Topic: ArtPottery

Last updated: March 27, 2019

The external trade of the Harappan Civilization comprises the Harappan and Harappan related objects found in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Mesopotamia and the Gulf region. In Afghanistan, the most important related discovery is shortughai, approachable from the south side of the Hindukush by the Khowak pass. The came up in response to the Harappan need for Badakhshan lapis, the tin of north Afghnistan and Central Asia, and the horses of Tadjikistan, and it might also represent a traditional geopolitical concern with the region. The miscellaneous Harappan finds in north Afghanistan, mostly carnelian beads etched with white designs and occasional Harappan seals, come from the looted graves of the Bactria area, of which Mazar – i – Sharif may be considered a central point.It is possible that some of these finds are related to the Mature Harappan context. The two earliest calibrated dates from the site of Dashly 3, which shows trefoil designs and humped bulls as decorations on alabaster plates and kidney – shaped vases of steatite as evidence of its Harappan contacts, fall before the mid – third millennium BC, but a number of dates from the same site show the continuity of the site till the middle of the second millennium BC. Apart from two etched carnelian beads at Mundigak, there is no evidence of the Harappan contact with any south Afghanistan site.In South Turkmenia, the major sites which have yielded some evidence of Harappan contact are Altyn Tepe, Namazga Tepe and Gonur Tepe.

The important evidence from Altyn Tepe consists of a square soapstone / alasbaster seal with two Harappan pictographs, a tall perforated cylindrical jar, and etched carnelian bead and possibly segmented faience beads. Namazga has yielded an ithyphallic terracotta figure which as a type can be related to the Harappan Civilization. Tepe has yielded Harappan seal.There are relevant sites in both north and south Iran. In north Iran there are three sites, Hissar, Shah Tepe and Marlik, all yielding primarily etched carnelian beads, although a long barrel – cylinder carnelian bead has also been reported from Marlik.

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The north Iranian route which passes through the southern side of the Elburz range has Hissar and Shah Tepe on it, but Marlik is located to the north of the Elburz.Besides, Marlik is dated between the end of the second millennium and the beginning of the first millennium BC. In view of the generally late date of Marlik, the Harappan finds here may be heirlooms ; on the other hand, they may also suggest a direct contact because the Harappan Civilization itself continued in some form till c. 1300 BC.The relevant south Iranian sites are Shahdad, Tepe Yahya, Jalalbad, Kalleh Nissar, some indeterminate places in Luristan, and Susa. Shahdad is at the edge of the south Iranian desert Dasht -i – Lut, and it yielded a large number of etched carnelian beads.

In addition to an etched carnelian bead found on the surface, Tepe Yahya, located to the southeast of Kirman, yielded a sherd having directly above its base a Harappan pictographs, an etched carnelian bead and a ‘terracotta type’ object with a square sealing in the middle. This square sealing depicts a man seated in the lotus position with a headdress and upraised hands. These examples are all found in Tepe Yahya IVA whorse terminal date, when calibrated, is around 2800 BC. The site of Jalalbad in the Persepolis Plain of Fars yielded 8 long – barrel cylinder carnelian and 3 etched carnelian beads on the surface. Kalleh Nisar in the Luristan region between the Fars plain and southwest Iran yielded an unspecified number of etched carnelian beads. There are also reports of three Harappan seals in Luristan.

There are two Harappan – related seals from Susa, one a cylinder seal with badly done Harappan characters, and the other a circular seal with similar characters. There are also long barrel – cylinder carnelian and etched carnelian beads at Susa. Shahdad, Tepe Yahya, Jalalbad, Kalleh Nisar and Susa all lie on the east to the west southern route of Iran.Shahr -i – Sokhta at its eastern end in Iranian Seistan has shown fragments of a Xancus pyrum shell, which possibly came from the Gujarat coast. There is also a report of a cylinder seal with Harappan inscription from Iranian Seistan. At Jiroft in the Halil Valley of southeastern Iran, the finds of two Harappan seals have been noted.The Harappan and Harappan – related objects occur in Bahrain, Failaka, Sharjah and the Oman peninsula in the Gulf area.

Ras al – Qala (round seals with Harappan pictographs and Harappan weights in the Akkadian level), Hajjar (a pearshaped seal with Harappan characters) and Hamad (a typical Harappan seal) are there in Bahrain. In the Kassite context of Failaka there are two round seals with Harappan characters. At tell Abraq in Sharjah there are two Harappan weights and an ivory comb, the latter assigned to Bactria on account of a flower decoration on it.Ras al – Junayaz in Oman has shown an Harappan inscribed sherd, a typical Harappan steatite seal and an ivory comb in association with the remains of a wooden boat coated with bitumen. More Harappan pottery and beads have been claimed to have been discovered in Oman but the publication details are seldom clear.Harappan and Harappan – related objects, mostly beads and seals, come from both south and north Iraq. There are four indisputably Harappan seals : two from Kish and one each from Lagash and Nippur.

A typical Harappan seal with the impression of cloth on its back was, according to the dealer who sold it, from Umma. Two specimens of rectangular / square seals with concentric square designs which occur in the Harappan context have been found in Mesopotamia, one each from Tell Asmar and Tepe Gawar. There are a least six round seals with a bull and Harappan pictographs from Ur but more finds of this type, although without contexts, have been reported from Ur, Lagash and possibly other sites.

Three cylinder seals in Mesopotamia – two from Ur and one from Tell Asmar – show Harappan influence in the form of humped bull / elephant / rhinoceros. A rectangular stamp seal of dark steatite from Ur was considered by its excavator L. Woolley to be providing evidence of Harappan contact, because the rectangular shape itself is associated with the Harappan.This seal was dated by him to the Royal Graves of the site. The Royal Graves of Ur have also yielded Harappan long barrel – cylinder carnelian and etched carnelian beads. The latter occur at Kish, Nippur, Assur and Tell Asmar as well. There are also miscellaneous bits of evidence cited as proof of Harppan – Mesopotamia contact.

Mention may be made among them of a fragment of steatite vase from Tell Agrab, which shows a humped bull tethered in front of a building. Ur has also yielded a Harappan weight and dice have been reported from Tepe Gawra and Al Hiba. Etched carnelian beads have also been reported from Abu Salabikh and Tell Brak (a site in northeast Syria but very much within the north Mesopotamian orbit).

There are three ithyphallic terracottas as well from Nippur. The foregoing account is a short summary of the actual Harappan artefacts found in the Gulf, Afghanistan, Iran, and north and south Mesopotamia. The chronological range of these finds is from the period of the Royal Graves of Ur, roughly 2600 BC. To the Kassite levels of about the 14th century BC, with a strong focus on the Sargonid context of c.

2325 BC or a little earlier.In the internal area of the Harappan Civilization, a Gulf – type round seal was reported from the surface at Lothal. A seal with the whorl motif has been found in the context about 14th century BC, at Bet dwaraka.

A few cylinder seals showing motifs of the Harappan Civilization occur at Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi and Mohenjodaro. Along with these finds, one has to consider the occurrence of steatite/chlorite vessel fragments bearing hut motif at Mohenjodaro and Dholavira.There is also an area of the study of various motifs and designs, such as the presence of a hero – a ‘Gilgamesh’ – like figure – between two lions/tigers – on a number of seals from Mohenjodaro. This shows that there were other elements of cross – cultural interactions between Mesopotamia on the one hand and the Harappan area on the other. The number of Harappan related artefacts is much more in west and central Asia and the Gulf than vice versa.


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