Mehrgarh is located near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River valley and between the present-day Pakistani cities of Quetta, Kalat and Sibi. The site was discovered in 1974 by an archaeological team directed by French archaeologists Jean-François Jarrige and Catherine Jarrige, and was excavated continuously between 1974 and 1986, and again from 1997 to 2000. Archaeological material has been found in six mounds, and about 32,000 artifacts have been collected. The earliest settlement at Mehrgarh—in the northeast corner of the 495-acre (2.00 km2) site—was a small farming village dated between 7000 BCE to 5500 BCE.
Mehrgarh is now seen as a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization, displaying the whole sequence from earliest settlement and the start of agriculture, to the mature Harappan Civilisation.
Shown within Pakistan
Mehrgarh (Balochistan, Pakistan)
|Alternative name||Mehrgahr, Merhgarh, Merhgahr|
|Location||Dhadar, Balochistan, Pakistan|
|Founded||Approximately 7000 BCE|
|Abandoned||Approximately 2600 BCE|
|Excavation dates||1974–1986, 1997–2000|
|Archaeologists||Jean-François Jarrige, Catherine Jarrige|
|Succeeded by: Indus Valley Civilization|
Mehrgarh is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding in South Asia.[note 1] Mehrgarh was influenced by the Near Eastern Neolithic, with similarities between "domesticated wheat varieties, early phases of farming, pottery, other archaeological artefacts, some domesticated plants and herd animals."[note 2] According to Parpola, the culture migrated into the Indus Valley and became the Indus Valley Civilisation.
Jean-Francois Jarrige argues for an independent origin of Mehrgarh. Jarrige notes "the assumption that farming economy was introduced full-fledged from Near-East to South Asia,"[note 2] and the similarities between Neolithic sites from eastern Mesopotamia and the western Indus valley, which are evidence of a "cultural continuum" between those sites. But given the originality of Mehrgarh, Jarrige concludes that Mehrgarh has an earlier local background," and is not a "'backwater' of the Neolithic culture of the Near East."
Lukacs and Hemphill suggest an initial local development of Mehrgarh, with a continuity in cultural development but a change in population. According to Lukacs and Hemphill, while there is a strong continuity between the neolithic and chalcolithic (Copper Age) cultures of Mehrgarh, dental evidence shows that the chalcolithic population did not descend from the neolithic population of Mehrgarh, which "suggests moderate levels of gene flow." They wrote that "the direct lineal descendents of the Neolithic inhabitants of Mehrgarh are to be found to the south and the east of Mehrgarh, in northwestern India and the western edge of the Deccan plateau," with neolithic Mehrgarh showing greater affinity with chalocolithic Inamgaon, south of Mehrgarh, than with chalcolithic Mehrgarh.[note 3]
Gallego Romero et al. (2011) state that their research on lactose tolerance in India suggests that "the west Eurasian genetic contribution identified by Reich et al. (2009) principally reflects gene flow from Iran and the Middle East." Gallego Romero notes that Indians who are lactose-tolerant show a genetic pattern regarding this tolerance which is "characteristic of the common European mutation." According to Romero, this suggests that "the most common lactose tolerance mutation made a two-way migration out of the Middle East less than 10,000 years ago. While the mutation spread across Europe, another explorer must have brought the mutation eastward to India – likely traveling along the coast of the Persian Gulf where other pockets of the same mutation have been found." They further note that "[t]he earliest evidence of cattle herding in south Asia comes from the Indus River Valley site of Mehrgarh and is dated to 7,000 YBP."[note 4]
Archaeologists divide the occupation at the site into eight periods.
The Mehrgarh Period I (7000 BCE-5500 BCE) was Neolithic and aceramic, without the use of pottery. The earliest farming in the area was developed by semi-nomadic people using plants such as wheat and barley and animals such as sheep, goats and cattle. The settlement was established with simple mud buildings and most of them had four internal subdivisions. Numerous burials have been found, many with elaborate goods such as baskets, stone and bone tools, beads, bangles, pendants and occasionally animal sacrifices, with more goods left with burials of males. Ornaments of sea shell, limestone, turquoise, lapis lazuli and sandstone have been found, along with simple figurines of women and animals. Sea shells from far sea shore and lapis lazuli found as far away as present-day Badakshan, Afghanistan shows good contact with those areas. A single ground stone axe was discovered in a burial, and several more were obtained from the surface. These ground stone axes are the earliest to come from a stratified context in South Asia. Periods I, II and III are contemporaneous with another site called Kili Gul Mohammed.
The aceramic Neolithic phase in the region is now called 'Kili Gul Muhammad phase', and it is dated 7000-5000 BC. Yet the Kili Gul Muhammad site, itself, may have started c. 5500 BC.
In 2001, archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh made the discovery that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization had knowledge of proto-dentistry from the early Harappan periods. In April 2006, it was announced in the scientific journal Nature that the oldest (and first early Neolithic) evidence for the drilling of human teeth in vivo (i.e. in a living person) was found in Mehrgarh. According to the authors, their discoveries point to a tradition of proto-dentistry in the early farming cultures of that region. "Here we describe eleven drilled molar crowns from nine adults discovered in a Neolithic graveyard in Pakistan that dates from 7,500 to 9,000 years ago. These findings provide evidence for a long tradition of a type of proto-dentistry in an early farming culture."
The Mehrgarh Period II (5500 BCE–4800 BCE) and Merhgarh Period III (4800 BCE–3500 BCE) were ceramic Neolithic, using pottery, and later chalcolithic. Period II is at site MR4 and Period III is at MR2. Much evidence of manufacturing activity has been found and more advanced techniques were used. Glazed faience beads were produced and terracotta figurines became more detailed. Figurines of females were decorated with paint and had diverse hairstyles and ornaments. Two flexed burials were found in Period II with a red ochre cover on the body. The amount of burial goods decreased over time, becoming limited to ornaments and with more goods left with burials of females. The first button seals were produced from terracotta and bone and had geometric designs. Technologies included stone and copper drills, updraft kilns, large pit kilns and copper melting crucibles. There is further evidence of long-distance trade in Period II: important as an indication of this is the discovery of several beads of lapis lazuli, once again from Badakshan. Mehrgarh Periods II and III are also contemporaneous with an expansion of the settled populations of the borderlands at the western edge of South Asia, including the establishment of settlements like Rana Ghundai, Sheri Khan Tarakai, Sarai Kala, Jalilpur and Ghaligai.
Somewhere between 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE, the city seems to have been largely abandoned in favor of the larger and fortified town Nausharo five miles away when the Indus Valley Civilization was in its middle stages of development. Historian Michael Wood suggests this took place around 2500 BCE.
The last period is found at the Sibri cemetery, about 8 kilometers from Mehrgarh.
Early Mehrgarh residents lived in mud brick houses, stored their grain in granaries, fashioned tools with local copper ore, and lined their large basket containers with bitumen. They cultivated six-row barley, einkorn and emmer wheat, jujubes and dates, and herded sheep, goats and cattle. Residents of the later period (5500 BCE to 2600 BCE) put much effort into crafts, including flint knapping, tanning, bead production, and metal working. Mehrgarh is probably the earliest known center of agriculture in South Asia.
The oldest known example of the lost-wax technique comes from a 6,000-year-old wheel-shaped copper amulet found at Mehrgarh. The amulet was made from unalloyed copper, an unusual innovation that was later abandoned.
The oldest ceramic figurines in South Asia were found at Mehrgarh. They occur in all phases of the settlement and were prevalent even before pottery appears. The earliest figurines are quite simple and do not show intricate features. However, they grow in sophistication with time and by 4000 BC begin to show their characteristic hairstyles and typical prominent breasts. All the figurines up to this period were female. Male figurines appear only from period VII and gradually become more numerous. Many of the female figurines are holding babies, and were interpreted as depictions of the "mother goddess". However, due to some difficulties in conclusively identifying these figurines with the "mother goddess", some scholars prefer using the term "female figurines with likely cultic significance".
Evidence of pottery begins from Period II. In period III, the finds become much more abundant as the potter's wheel is introduced, and they show more intricate designs and also animal motifs. The characteristic female figurines appear beginning in Period IV and the finds show more intricate designs and sophistication. Pipal leaf designs are used in decoration from Period VI. Some sophisticated firing techniques were used from Period VI and VII and an area reserved for the pottery industry has been found at mound MR1. However, by Period VIII, the quality and intricacy of designs seem to have suffered due to mass production, and due to a growing interest in bronze and copper vessels.
There are two types of burials in the Mehrgarh site. There were individual burials where a single individual was enclosed in narrow mud walls and collective burials with thin mud brick walls within which skeletons of six different individuals were discovered. The bodies in the collective burials were kept in a flexed position and were laid east to west. Child bones were found in large jars or urn burials (4000~3300 BCE).
Mehrgarh is now seen as a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization. According to Ahmad Hasan Dani, professor emeritus of archaeology at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, "discoveries at Mehrgarh changed the entire concept of the Indus civilization [...] There we have the whole sequence, right from the beginning of settled village life."
|The Neolithic |
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Pakistan is home to many archaeological sites dating from Lower Paleolithic period to Mughal empire. The earliest known archaeological findings belong to the Soanian culture from the Soan Valley, near modern-day Islamabad. Soan Valley culture is considered as the best known Palaeolithic culture of Central Asia.Mehrgarh in Balochistan is one of the most important Neolithic sites dating from 7000 BCE to 2000 BCE. The Mehrgarh culture was amongst the first culture in the world to establish agriculture and livestock and live in villages. Mehrgarh civilization lasted for 5000 years till 2000 BCE after which people migrated to other areas, possibly Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Harappa and Mohenjo-daro are the best known sites from the Indus Valley civilization (c 2500 - 1900 BCE).Archaeology in Pakistan
Pakistan contains some of the oldest archaeological discoveries of the world. The country is home to many archaeological sites dating from Lower Paleolithic period to Mughal empire. The earliest known archaeological findings belong to the Soanian culture from the Soan Valley, near modern-day Islamabad. Soan Valley culture is considered as the best known Palaeolithic culture of Central Asia.The Mehrgarh culture was amongst the first cultures in the world to establish agriculture and livestock and live in villages. Mehrgarh civilization lasted for 5000 years till 2000 BCE after which people migrated to other areas, possibly Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Harappa and Mohenjo-daro are the best known sites from the Indus Valley civilization (c 2500 - 1900 BCE). The earliest evidence of civilization in Pakistan can be found on the west banks of the Bolan River and the plains of Kachhi at Mehrgarh. Artifacts found in a 1979 excavation by the Pakistan Archaeology department and a team of French archaeologists can be dated back to 7000 BC. They were able to divide the Mehrgarh culture into three categories:
Mehrgarh Period I- 7000 to 5500 BC, was an aceramic settlement with primitive means of agriculture and livestock. They lived in simple mud buildings and buried their dead with many elaborate goods.
Mehrharn Period II- 5500 to 4800 BC, was a ceramic settlement that showed strong evidence of having manufacturing activity such as copper and stone drills and more technological kilns. The amount of riches buried with the dead decreased over time.
Mehrgarn Period III- 4800 to 3500 BC, many similarities to Period II.
Mehrharn Period IV- 2600 to 2000 BC, much of the city was abandoned as the Indus Valley Civilization was being born and its inhabitants migrated there.Twenty miles north of Islamabad the ancient city of Taxila can be found. Taxila, also known as the city of stones, thrived between the years of 518 BC and 600 AD, and in its prime was one of the most flourishing civilizations between the Indus and Jhelum rivers. Alexander the Great led troops through Taxila in 326 BC and he claimed it as part of his vast kingdom until it was conquered by the Mauryan Empire in 300 BC. After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, Taxila was taken back by followers of Alexander in 190 BC. Taxila owed much of it success to the fact that it was located at the intersection of the three major trade routes of India and Central and Western Asia.Archaeology in Pakistan is conducted under the direction of Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) of Ministry of Heritage and National Integration of Pakistan.Copper Age state societies
The Chalcolithic or Copper Age is the transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.
It is taken to begin around the mid-5th millennium BC, and ends with the beginning of the Bronze Age proper, in the late 4th to 3rd millennium BC, depending on the region.
The Chalcolithic is part of prehistory, but based on archaeological evidence, the emergence of the first state societies can be inferred, notably in the Fertile Crescent (Sumer, predynastic Egypt, Protominoan Crete), with late Neolithic societies of comparable complexity emerging in the Indus Valley (Mehrgarh) and in China.
The development of states—large-scale, populous, politically centralized, and socially stratified polities/societies governed by powerful rulers—marks one of the major milestones in the evolution of human societies. Archaeologists often distinguish between primary (or pristine) states and secondary states. Primary states evolved independently through largely internal developmental processes rather than through the influence of any other pre-existing state.
The earliest known primary states appeared in Mesopotamia c. 3700 BC, in Egypt c. 3300 BC,
in the Indus Valley c. 3300 BC,
and in China c. 1600 BC.Dravidian people
Dravidian people or Dravidians are speakers of any of the Dravidian languages. There are around 245 million native speakers of Dravidian languages. Dravidian speakers form the majority of the population of south India and are natively found in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.Proto-Dravidian may have been spoken in the Indus civilization, suggesting a "tentative date of Proto-Dravidian around the early part of the third millennium", after which it branched into various Dravidian languages. South Dravidian I (including pre-Tamil) and South Dravidian II (including pre-Telugu) split around the eleventh century BCE, with the other major branches splitting off at around the same time.The origins of the Dravidians are a "very complex subject of research and debate". They may have been indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, but origins in, or influence from, West-Asia have also been proposed. Their origins are often viewed as being connected with the Indus Valley Civilisation, whence people and language spread east- and southwards after the demise of the Indus Valley Civilisation in the early second millenium BCE, concurrently with the arrival of Indo-Aryan speakers, with whom they intensively interacted. From these interactions and migrations arose eventually the so-called "Hindus synthesis", after 500 BCE.The third century BCE onwards saw the development of large kingdoms in South India. Medieval Tamil guilds and trading organisations like the "Ayyavole and Manigramam" played an important role in the Southeast Asia trade. and the cultural Indianisation of the region.
Dravidian visual art is dominated by stylised Temple architecture in major centres, and the production of images of stone and bronze sculptures. The sculpture dating from the Chola period has become notable as a symbol of Hinduism.Hacilar
Hacilar is an early human settlement in southwestern Turkey, 23 km south of present-day Burdur. It has been dated back 7040 BC at its earliest stage of development. Archaeological remains indicate that the site was abandoned and reoccupied on more than one occasion in its history.History of agriculture in the Indian subcontinent
Indian agriculture began by 9000 BCE as a result of early cultivation of plants, and domestication of crops and animals. Settled life soon followed with implements and techniques being developed for agriculture. Double monsoons led to two harvests being reaped in one year. Indian products soon reached the world via existing trading networks and foreign crops were introduced to India. Plants and animals—considered essential to their survival by the Indians—came to be worshiped and venerated.The middle ages saw irrigation channels reach a new level of sophistication in India and Indian crops affecting the economies of other regions of the world. Land and water management systems were developed with an aim of providing uniform growth. Despite some stagnation during the later modern era the independent Republic of India was able to develop a comprehensive agricultural programme.Indus Valley Civilisation
The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. Along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia it was one of three early civilisations of the region comprising North Africa, West Asia and South Asia, and of the three, the most widespread, its sites spanning an area stretching from northeast Afghanistan, through much of Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India. It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, and along a system of perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.The civilisation's cities were noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, and new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). The large cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa very likely grew to containing between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals, and the civilisation itself during its florescence may have contained between one and five million individuals. Gradual drying of the region's soil during the 3rd millennium BCE may have been the initial spur for the urbanisation associated with the civilisation, but eventually also reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation's demise, and to scatter its population eastward.The Indus civilisation is also known as the Harappan Civilisation, after its type site, Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated early in the 20th century in what was then the Punjab province of British India and now is Pakistan. The discovery of Harappa and soon afterwards Mohenjo-Daro was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India during the British Raj. There were however earlier and later cultures often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan in the same area; for this reason, the Harappan civilisation is sometimes called the Mature Harappan to distinguish it from these other cultures. By 2002, over 1,000 Mature Harappan cities and settlements had been reported, of which just under a hundred had been excavated, However, there are only 5 major urban sites: Harappa, Mohenjo-daro (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dholavira, Ganeriwala in Cholistan, and Rakhigarhi. The early Harappan cultures were preceded by local Neolithic agricultural villages, from which the river plains were populated.The Harappan language is not directly attested, and its affiliation is uncertain since the Indus script is still undeciphered. A relationship with the Dravidian or Elamo-Dravidian language family is favoured by a section of scholars.Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli (), or lapis for short, is a deep blue metamorphic rock used as a semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense color.
As early as the 7th millennium BCE, lapis lazuli was mined in the Sar-i Sang mines, in Shortugai, and in other mines in Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan.Lapis was highly valued by the Indus Valley Civilisation (3300–1900 BC) and Lapis beads have been found at Neolithic burials in Mehrgarh, the Caucasus, and even as far from Afghanistan as Mauritania. It was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BCE).At the end of the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli began to be exported to Europe, where it was ground into powder and made into ultramarine: the finest and most expensive of all blue pigments. It was used by some of the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, including Masaccio, Perugino, Titian and Vermeer, and was often reserved for the clothing of the central figures of their paintings, especially the Virgin Mary.List of cultural heritage sites in Balochistan, Pakistan
According to the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency's report published on protected areas in 1997, Balochistan has 27 archaeological sites and monuments protected by the Federal Government. These include the province's only national monument; Ziarat Residency. Additionally it has one site on the tentative world heritage list, Mehrgarh.Of the some 400 sites and monuments protected under the Antiquities Act 1975, the province contains seven sites in Category 1, eight in Category II and fourteen in Category III.Mudbrick
A mudbrick or mud-brick is an air-dried brick, made of a mixture of loam, mud, sand and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. Though mudbricks are known from 7000-6000 BCE, since 4000 BC, bricks have also been fired, to increase their strength and durability.
In warm regions with very little timber available to fuel a kiln, bricks were generally sun dried. In some cases, brickmakers extended the life of mud bricks by putting fired bricks on top or covering them with stucco.Nausharo
Nausharo is located in Balochistan, Pakistan. It is well known as an archaeological site for the Harappan period. The excavations were carried out between 1985 and 1996 by a French team of archaeologists, under the direction of Jean-François Jarrige. The other sites belonging to the same cluster are Mehrgarh and Pirak.Peiligang culture
The Peiligang culture was a Neolithic culture in the Yi-Luo river basin (in modern Henan Province, China) that existed from 7000 to 5000 BC. Over 100 sites have been identified with the Peiligang culture, nearly all of them in a fairly compact area of about 100 square kilometers in the area just south of the river and along its banks.Periodisation of the Indus Valley Civilisation
Several periodisations are employed for the periodisation of the Indus Valley Civilisation. While the Indus Valley Civilisation was divided into Early, Mature and Late Harappan by archaeologists like Mortimer Wheeler, newer periodisations include the Neolithic early farming settlements, and use a Stage-Phase model, often combining terminology from various systems.Pirak
Pirak (Urdu: پیراک) is an archaeological site belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization located in Balochistan, Pakistan. It is 20 km south of Sibi east of the Nari River. The mound is 8m high and covers approximately 12 acres (49,000 m2). The site of Pirak was first reported by Robert Raikes in 1963. It was excavated, between 1968 and 1974, before the well known sites of Mehrgarh or Nausharo by the French archaeological mission team led by Jean Marie Casal. According to the excavator, this site was occupied from c.1800 BCE to 800 BCE.Pottery Neolithic
The Pottery Neolithic (abbreviated PN) began around 6,400 BC in the Fertile Crescent, succeeding the period of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. By then distinctive cultures emerged, with pottery like the Halafian (Turkey, Syria, Northern Mesopotamia) and Ubaid (Southern Mesopotamia). This period has been further divided into PNA (Pottery Neolithic A) and PNB (Pottery Neolithic B) at some sites.The Chalcolithic (Stone-Bronze) period began about 4500 BC, then the Bronze Age began about 3500 BC with the invention of writing, replacing the Neolithic cultures and starting the historical period.Pre-Pottery Neolithic
The Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) represents the early Neolithic in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent, dating to c. 12,000 – c. 8,500 years ago, that is 10,000-6,500 BCE. It succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipalaeolithic Near East (also called Mesolithic), as the domestication of plants and animals was in its formative stages, having possibly been induced by the Younger Dryas. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture came to an end around the time of the 8.2 kiloyear event, a cool spell centred on 6200 BCE that lasted several hundred years. It is succeeded by the Pottery Neolithic.Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) denotes the first stage of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, in early Levantine and Anatolian Neolithic culture, dating to c. 12,000 – c. 10,800 years ago, that is, 10,000-8,800 BCE. Archaeological remains are located in the Levantine and Upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent.
The time period is characterized by tiny circular mud brick dwellings, the cultivation of crops, the hunting of wild game, and unique burial customs in which bodies were buried below the floors of dwellings.The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). During this time, pottery was not yet in use. They precede the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian). PPNA succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic).South Asian Stone Age
The South Asian Stone Age covers the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods in South Asia. Evidence for the most ancient anatomically modern Homo sapiens in South Asia has been found in the cave sites of Cudappah of India, Batadombalena and Belilena in Sri Lanka. In Mehrgarh, in what is today western Pakistan, the Neolithic began c. 7000 BCE and lasted until 3300 BCE and the first beginnings of the Bronze Age. In South India, the Mesolithic lasted until 3000 BCE, and the Neolithic until 1400 BCE, followed by a Megalithic transitional period mostly skipping the Bronze Age. The Iron Age began roughly simultaneously in North and South India, around c. 1200 to 1000 BCE (Painted Grey Ware culture, Hallur).Çayönü
Çayönü Tepesi is a Neolithic settlement in southeastern Turkey which prospered from circa 8,630 to 6,800 BC. It is located forty kilometres north-west of Diyarbakır, at the foot of the Taurus mountains. It lies near the Boğazçay, a tributary of the upper Tigris River and the Bestakot, an intermittent stream.
|History and culture|
|Language and script|
|Indus Valley sites in Pakistan|
|Indus Valley sites in India|
|Indus Valley sites in Afghanistan|