously devised a way to fashion their houses out of mud brick. The Mehrgarh residents were avid agriculturists and valued their produce.

Much of the success of their agrarian lifestyle comes down to the fact that they stored their grains in granaries for later consumption. In fact, they progressed so quickly that by 4000 BCE, the people of Mehrgarh were living in two-storey homes.[9] The people of Mehrgarh also used pottery wheels to create elaborate vases and vessels.

Tools and technology[edit]

The Mehrgarh people were ingenious craftsmen who fashioned their tools from the local copper ore and also used the ore as pigment. At a nearby archaeological site at Nausharo, a pottery workshop was discovered dating back to 4500 years ago. Unearthed here were 12 blades or blade fragments that were made with copper indentors and functioned as potter's tool to trim and shape unfired pottery.[10] The residents also lined their large baskets with bitumen.

Amongst its most characteristic tools are borers and geometric microliths such as lunates, triangles, trapezes, etc.[11] The presence of turquoise and Lapis Luzili at Mehrgarh indicate that the region had long distance contact with western and central Asia.[12]

Pottery[edit]

The people of Mehrgarh were good at making fine, wheel-made pottery (usually 20–25 cm in diameter), with a knife-edge rim, slipped in red and painted in black. Archaeologists classify the Mehrgarh pottery as ‘Togau Ware’ and see continuum in its various designs from Togau A to Togau D. The Togau A were early pottery which had intricate designs of animals on their inner rims; however as time progressed, these intricate designs became more and more simplistic. It was a clear indication that the people of Mehrgarh started producing pottery in small numbers but, as demand grew for their wares, they indulged in a mass-production effort.[13]

Transitioning into the Bronze Age[edit]

The small settlement of people at Mehrgarh were the first to witness the transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic phase by the fifth millennium BC.[14]

References[edit]

  1. Reddy (2006, p. A20) ..the earliest known agrarian settlements in the Indian subcontinent come from the west of the Indus system...
  2. "Stone age man used dentist drill". BBC News. 6 April 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4882968.stm. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  3. Ahmed (2014, p. 315)
  4. Stanton et al. (2012, p. 32) Mehrgarh, an example of the early stage of the Indus Valley civilization, is considered to be the first village of the world,
  5. Sarkar & Ghosh (2003, p. 32) But the process of food producing economy and village formation was a revolutionary discovery, excavated by the French Archaeological Mission at Mehrgarh in Baluchistan. This process culminated in the gradual development of first urban settlement in Pakistan.
  6. Singh (2008, p. 130) It is indeed possible that some were either images that were worshipped or votive offerings that were part of some domestic cult or ritual. However, not all female figurines necessarily had such a function.
  7. Stanton et al. (2012, p. 32) Studies of zoo fauna from Mehrgarh showed that the inhabitants switched from hunting and gathering to raising sheep, goats, and cattle, along with settled agriculture, cultivating wheat and barley.
  8. Reddy (2006, p. A20) While the early Neolithic people were primarily cattle-herders and had a pastoral economy, the later Neolithic settlers gradually became agriculturists, cultivating different crops and living in circular or rectangle houses made of mud and reed.
  9. Stanton et al. (2012, p. 32) They progressed quickly, and by 4000 B.C.E., the citizens of Mehrgarh were living in two-story homes and using pottery wheels.
  10. Méry, S; Anderson, P; Inizan, M.L.; Lechavallier, M; Pelegrin, J (2007). "A pottery workshop with flint tools on blades knapper with copper at Nausharo (Indus civilisation ca. 2500 BC)". Journal of Archaeological Sciences 34 (7): 1098–1116. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.10.002. 
  11. Sarkar & Ghosh (2003, p. 32)
  12. Tosi & Vidale (1990, p. 89)
  13. Ahmed (2014, p. 393)
  14. Reddy (2006, p. A20)

Bibliography[edit]