Revealing India and Pakistan s Ancient Art and Inventions

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1 Revealing India and Pakistan s Ancient Art and Inventions By Andrew Howley, National Geographic Society on Word Count 1,361 Level MAX Ruins at the archaeological site of Harappa, an Indus Valley civilization of the third millennium B.C., in Punjab, Pakistan. Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Maya these are ancient civilizations people tend to know something about. Harappa, on the other hand, is maybe less well-known. That is because almost nothing of it had remained visible or been discovered or recognized until the 1920s. Since then it has been heralded as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. Identifying the remains of the Harappan culture, the first great This article is available at 5 reading levels at 1

2 civilization in the Indus Valley of India and Pakistan, pushed back the dates of the dawn of cities and writing in South Asia by 2,000 years, and has shattered old notions of what was done first where and by whom. Harappa unveiled In 2013, a three-day Dialogue of Civilizations conference was held in Guatemala, bringing together archaeologists to compare different ancient cultures. While presenting, National Geographic explorer Vasant Shinde of Deccan College gave a basic timeline for the rise and fall of Harappan civilization. Around B.C., people began food production, instead of just food gathering. In B.C., artifacts began showing regional similarities. The period from 2600 to 1900 B.C. was the mature period of Harappan civilization. Distant cities were integrated into one civilization and there appeared to have been an empire that arose through peaceful means. In B.C., whatever was holding the culture together declined and the area broke into many more localized styles. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 2

3 Discoveries at sites like Bhirrana and Girawad in India showed such early farming communities that it forced scholars to rethink how farming in the Indus Valley began. The old model of people moving in from the west, bringing agriculture and technology has been discarded, Shinde said. After the rise of agriculture, the development of cities gradually developed in the core of the region and then spread out. Major features of sites from this time match closely, but in the details, there was much regional variety. Shinde then made a point that has a lot of resonance for city planners today. Harappan cities don t have large monumental buildings [like those in Mesopotamia or Egypt], he said, but that doesn t mean they were not prosperous [these were] very clean and well planned, hygienic cities. Remarkably, cities represent only five out of some 2,000 Harappan sites that have been identified. The biggest and most spoken about in Shinde s presentation were Harappa itself and Mohenjo Daro. Harappan contributions Because Harappan sites date back so far, many of their distinct features are the oldest known examples of whatever they are. While it s difficult to say for certain whether these ideas began in India and spread, began elsewhere and spread to India, or began elsewhere independently, the Harappan discoveries show that south Asia was a far more innovative and advanced center of civilization than people knew before just a few decades ago. In the spirit of the Dialogue of Civilizations conference then, Shinde connected the past and the present by showing just how many modern conveniences the Harappans brought to the world: Grid-planned cities and towns, with a wide main street and smaller side streets all oriented to the cardinal directions. Latrines in each house with a water pot for washing. Private wells in houses, public wells for visitors and traders. No evidence of slavery, but indications of cooperative corporate rule. Developments in rainwater collection, wells and drain maintenance. Long-distance trade and contact as far as Mesopotamia, while importing regional raw materials and exporting finished goods. Use of crop rotation and pioneering techniques in metallurgy and ceramics. Art that may show the earliest practice of yoga, or belief in power through meditation. There are many theories and aspects to the eventual decline of Harappan civilization, said Shinde, but he added that the tradition and legacy continue till today. Most excitingly, there s all that writing still to be deciphered. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 3

4 Origins and legacy of Indus Valley art Shinde was followed at the conference by Mark Kenoyer of the University of Wisconsin- Madison, who brought more than 40 years of archaeological experience in India and Pakistan. In search not only of ancient objects but of how they were made and used, Kenoyer has engaged in countless projects in experimental archaeology, making jewelry, decorating pottery and more. Kenoyer compared Harappan seals, which had undeciphered script, with two similar seals that had been found with Akkadian script from Mesopotamia symbols that are now well understood. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 4

5 One of these two seals is in the British Museum, and is an Akkadian seal with an Indus animal. The letters seem to read Ka lu Sig, which Kenoyer said can be interpreted as May the affair be favorable or maybe that someone by the name of Kaku is favorable. The second seal was from a private collection, and Kenoyer gave credit to fellow Harappan scholar Massimo Vidale for its presentation and translation: The devotee of Nin-Ildum, Son of Dog. Now son of a dog isn t exactly a term of endearment around the world today, he said, so perhaps it had a meaning more like son of a servant. While that specific part of the translation is pretty theoretical, it s the general format that is most important. Text on any other Mesopotamian seals from the period follows a completely different formula, so these unusual inscriptions might very well represent translations of whatever is on the Harappan seals, a first clue at decoding this ancient script. Kenoyer then brought the seals into the context of the city of Harappa as a whole. Writing and seal making appear to be highly controlled, he said, given the fact that workshops were restricted by huge walls. They are now even beginning to recognize the work of specific seal makers on artifacts found throughout the city. He now has a grad student using a scanning electron microscope to examine the seals in excruciating detail, identifying distinct crafting techniques and different tool types. They are even able now to identify the handwriting style of different scribes on different tablets. Where are the temples? One of the biggest mysteries for many people concerning Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley is the lack of monumental temples, as are seen in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The solution may be in the smallest of artifacts. Several seals and tablets show images of a person in a tree, being brought offerings. This matches well with later documented beliefs that the most sacred places were natural, such as an esteemed pipal tree. Buddha himself famously sat under the bodhi tree in his quest for enlightenment, and that tree is held sacred to this day. So perhaps these cities had just as much ceremony and religion as any other, they were simply practiced in the open air, without the need of massive architecture. The people Finally, Kenoyer helped to reveal who the people of this civilization were and how they lived. Analysis of a cemetery in Harappa showed that the bodies seemed to all be from more well-todo people. The vast majority of Harappans were not buried there at all. Analysis of chemical signatures in teeth and bones showed strong genetic relationship of the people found there, but that not all of them were originally from Harappa. Kenoyer thinks this might be evidence of local people who were married away to people in other cities who then later returned to Harappa. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 5

6 This fits in well with the idea that the cemetery is for higher levels of society. Farmers marry people from within 30 km, he said. Traders marry people from other cities. Rulers marry other rulers. Lest you think rulers means kings, Kenoyer had one more revelation about life in this civilization. Monarchy and republican rule leave different imprints on a city, he said. Dholavira looks like a monarchy. The rest of the cities of Harappa are republican. Many people still look at the development of the ancient world as a violent and formulaic process, where tribal chiefs become powerful despots who use religion to force people into doing their will and building their self-indulgent monuments. Looking deeper into the actual evidence, we see how inaccurate such a vision is. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 6

7 Quiz 1 The following evidence was gathered to support the idea that Harappa was more technologically advanced than previously understood. 1. Discoveries at sites like Bhirrana and Girawad in India showed such early farming communities that it forced scholars to rethink how farming in the Indus Valley began. 2. Harappan cities don t have large monumental buildings [like those in Mesopotamia or Egypt], he said, but that doesn t mean they were not prosperous [these were] very clean and well planned, hygienic cities. 3. Monarchy and republican rule leave different imprints on a city, he said. Dholavira looks like a monarchy. The rest of the cities of Harappa are republican. What additional piece of evidence helps create the MOST COMPLETE argument that Harappa was more technologically advanced than previously understood.? (A) (B) (C) (D) Identifying the remains of the Harappan culture, the first great civilization in the Indus Valley of India and Pakistan, pushed back the dates of the dawn of cities and writing in South Asia by 2,000 years, and has shattered old notions of what was done first where and by whom. While it s difficult to say for certain whether these ideas began in India and spread, began elsewhere and spread to India, or began elsewhere independently, the Harappan discoveries show that south Asia was a far more innovative and advanced center of civilization than people knew before just a few decades ago. There are many theories and aspects to the eventual decline of Harappan civilization, said Shinde, but he added that the tradition and legacy continue till today. Many people still look at the development of the ancient world as a violent and formulaic process, where tribal chiefs become powerful despots who use religion to force people into doing their will and building their self-indulgent monuments. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 7

8 2 Read the paragraph from the section "Origins and legacy of Indus Valley art." Text on any other Mesopotamian seals from the period follows a completely different formula, so these unusual inscriptions might very well represent translations of whatever is on the Harappan seals, a first clue at decoding this ancient script. Which of the following conclusions can be drawn from the quote? (A) (B) (C) (D) The Harappan writing system, although not fully decoded, is more advanced than the Mesopotamian system. Writing was carefully controlled in Harappa by rulers, and scribes were often isolated from other people. The Harappan culture was actively involved in trading and communicating with distant societies. The imperfect translations that were discovered suggest that writing existed in Harappa before it arrived in Mesopotamia. 3 Which of the following statements accurately represents the relationship between the article's central ideas? (A) (B) (C) (D) The relatively recent discoveries of Harappan artifacts prove that technology and agriculture moved west. The legacy of many of the advances from Harappa continue in modern cities. The lack of large monuments has led to Harappa being less significant than other ancient cultures. Religion was a major part of Harappan life but those ceremonies may have taken place in the open air. The Harappans were active traders and developed systems to communicate with distant cultures such as Mesopotamia. Much of the Harappan language remains to be decoded. The Harappan society is far more innovative and advanced than it was thought to be. Recent discoveries at Harappa are changing our understanding of the ancient world. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 8

9 4 Read the following two details from the article. One of the biggest mysteries for many people concerning Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley is the lack of monumental temples, as are seen in Mesopotamia and Egypt. So perhaps these cities had just as much ceremony and religion as any other, they were simply practiced in the open air, without the need of massive architecture. Select the option that BEST explains how these details develop a central idea of the article. (A) (B) (C) (D) Both details suggest that the lack of monuments is evidence that the Harappan civilization was more recent than those in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Both details reflect that the lack of religious monuments has caused many archaeologists to assume Harappa was less significant than Egypt or Mesopotamia. Both details contribute examples of other societies' religious practices that suggest Harappa should be better known. Both details provide an explanation of why a highly organized society like Harappa would not build religious monuments. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 9

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