Mehrgarh

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Mehrgarh
مہرگڑھ
Mehrgarh is located in Pakistan
Mehrgarh
Shown within Pakistan
Alternate name Mehrgahr, Merhgarh, Merhgahr
Location Dhadar, Balochistan, Pakistan
Coordinates 29°23′N 67°37′E / 29.383°N 67.617°E / 29.383; 67.617Coordinates: 29°23′N 67°37′E / 29.383°N 67.617°E / 29.383; 67.617
History
Founded Approximately 7000 BCE
Abandoned Approximately 2600 BCE
Periods Neolithic
Site notes
Excavation dates 1974–1986, 1997–2000
Archaeologists Jean-François Jarrige, Catherine Jarrige

Mehrgarh (Balochi: Mehrgaŕh, Urdu: مہرگڑھHindi: महरगढ़), sometimes Anglicized as Mehrgahr, Merhgarh or Merhgahr is one of the most important Neolithic (7000 BCE to c. 2500 BCE) sites in archaeology. It lies on the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, Pakistan. It is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding in South Asia.[1]

Map of Pakistan showing Hehrgarh in relation to the cities of Quetta, Kalat, and Sibi and the Kachi Plain of Balochistan.

Mehrgarh is located near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River valley and between the 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. The earliest settlement at Mehrgarh, in the northeast corner of the 495-acre (2.00 km2) site, was a small farming village that has been dated to between 7000 BCE to 5500 BCE. The whole area covers a number of successive settlements. Archaeological material has been found in six mounds, and about 32,000 artifacts have been collected.[2]

Lifestyle and technology[edit]

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.[3] Mehrgarh is probably the earliest known center of agriculture in South Asia.[4]

Archaeological significance[edit]

Mehrgarh is now seen as a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization. "Discoveries at Mehrgarh changed the entire concept of the Indus civilization," according to Ahmad Hasan Dani, professor emeritus of archaeology at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, "There we have the whole sequence, right from the beginning of settled village life." According to Catherine Jarrige of the Centre for Archaeological Research Indus Baluchistan at the Musée Guimet in Paris:

"…the Kachi plain and in the Bolan basin (are) situated at the Bolan peak pass, one of the main routes connecting southern Afghanistan, eastern Iran, the Balochistan hills and the Indus River valley. This area of rolling hills is thus located on the western edge of the Indus valley, where, around 2500 BCE, a large urban civilization emerged at the same time as those of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Egypt. For the first time in the Indian Subcontinent, a continuous sequence of dwelling-sites has been established from 7000 BCE to 500 BCE, (as a result of the) explorations in Pirak from 1968 to 1974; in Mehrgarh from 1975 to 1985; and of Nausharo from 1985 to 1996."

The chalcolithic people of Mehrgarh also had contacts with contemporaneous cultures in northern Afghanistan, northeastern Iran and southern central Asia.[5]

Periods of occupation[edit]

Archaeologists divide the occupation at the site into several periods.

Mehrgarh Period I[edit]

Mehrgarh Period I 7000 BCE–5500 BCE, was Neolithic and aceramic (i.e., 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 the South Asia. Periods I, II and III are contemporaneous with another site called Kili Gul Mohammed.

In 2001, archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh made the discovery that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization, from the early Harappan periods, had knowledge of proto-dentistry. Later, 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."[6]

Mehrgarh Period II and Period III[edit]

Mehrgarh Period II 5500 BCE4800 BCE and Merhgarh Period III 4800 BCE3500 BCE were ceramic Neolithic (i.e., pottery was now in use) and later chalcolithic. Period II is at site MR4 and period III is at MR2.[2] 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 covering of red ochre 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.[2]

The Neolithic
Mesolithic
Fertile crescent
Levantine corridor
Heavy Neolithic
Shepherd Neolithic
Trihedral Neolithic
Qaraoun culture
Tahunian culture
Yarmukian Culture
Halaf culture
Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period
Ubaid culture
Byblos
Jericho
Pre-Pottery (A, B)
Tell Aswad
Çatalhöyük
Jarmo
Europe
Boian culture
Cernavodă culture
Coțofeni culture
Cucuteni-Trypillian culture
Dudeşti culture
Gorneşti culture
Gumelniţa–Karanovo culture
Hamangia culture
Linear Pottery culture
Malta Temples
Petreşti culture
Sesklo culture
Tisza culture
Tiszapolgár culture
Usatovo culture
Varna culture
Vinča culture
Vučedol culture
Neolithic Transylvania
Neolithic Southeastern Europe
China
Peiligang culture
Pengtoushan culture
Beixin culture
Cishan culture
Dadiwan culture
Houli culture
Xinglongwa culture
Xinle culture
Zhaobaogou culture
Hemudu culture
Daxi culture
Majiabang culture
Yangshao culture
Hongshan culture
Dawenkou culture
Liangzhu culture
Majiayao culture
Qujialing culture
Longshan culture
Baodun culture
Shijiahe culture
Erlitou culture
Tibet
South Asia
Mehrgarh

farming, animal husbandry
pottery, metallurgy, wheel
circular ditches, henges, megaliths
Neolithic religion

Chalcolithic

Mehrgarh Periods IV, V and VI[edit]

A figurine from Mehrgarh, c. 3000 BCE. (Musée Guimet, Paris)

Period IV was 3500 to 3250 BCE. Period V from 3250 to 3000 BCE and period VI was around 3000 BCE.[7] The site containing Periods IV to VII is designated as MR1.[2]

Mehrgarh Period VII[edit]

Somewhere between 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE,[citation needed] the city seems to have been largely abandoned in favor of the new nearby settlement of Nausharo when the Indus Valley Civilisation was in its middle stages of development.

Mehrgarh Period VIII[edit]

The last period is found at the Sibri cemetery, about 8 kilometers from Mehrgarh.[2]

Artifacts[edit]

Human figurines[edit]

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".[8][9][10]

Pottery[edit]

Evidence of pottery begins from Period II. In period III, the finds becomes much more abundant as the potter's wheel is introduced, and they show more intricate designs and also animal motifs.[2] 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.[11] Some sophisticated firing techniques were used from Period VI and VII and an area reserved for the pottery industry has been found at mound MRI. However, by Period VIII, the quality and intricacy of designs seems to have suffered due to mass production, and due to a growing interest in bronze and copper vessels.[7]

Metallurgy[edit]

Metal finds have dated as early as Period IIB, with a few copper items.[2][11]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hirst, K. Kris. 2005. "Mehrgarh". Guide to Archaeology
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sharif, M; Thapar, B. K. (1999). "Food-producing Communities in Pakistan and Northern India". In Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson. History of civilizations of Central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 128–137. ISBN 978-81-208-1407-3. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  3. ^ Possehl, Gregory L. 1996. "Mehrgarh." Oxford Companion to Archaeology, edited by Brian Fagan. Oxford University Press
  4. ^ Meadow, Richard H. (1996). David R. Harris, ed. The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. Psychology Press. pp. 393–. ISBN 978-1-85728-538-3. Retrieved 10 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Kenoyer, J. Mark, and Kimberly Heuston. 2005. The Ancient South Asian World. Oxford University Press. 176 pages. ISBN 0-19-517422-4.
  6. ^ Coppa, A. et al. 2006. "Early Neolithic tradition of dentistry: Flint tips were surprisingly effective for drilling tooth enamel in a prehistoric population." Nature. Volume 440. 6 April 2006.
  7. ^ a b Maisels, Charles Keith. Early Civilizations of the Old World. Routledge. pp. 190–193. 
  8. ^ Upinder Singh. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. pp. 130–. Retrieved 10 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Sarah M. Nelson (February 2007). Worlds of gender: the archaeology of women's lives around the globe. Rowman Altamira. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-0-7591-1084-7. Retrieved 10 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Sharif, M; Thapar, B. K. "Food-producing Communities in Pakistan and Northern India". History of civilizations of Central Asia. pp. 254–256. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Upinder Singh (1 September 2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. pp. 103–105. ISBN 978-81-317-1120-0. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]