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Recent Work on the Indus Civilization

  • A. L. Basham

Among a bewildering mass of archaeological reports and learned papers the small book of the late Dr. Ernest Mackay, The Indus Civilization, published in 1935, has provided an excellent concise outline of the subject. It has now been reissued under a significantly amended title, with revisions and additions by the author's widow. New maps and illustrations have also been added.

Since 1935 further researches have considerably modified our earlier view of the Indus culture. The excavations at Chanhu-daro, conducted by Dr. Mackay for the American School of Indie and Iranian Studies have shown that the culture of which the Harappā remains are the type was superseded, in this part of Sind at any rate, by later intrusive cultures, those of Jhukar and Jhangar (p. 3). Advances in Mesopotamian chronology have permitted a closer estimate of the date of the abandonment of the Indus cities. This, it appears, took place at about the same time as the end of the first Babylonian dynasty, which, on the most recent evidence, must be placed as late as the sixteenth century b.c. (p. 157). It has been conclusively shown that we may no longer retain the rather Utopian picture suggested by reports of earlier excavations, which seemed to reveal an affluent commercial people, living in comfort and security in unfortified cities, and free from the oppressions of a theocratic government such as ruled in contemporary Sumer and Egypt.

Dr. Mackay and all serious archæologists doubted the accuracy of this picture. In the first edition of The Indies Civilization it was pointed out that the control of such well-planned cities as Mohenjo-daro and Harappā demanded a highly organized government, that the excavations had not been completed, and that further work on the sites might reveal fortresses and royal palaces.

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page 140 note 1 Early Indus Civilizations, by Ernest Mackay, 2nd edition, revised and enlarged by Dorothy Mackay. pp. xiv + 169, with maps and illustrations. London: Luzac and Co. Price lit. 6d.

page 140 note 2 E. Mackay, Chanhu-daro Excavations, New Haven, 1943.

page 141 note 1 E.g. Śatám aśmanmáyīnaām purdm Indro vi āsial Divodāsāya dāśúse. R.V.iv.30.20. “Indra overthrew a hundred purs made of stone for Divodasa his worshipper.” Vide Macdonnell and Keith, Vedic Index, s.v. pur.

page 141 note 2 Rájanav ánabhidruhá dhruvé sádasi uttamé Sahásrasthūna āsāte. R.V.ii.41.5. “Both kings, nnh&nning, sit in their firm supreme thousand-pillared abode”, c.f. R.V.v.62.6.

page 141 note 3 Sir J. Marshall, E. Mackay, and others: Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civilization, London, 1931.

page 141 note 4 Gordon Childe, V.: New Light on the Most Ancient East, London, 1934, p. 223.

page 142 note 1 Wheeler, R. E. M.: “Harappā 1946: The Defences and Cemetery R37”, Ancient India, no. 3, January 1947, p. 58 ff.

page 142 note 2 Wheeler: op. cit., p. 83 ff.

page 142 note 3 Ibid., p. 59.

page 143 note 1 Wheeler: op. cit., p. 82.

page 143 note 2 Waddoll, L. A.: Indo-Sumerian Seals Deciphered, London, 1925.

page 143 note 3 Marshall: op. cit., pp. 406–414.

page 143 note 4 Actes du XVIIIe. Congrès International des Orientalisles, Leiden, 1932, p. 145; Fabri, V. C. L. “Latest Attempts to Read the Indus Script”, Indian Culture, i, 1934, p. 52.

page 143 note 5 Hunter, G. R., The Script of Mohenjo-daro, London, 1934.

page 143 note 6 Meriggi, P., “Zur Indusschrift”, ZDMG., 12, 1934, p. 198 ff. This and the preceding monograph are quoted in the bibliography of Early Indus Civilizations, but ignored in the text. Father Heras, on the other hand, is mentioned in the text, but ignored in the bibliography.

page 143 note 7 Heras, H., “The Religion of the Mohenjo-daro People According to the Inscriptions”, Journal of the University of Bombay, v, 1936, p. 1 ff. Fr. Heras' latest pronouncements on the Indus script are apparently to be found in Spanish: “La Escritura Protoindico y su Desciframento”, Ampurias, i, Barcelona, 1940, p. 5 if. The journal Ampurias is not apparently available in the British Museum Library, and I quote the reference from Hrozný, op. cit. A further Spanish effort at interpretation has recently been published: J. Q. Vives, Aportaciones a la Interpretation de la Escritura Protoindica, Barcelona.

page 143 note 8 De Hevesy, G., “Sur une Ecriture Oceanienne”, Bull, de la Soc. Préhistorique Francaise, nos. 7–8, 1933. Also “Osterinselschrift und Indusschrift”, OLZ., 1934, p. 665 ff.

page 144 note 1 Hrozný, B., “Inschrift und Kultur der Protoinder von Mohenjo-daro und Harappā”, Archiv Orientalni, Prague, 1941, p. 192ff., and 1942, p. 1 if. See also: Die Ālteste Geschichte Vorderasiens und Indiens, Prague, 1943.

page 144 note 2 Die Älteste Geschichte Vorderasiens und Indiens, p. 205.

page 144 note 3 Ibid., p. 203.

page 144 note 4 Otto Schrader, F.: “Indische Beziehungen eines Nordischen Fundea”, ZDMG., 1934, pp. 185 ff.

page 144 note 5Sein Gesichi … eher als ein menschliches scheint mir ein tierisches, etvxi das eines Tigers zu zein. Dass der Gott dreigesichtig ist … kann ich nicht finden. Der nasenartige Vorsprung an beiden Seiten des Gesichtes kōnnte eine Haarstrahne sein …

page 144 note 6 “Latest Attempts to read the Indus Script,” Indian Culture, I, 1934, p. 52.

page 144 note 7 “Insehriften und Kultur der Proto-Inder,” Archiv Orientálni, 1941, p. 195; Die Ālteste Geschichte … p. 197.

page 145 note 1 E.g. Aravamuthan, Some Survivals of the Harappa Culture, Bombay, 1942. Barua, B. M., “The Indus Script and the Tantric Code”, Indo-Iranica, i, 1946.

page 145 note 2 Koppers, W., “Zentralindische Fruchtbarkeitsriten und ihre Beziehungen zur InduskulturOeographia Helvetica, i, 1946, vol. 2, p. 165 ff.

page 145 note 3 E.g. Marshall, op. cit., vol. iii, plate civ, no. 38.

page 145 note 4 Ibid., vol. iii, plate cxvi, nos. 5 and 8.

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Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
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  • EISSN: 1474-0699
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