Monday, July 8, 2019

Papers: Indus Civilization- Resilience, Fragility And Rural Complexity

Diversity, variability, adaptation and ‘fragility’in the Indus Civilization- Cameron A. Petrie

We are inheritors of a rural civilisation’: rural complexity and the ceramic economy in the Indus Civilisation in northwest India - Danika Parikh and Cameron A. Petrie

These two recently published papers are worth reading.

The first one reviews settlement patterns, water availability, agricultural strategies and craft production in urban and rural Indus settlements. It draws inferences on the type of power structures and hierarchies that may have prevailed within cities and villages and between different regions. And there is the perennial question on the link between climate change, water stress and the decline of urban sphere of the Indus civilization. There were different response from the urban and rural spheres to environmental stress, with the more flexible and adaptable rural lifeways showing more resilience and sustainability.

"Petrie et al. (2017; Petrie 2017) have suggested that the weakening of the ISM around c. 2200–2100 bc meant that the climate in the subsequent period became ‘unpredictably unpredictable’. By this we meant that before and during the Indus urban phase, populations were familiar with ‘predictable unpredictable’ conditions and their farming strategies were tailored to make use of water supplied by combinations of rainfall, inundation, small-scale irrigation and/or lifted water (cf. Miller 2006). Populations in specific areas across the Indus zone might have been able to survive one, two, or even more years of drought, either through reliance on their own resources, or through support from other regions. However, when this range was exceeded, such as when populations were faced with protracted periods of drought, the local and medium-to-long range provisioning and support networks may not have been able to sustain the status quo. I have suggested that in such a situation, farmers may have had to engage in constant risk mitigation, thereby reducing opportunities to produce surpluses, and in such situations it is possible that living in large groups (i.e. urban centres) was not an option".

The Indus cultural sphere lasted a long time after its cities declined. In the graphic below the upper left and right panels show distribution of settlements during the urban phase with modern winter (left) and summer (right) rainfall contours overlain. The bottom panel shows the post urban settlement patterns. There are denser habitations nearer the Himalaya front in the post urban phase. This shift from Rajasthan, Cholistan and Haryana eastwards and closer to the Himalaya foothills followed more reliable monsoons in that region. Gujarat on the other hand wasn't depopulated as much suggesting regional differences in monsoon strength and varied water harvesting strategies. However, the urban center of Dholavira and nearby settlements were abandoned.

Source: Cameron Petrie

Even the decline of the cities was not a sudden event. Indus societies did not collapse due to any one catastrophic environmental change such as one big river changing course or a very rapid decline in monsoon. Urbanization was at a peak between 2600 B.C and 1900 B.C. But at Mohenjodaro for example, signs of abandonment and depopulation begin by 2200 B.C. On the other, Harappa continued to be occupied throughout the urban phase and well into the late Harappan Phase, although analysis of skeletons do suggest increasing physical stress.

The second paper by Danika Parikh and Cameron Petrie concentrates on bringing out the complexities and variation in rural lifeways and economies. Ceramic products from four Indus age villages in Haryana are analyzed and described and some interesting inferences drawn on urban rural (in)dependence and the socio-economic role of villages in the larger Indus sphere.

"The regional rural ceramic economy innorthwest India was clearly complex and shows a considerable degree of variation. Rural communities produced some ceramic forms similar to Classic Harappan forms, and others that were quite different, and they used some decorativemotifs that were common and others that we had previously not seen. This pattern of similar ceramic forms but different techniques and decoration is particularly interesting, given what we understand of how pottery production is learned. Pottery forming is often learned through ‘vertical transmission’, inter-generationally; shape and decorative motifs are more easily imitated and are often transmitted horizontally, or peer-to-peer (Knappett 2011, 106–107; see also Gosselain 2000). The use of different techniques to produce the same forms suggests that Classic Harappan and Haryana Harappan ceramicmaterial was not produced in the same workshops, and that these potters are unlikely to have been members of the same communities of practice".

The rural populations were not only engaged in agro-pastoralism. Villages had varied occupations such as functioning as workshops for specialized craft production and as factory sites making goods for larger towns and cities.

Open Access.

No comments:

Post a Comment