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ANT100Y1 Lecture Notes - Indus Valley Civilisation

Course Code
Christopher Watts

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Typically associated with chiefdoms and states
Eastern North America
SW North America
Recall: Chiefdoms
Nile Valley ca. 3000 BC
Indus Valley ca. 2500 BC
North China ca. 2000 BC
Mesoamerica ca. 1500 BC
South America ca. 1500 BC
Ancient "High" Civilizations
Recall: States (Pre-Industrial)
Means of production and how technology comes to be appropriated to meet
ends of production
Centralized authorities with power to tax surplus production derived from intensive
land use and increased productivity
For V. Gordon Childe (1952), states were:
e.g., no writing in Ancient South America (Peru)
e.g., little evidence of ostentatious display of power in Harappan (Indus Valley)
Importantly, not all of these indicators are present in all ancient civilizations
What is Complex Society?
Large-scale irrigation systems were crucial
Required co-ordination and control over large numbers of people and resources
Ruling class maintains authority through control of water
Karl Wittfogel (1957) - Irrigation
Populations hemmed in by geographical barriers and/or neighbours expand through
Centralized government emerges first to mobilize armies and then control
territory/conquered peoples
Robert Carneiro (1970) - Population Pressure
Mesopotamia - stone, wood
Lowland Maya - salt, obsidian
A number of major states emerge in areas lacking essential raw materials, e.g.,
Centralized authority emerges to control supply and redistribution
William Rathje (1972) - Trade
Metallurgy, craft specialists, food surpluses give rise to city-states
Trade networks + more sophisticated agricultural technologies result in centralization
Economic class replaces kinship as organizing feature
V. Gordon Childe - "Urban Revolution"
Modelling the Development of Complex Society
Most early writing took the form of conventionalized and abstract 'pictorial' forms
e.g., the letter "A" is thought to be descended from a stylized Semitic drawing of an ox head
e.g., cuneiform (Mesopotamia) and hieroglyphics (Egypt)
Syllabic - written symbol for each syllable
e.g., Greek alphabet - 22 symbols; Roman (Latin) alphabet - 21 symbols
Alphabetic - written symbol for each vowel and consonant
Later developments involve Syllabic/Alphabetic systems
Describes the organization of fields and crops
Circular and semicircular impressions are numbers
Clay tablet from Jemdet Nasr, Mesopotamia, ca. 4000 BC
Axes. Ornaments and other items traded over a wide area
Balkans ca. 4000 BC - copper (cold hammered)
Italy and Iberia ca. 3000 BC - copper smelting
Czech Republic ca. 2500 BC - bronze
Bronze spread rapidly throughout Europe ca. 1700 - 1300 BC
Weapons, utilitarian objects
More difficult to smelt, but iron is more widely available
Exchange networks facilitated the spread of ironworking techniques after 1000 BC
Better agricultural implements, population increases presage Roman Empire
Early Metalworking (Copper/Bronze/Iron Ages) ca. 4000 - 600 BC in Europe
260 day ceremonial calendar (T'zolkin) articulates with 265 day solar calendar
(Haab) plus the 'Long Count'
Movement from 'real' to 'abstract' calculations
Sophisticated knowledge of mathematics; 'zero concept'
Observatory (Caracol) at Chichen Itza
e.g., Mesoamerica (Maya), ca. 5th century BC
Typified by astronomy
Megalithic tombs (New Grange, Ireland ca. 3200 BC) and henge monuments
The rising sun shines directly into the burial chamber on the winder solstice (DEC. 21)
Astronomy, e.g., Bronze Age Europe
Predictive sciences (e.g., astronomy, mathematics)
Not simply a product of increased settlement size but also density
Relationships between, e.g., avenues, alleys, temples, workshops, markets, houses,
Diverse; new settlement features
Largest city in Americas (during its zenith ca. AD 200-600)
Larger than Imperial Rome
Ca. 40 km NE of Mexico City; 21 km2
150, 000+ inhabitants after AD 200
Street of the Dead (focal N-S axis)
600 pyramids
500 workshops; 2000 apartment complexes (barrios)
'great marketplace' and other plazas
Significant urban planning and monumental architecture
Site of Teotihuacan (ca. 200 BC - AD 750) Highland Mesoamerica
Organization of the productive 'hinterland'
Also involves...
Large production aggregates; urbanization
Highest class is the elite
Classes based on wealth, power, economic specialization
Replacement of more or less equally-sized communities with marked hierarchy of
settlement sizes
Typically reflects high degree of social stratification
Social stratification (classes)
Consumers and producers have different skill sets, may no longer know one another, or
occupy the same settlements
Increase in trade and exchange
Occupational specialization, e.g., full-time religious specialists
Can reflect economic, social and political differentiation within the society
Great Pyramids, Giza
Antilla, Mumbai
Eastern Pakistan/Western India
Village settlements tethered to river by ca. 3000 BC; widespread irrigation by 2500 BC
Differentiation notably absent in Harappan (Indus Valley) Civilization
Monumental (public) architecture and works
But there are other indicators - a "complex of cultural phenomena" (Flannery 1972), such as...
First constructed ca. 2600 BC; rebuilt 9 times
Major admin. Centre; pop. 35, 000+
Two parts: Citadel and Lower City (largely unexcavated)
Elevated, fortified, public/private baths, housing
Pillared assembly hall (court), possible granary
'Great Bath' at Mohenjodaro
Lack of pomp and ostentatious display of power
Lack of differential mortuary practices
Equitable distribution of wealth
Harappan Civilization
The Archaeology of Complexity
6:05 PM