Mehrgarh

Mehrgarh

Overview

Mehrgarh one of the most important Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 (7000 BCE to c. 2500 BCE) sites in archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, lies on the "Kachi plain" of Balochistan
Balochistan (Pakistan)
Balochistan is one of the four provinces or federating units of Pakistan. With an area of 134,051 mi2 or , it is the largest province of Pakistan, constituting approximately 44% of the total land mass of Pakistan. According to the 1998 population census, Balochistan had a population of...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. It is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in South Asia."

Mehrgarh is located near the Bolan Pass
Bolan Pass
The Bolan Pass is a mountain pass through the Toba Kakar Range of Balochistan province in western Pakistan, 120 kilometres from the Afghanistan border....

, to the west of the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 valley and between the Pakistani cities of Quetta
Quetta
is the largest city and the provincial capital of the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. Known as the "Fruit Garden of Pakistan" due to the diversity of its plant and animal wildlife, Quetta is home to the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, which contains some of the rarest species of wildlife in the...

, Kalat and Sibi
Sibi
Sibi is a city of Balochistan province of Pakistan. The city is located at 29°33'0N 67°52'60E at an altitude of 130 metres and is headquarters of the district and tehsil of the same name.. According to the 2001 census of Pakistan the population of Sibi is 52,100...

. The site was discovered in 1974 by an archaeological team directed by French archaeologist Jean-François Jarrige
Jean-François Jarrige
Jean-François Jarrige is a French archaeologist specializing in South Asian archaeology and Sindhology. He holds a doctorate from the University of Paris in oriental archaeology. He has carried out the excavations in Baluchistan, Mehrgarh and Pirak. In 2004, he became the director of the Musée...

, and was excavated continuously between 1974 and 1986, and again from 1997 to 2000.
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Mehrgarh one of the most important Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 (7000 BCE to c. 2500 BCE) sites in archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, lies on the "Kachi plain" of Balochistan
Balochistan (Pakistan)
Balochistan is one of the four provinces or federating units of Pakistan. With an area of 134,051 mi2 or , it is the largest province of Pakistan, constituting approximately 44% of the total land mass of Pakistan. According to the 1998 population census, Balochistan had a population of...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. It is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in South Asia."

Mehrgarh is located near the Bolan Pass
Bolan Pass
The Bolan Pass is a mountain pass through the Toba Kakar Range of Balochistan province in western Pakistan, 120 kilometres from the Afghanistan border....

, to the west of the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 valley and between the Pakistani cities of Quetta
Quetta
is the largest city and the provincial capital of the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. Known as the "Fruit Garden of Pakistan" due to the diversity of its plant and animal wildlife, Quetta is home to the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, which contains some of the rarest species of wildlife in the...

, Kalat and Sibi
Sibi
Sibi is a city of Balochistan province of Pakistan. The city is located at 29°33'0N 67°52'60E at an altitude of 130 metres and is headquarters of the district and tehsil of the same name.. According to the 2001 census of Pakistan the population of Sibi is 52,100...

. The site was discovered in 1974 by an archaeological team directed by French archaeologist Jean-François Jarrige
Jean-François Jarrige
Jean-François Jarrige is a French archaeologist specializing in South Asian archaeology and Sindhology. He holds a doctorate from the University of Paris in oriental archaeology. He has carried out the excavations in Baluchistan, Mehrgarh and Pirak. In 2004, he became the director of the Musée...

, 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 acres (2 km²) site—was a small farming village dated between 7000 BCE to 5500 BCE and 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.

Lifestyle and technology


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
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, einkorn
Einkorn wheat
thumbnail|150px|left|Wild einkorn, Karadag, central TurkeyEinkorn wheat can refer either to the wild species of wheat, Triticum boeoticum , or to the domesticated form, Triticum monococcum...

 and emmer
Emmer
Emmer wheat , also known as farro especially in Italy, is a low yielding, awned wheat. It was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East...

 wheat, jujube
Jujube
Ziziphus zizyphus , commonly called jujube , red date, Chinese date, Korean date, or Indian date is a species of Ziziphus in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae, used primarily as a fruiting shade tree.-Distribution:Its precise natural distribution is uncertain due to extensive cultivation,...

s 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
Tanning
Tanning is the making of leather from the skins of animals which does not easily decompose. Traditionally, tanning used tannin, an acidic chemical compound from which the tanning process draws its name . Coloring may occur during tanning...

, bead production, and metal working. The site was occupied continuously until about 2600 BCE. Mehrgarh is probably the earliest known center of agriculture in South Asia.

In April 2006, it was announced in the scientific journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

that the oldest (and first early Neolithic) evidence in human history for the drilling of teeth in vivo
In vivo
In vivo is experimentation using a whole, living organism as opposed to a partial or dead organism, or an in vitro controlled environment. Animal testing and clinical trials are two forms of in vivo research...

(i.e. in a living person) was found in Mehrgarh.

Archaeological significance


Mehrgarh is now seen as a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization
Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly modern-day Pakistan and northwest India...

. "Discoveries at Mehrgarh changed the entire concept of the Indus civilization," according to Ahmad Hasan Dani
Ahmad Hasan Dani
Professor Ahmad Hasan Dani FRAS, SI, HI , was a Pakistani intellectual, archaeologist, historian, and linguist. He was among the foremost authorities on Central Asian and South Asian archaeology and history. He introduced archaeology as a discipline in higher education in Pakistan and Bangladesh...

, professor emeritus of archaeology at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, "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
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

:
"…the Kachi plain and in the Bolan basin (are) situated at the Bolan peak pass, one of the main routes connecting southern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, eastern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, 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
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 and the Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

. For the first time in the Indian Subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, a continuous sequence of dwelling-sites has been established from 7000 BCE to 500 BCE, (as a result of the) explorations in Pirak
Pirak
Pirak 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 . The site of Pirak was first reported by Robert Raikes in 1963...

 from 1968 to 1974; in Mehrgarh from 1975 to 1985; and of Nausharo
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...

 from 1985 to 1996."

The chalcolithic people of Mehrgarh also had contacts with contemporaneous cultures in northern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, northeastern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and southern central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

.

Mehrgarh Period I


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
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 and barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

 and animals such as sheep, goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

s and cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

. 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
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

, turquoise
Turquoise
Turquoise is an opaque, blue-to-green mineral that is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminium, with the chemical formula CuAl648·4. It is rare and valuable in finer grades and has been prized as a gem and ornamental stone for thousands of years owing to its unique hue...

, lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

, sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

 have been found, along with simple figurines
Figurines
Figurines is an indie rock band from Denmark, formed in the mid-1990s. The band released their first EP, The Detour, in 2001 and their first full-length album, Shake a Mountain, in 2004. The band began to receive national attention in Denmark around the time of the full-length release, and began...

 of women and animals. Sea shells from far sea shore and lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

 found far in Badakshan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 shows good contact with those areas. A single ground stone axe was discovered in a burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

, 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
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

. 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
Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly modern-day Pakistan and northwest India...

, from the early Harappan periods, had knowledge of proto-dentistry
Dentistry
Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. Dentistry is widely considered...

. Later, in April 2006, it was announced in the scientific journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

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."

Mehrgarh Period II and Period III


Mehrgarh Period II 5500 BCE–4800 BCE and Merhgarh Period III 4800 BCE–3500 BCE were ceramic Neolithic (i.e., pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 was now in use) 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
Faience
Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body, originally associated with Faenza in northern Italy. The invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip...

 beads were produced and terracotta figurines became more detailed. Figurines of females were decorated with paint and had diverse hairstyles and ornaments. Two flexed burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

s 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
Seal (device)
A seal can be a figure impressed in wax, clay, or some other medium, or embossed on paper, with the purpose of authenticating a document ; but the term can also mean the device for making such impressions, being essentially a mould with the mirror image of the design carved in sunken- relief or...

 were produced from terracotta and bone and had geometric designs. Technologies included stone and copper drills, updraft kiln
Kiln
A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, or oven, in which a controlled temperature regime is produced. Uses include the hardening, burning or drying of materials...

s, 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
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

—originally 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
Sheri Khan Tarakai
Sheri Khan Tarakai is an ancient settlement site located in the Bannu District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. Bannu District makes up a part of the topographic region known as the Bannu basin, which sits adjacent to the hills of Afghanistan and Waziristan to the west and the Indus River...

, Sarai Kala, Jalilpur, and Ghaligai.

Mehrgarh period IV, V and VI



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

Mehrgarh Period VII


Somewhere between 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE, the city seems to have been largely abandoned in favor of the new nearby settlement of Nausharo
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...

 when the Indus Valley Civilisation was in its middle stages of development.

Human Figurines


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 B.C., begin to show the characteristic hairstyles and prominent breasts. All the figurines upto 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 "mother goddess".
However, due to some difficulties in conclusively identifying these figurines with "mother goddess", some scholars prefer using the term "female figurines with likely cultic significance".

Pottery


Evidence of pottery begins from Period II. In period III, the finds becomes much more abundant as the potter's wheel
Potter's wheel
In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in asma of round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during process of trimming the excess body from dried ware and for applying incised decoration or rings of color...

 is introduced, and they show more intricate designs and also animal motifs. The characteristic female figurines appear from Period IV and the finds show more intricate designs and sophistication. Pipal
Sacred Fig
The Sacred Fig, Ficus religiosa, or Bo-Tree , Peepal is a species of banyan fig native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, southwest China and Indochina...

 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 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.

Common variant spellings

  • Mehrgarh is also spelled as Mehrgahr, Merhgarh or Merhgahr.
  • Kachi plain is also spelled as Kacchi plain, Katchi plain.

See also

  • Bolan Pass
    Bolan Pass
    The Bolan Pass is a mountain pass through the Toba Kakar Range of Balochistan province in western Pakistan, 120 kilometres from the Afghanistan border....

  • Indus Valley Civilization
    Indus Valley Civilization
    The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly modern-day Pakistan and northwest India...

  • Nausharo
    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...

  • Pirak
    Pirak
    Pirak 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 . The site of Pirak was first reported by Robert Raikes in 1963...

  • Quetta
    Quetta
    is the largest city and the provincial capital of the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. Known as the "Fruit Garden of Pakistan" due to the diversity of its plant and animal wildlife, Quetta is home to the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, which contains some of the rarest species of wildlife in the...

  • Sheri Khan Tarakai
    Sheri Khan Tarakai
    Sheri Khan Tarakai is an ancient settlement site located in the Bannu District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. Bannu District makes up a part of the topographic region known as the Bannu basin, which sits adjacent to the hills of Afghanistan and Waziristan to the west and the Indus River...


Further Reading




External links