July / August  2006




August/September Contents 

Sufis - wisdom against

 Sufi poet saints

 50 years of mountain

 Interviews with:
 Ajaz Anwar
Iqbal Hussain
Kamil Mumtaz

 Heritage cities:
 Taxila Dharmrajika
 Bhera - Part I
Bhera - Part II


Cotton - the fibre of

Cotton textiles of
 South Asia

 Handlooms & Dyes

 Hiran Minar


 Lahore Gymkhana

 B2B - Part I

B2B - Part II

Optical Networks I
Optical Networks II

Role of Internet in
 S Asian development

Technology and
 investment in US
 stock markets

Security & Trust in
 Internet banking

 Telecom & software
 - trends & future in
 South Asia

China & India - major
 players by 2025

Pakistan - IT Markets
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV









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Page  5  of  6

Harappan Heritage


Salman Minhas 

First published June 2005


Culture, Technology, Trade:


The ENIGMA of Harappa:

IVC products in SUMER- IRAQ :

Indus seals and other artifacts are not clustered in any meaningful manner. Their existence in this distant region, however, begs the question as to the means and implication of their transport into / Sumer / Meso-potamia. Were they exchanged as use-values or commodity–values [luxury items ]. Were they carried to Sumer /Mesopotamia by long-distance sea-faring Harappan traders? It is true that there was trade in wood and that ship-building at Lothal was highly advanced. In later years [AD900 to 1700 ] it is said that Thatta used to build ships for Egypt. If so, were these simply free spirited wanderers or members of a strongly commercial enterprise designed to exploit peripheral regions and bring some sort of power, wealth, or prestige to their central homelands? Were the Harappans residing in Sumer solely responsible for the existence of these artifacts in Mesopotamia? Again, the Indus scholar is faced with many questions, but very few answers.


It is fascinating to note that essentially no material remains have been found in an Indus setting with certain Mesopotamian origin. Why do Indus artifacts appear in Mesopotamia, but not vice-versa? The best explanation to date is that the Indus peoples traded in perishable materials, such as 'garments, wool, perfumed oil, and leather products' from Sumer [Dales 1979]. While to a degree this seems logical, it is unsettling to rely yet again on 'the accident of archaeology' as an explanation. One has to wonder why the Harappans would have imported leather items when the breeding and usage of cattle was central to their entire civilization. Why travel thousands of miles for something available down the city block/ street?

"While there may have been raw materials involved in the long distance trade between the Indus Valley, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and Mesopotamia, we see no reason to argue that Harappa or any other sites of the Indus Civilization were in any way solely or even significantly dependent on the regions to the west for such raw materials……………………….." [ Nayanjot Lahiri ].

While Lahiri's observations may be true for the civilization's type site, this does not in any way necessitate their veracity for the other sites scattered across the approximately 425,000 square miles of the IVC -- much larger than the Sumerian civilization.

Exciting work continues at Harappa, and at sites in India like Dholavira and Rakigarhi; both are near what may be the lost Sarasvati River, which once ran parallel to the Indus and may have been equally important. The largest known Indus culture site, Ganweriwala in Pakistan's Cholistan desert, was only found in the late 1970s and has yet to be excavated.

Above all it is the red-black pottery of those ancient times that has been revived with all the old motifs of those ancient times.


Harappan Potters wheel :

The potter’s wheel was a central technology introduced by the Harappans and the Sumerians at about early Kot Diji Phase [ 2800-2600B.C.] . Utensils made in the Ravi Phase were hand made pots. Towards the end of the Ravi Phase (Period 3300-2800], the potter's wheel began to be used .Terra-cotta ceramics were fired at high temperatures to make stoneware bangles using technologies re-invented only centuries later in China.

Harappa Potter – M.Nawaz.

Nawaz and the largest pot he has crafted

Harappan pottery is currently being made by the local potter -Mohammed Nawaz. He uses black color from a local stone called "Kali Giri" and a red ochre color to enhance the color of the clay [ chikni mitti ] and to paint black Harappa patterns [ motifs of fish, the Peepal tree – Ficus Religosa] on his red pottery. In 1998 , Nawaz went to Madison , Wisconsin University to train students for two weeks under the management of Professor Mark Kenoyer, a leading Harappan archaeologist from University of Wisconsin] in USA. Nawaz currently makes pottery and exhibits his work in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad at Lok Virsa – the folk culture institution. His pottery is shown here in a few pictures.

Pottery creations of Nawaz

Horse-playing in Harappa .

The wheel based cart was a major contribution of the Harappa and the Sumerian-Mesopotamian civilizations.

The uniqueness of the Indus valley [Harappan- MohenjoDaro] civilization lies in the fact that the horse (Equus caballus) was absent from India before around 2000 BC. Even in 1700 BC, when archaeology first attests its presence in the Indus plains below the Bolan [near Quetta- Baluchistan] pass. Thus archaeologists such as J.M. Kenoyer , Professor Ahmed Hasan Dani, and Asko Parpola [ Indus script expert] highlight this fact when discussing the Aryan Indus invasions from the central Asian areas. Hence the argument No Horse , no Aryans . – as the horse figures heavily in Vedic texts.

The horse, a steppe animal from the semi-temperate zone, was not referred to in the Middle East until the end of the third millennium B.C., when it first shows up in Sumerian as anshe kur (mountain ass) or anshe.zi.zi (speedy ass). Before horses, the only equids in the Near East were the donkey and the half-ass (hemione, onager). The nearly un-trainable hemiones look a bit like horses and can interbreed with them, as can donkeys. In India, the hemione or khor (Equus hemionus khur) was the only equid known before the horse; a few specimens still survive in the Rann of Kutch.

However according to B.B.,Lal in his essay "It is time to Rethink" [Ch. 1.8 from the book "The Decline & Fall of the Indus civilization" Permanent Black 2000, edited by Nayanjot Lahiri & in " The Earliest Civilizations of South Asia" , New Delhi , Aryan Books International, 1997.] the horse argument is given a further deadly blow by discoveries of terracotta horses at Kalibangan and Lothal and MohenjoDaro. Remains at Kalibangan, Lothal and Mehrgarh–Nausharo [ see J.F. Jarrige – in press – Excavations at Mehrgarh-Nausharo1990-1994 – Report submitted to the Director General of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan – unpublished but privately circulated ] also reveal horse teeth and bones.

So, one is left asking for more data and more excavations to further clear this puzzle. There have even been attempts by the BJP government in rewriting Vedic history by the hoax of one scholar that converted one of the IVC seals of a unicorn into a horse .[ see Frontline magazine site article -- ] .


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