Archaeological Sites: Mehrgarh – An early Farming Community

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The site of Mehrgarh in Baluchistan, the largest province in Pakistan, is one of the most important Neolithic sites in the field of archaeology. Until its discovery, the earliest agricultural site in the Indus Valley was that of Kili Gul Muhammad. The artefacts at Mehrgarh suggest trade among Pakistan, eastern Iran, and southern Turkmenistan as early as 4000 BCE.

The antiquity of the site is well attested by radiocarbon dating and cross-dating which place the beginning of Period 1A prior to 6000 BCE. Period 1A has yielded human skeletons and dental remains, and we can see quite clearly the transition from pre-pottery hunter-gathers to pottery-using agriculturists with domesticated cattle, sheep and goats into Periods 1B and 2.

Period 1A is given the dates 6500 – 6000 BCE. The houses consisted of rectangular mud-brick structures which were then subdivided into small compartments. It has been suggested that due to their small size, they were used as storage silos instead of habitations.

The dental remains found at Mehrgrah have been able to provide scholars with information regarding the diet of the people living in the area. The site yielded over 200 teeth, of these, 11 adult teeth had drilled holes in them, representing the earliest dental work. Scholars believe that these holes were not intended for decoration, but perhaps pain relief (Bower, p.213).

A number of terracotta figurines have been found from sites in Mehrgarh dating from the fourth millennium BCE. These represent the earliest forms of female imagery (formerly believed to represent the ‘mother goddess’) found in the subcontinent (Elgood, p.331).

Some of the pottery was decorated beautifully with scenes of dancers. One example is a decorated rim fragment of a bowl was found in a Chalcolithic cemetery of the site, dated to the mid-fifth millennium BCE. The shape of the lower part of the figures seems to indicate that they are robed in a kind of skirt. The painting was done in a naturalistic style and is quite similar to items discovered in Iran. Another example was an incomplete pot which Mehrgarh depicts a row of dancing human figures. The three identical figures are presented ‘en face’ holding hands (Garfinkel, p.89 – 90).

The site of Mehrgarh is one of the most important Indus Valley Neolithic sites due to the vast amount of information it has provided. It’s plant and animal remains provides clear evidence of ongoing domestication and the longevity of the site provides a very clear continuity from early farming communities to the later great Indus Valley civilization.

<u>Bibliography</u>:

Bower, Bruce (2006) Mystery Drilling, Science News, Society for Science & The Public.

Coningham, Robin (2005) The Human Past – South Asia: From Early Villages to Buddhism, Thames & Hudson, London.

Elgood, Heather (2004) Exploring the Roots of Village Hinduism in South Asia, World Archaeology, Taylor & Francis.

Garfinkel, Yosef (2003) The Earliest Dancing Scenes in the Near East, Near Eastern Archaeology, The American Schools of Oriental Research.

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