Monday, October 4, 2021

Ceramic traditions and ceramic landscapes of the Indus Civilisation: investigating the technologies and socio-economic complexity of rural pottery production in Bronze Age northwest India. 

This thesis explores the technological choices made by rural communities of the Indus Civilisation (c.2600-1900BC) by analysing ceramic materials from three villages in north-west India. The Indus Civilisation has typically been characterised as a society that underwent a broadly homogeneous development, and continuity and transformations of ceramic industries have previously been studied through the use of relatively simplified models of diffusion. The small number of large-scale settlements that are referred to as cities have typically been used to characterise the technological, social and cultural behaviours across the vast zone occupied by Indus Civilisation populations. Within this region, the processes of urbanisation and deurbanisation are much debated, and it has been suggested that climate change played a role in socio-cultural transformations. However, rural dynamics, including lifestyles, craft production and knowledge-scapes are often perceived as being marginal. The rural settlements that have been studied are located at varying distances from large-scale sites, each showing a range of phases of occupation chronologically spanning from the early phases of Indus urban development, to the late urban and post-urban phases. The diversity of settlements has made it possible to explore the impact of societal and climatic changes on ceramic industries, and to assess how communities interacted with variable environments, as well as their technological transformations over time. Through the use of macroscopic and archaeometric analyses of pottery, integrated with ethno-archaeological observations, Indus ceramic traditions have been identified within the rural context. Here craft traditions are presented as a medium for understanding the functional variability of ceramics, as well as the variability of associated socio-cultural groups characterising each site. This approach has made it possible to reconstruct more diverse industries than previously thought, and offered a glimpse into synchronic Indus social networks among villages, as well as their diachronic transformations. The resulting picture suggests that rural social complexity and interactions facilitated the reproduction of a resilient, adaptable, yet mutating system of ceramic traditions. These traditions partially transformed during the Indus Civilisation’s phases of urbanisation and deurbanisation. Rural ceramic landscapes adapted to, and were enriched by broader variable social and physical environments, yet maintained their own characteristics and identities.
archaeology, indus, indus civilisation, harappa, ceramic, pottery, petrography, ethnography, india, South Asia, ceramic analysis, archaeometry, chemistry, chaînes opératoires
ERC TwoRains project
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Petrie, Cameron
French, Charles
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




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