Mehrgarh… The Lost Civilisation [2 of 4]

mehrgarh_figurine
Although Mehrgarh was abandoned by the time of the emergence of the literate urbanized phase of the Indus Civilization, its development illustrates the development of the civilization’s subsistence patterns as well as its craft and trade specialization.
Following its abandonment it was covered by alluvial silts until it was exposed following a flash flood in the 1970s. The French Archaeological Mission to Pakistan excavated the site for thirteen years between 1974 and 1986, and they resumed their work in 1996.
The most recent trenches have astonishingly well preserved remains of mud brick structures proving the urban streak of this civilization.[Image above: Female figurine from Mehrgarh excavation ca.6000-3000 BC]
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INNOVATION RIGHT FROM THE START

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by Mahmood Mahmood

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•  The artifacts from Mehrgarh are far more advanced and developed as compared to those obtained from excavations in Turkey and Middle East especially Jericho.

• The most unique discovery is the first known origin of the dental surgery and related medicinal activities exercised in Mehrgarh area. The discovery proves the great innovative mind and developmental level of those people about 9000 years ago.

• Mehrgarh was also a centre of manufacture for various figurines and pottery that were distributed to surrounding regions. These products are of a high quality given the circumstances and the time they were fabricated.

• No other civilisation in any other part of the world existed then; what to speak of a level of perfection in the art and craft elsewhere.

The archaeological sequence at the site of Mehrgarh is over 11 meters deep, spanning the period between the seventh and third millennium BC. The site represents a classic archaeological tell site that is an artificial mound created by generations of superimposed mud brick structures. Its excavators have proposed the following chronology:

I-A: Aceramic Neolithlic c.6500-6000 BC Mound MR3
I-B: Ceramic Neolithic c.6000-5500 BC Mound MR3
II:c.5500-4500 BC Mound MR4
III: Early Chalcolithic c.4500-3500 BC Mound MR2
IV-VII: Late Chalcolithic c.3500-2500 BC Mound MR1

The earliest Neolithic evidence for occupation at the site has been identified at mound MR3, but during the Neolithic-Chalcolithic period the focus shifted to mound MR4. The focus continued to shift between localities at the site but by 2600 BC it had relocated at the site of Nausharo, some six kilometers to the south. During this period the settlement was transformed from a cluster of small mud brick storage units with evidence of the on-going domestication of cattle and barley to a substantial Bronze Age village at the centre of its own distinctive craft zone.

The absence of early residential structures has been interpreted by some as further evidence of the site’s early occupation by mobile groups possibly travelling every season through the nearby pass.

Although Mehrgarh was abandoned by the time of the emergence of the literate urbanized phase of the Indus Civilization, its development illustrates the development of the civilization’s subsistence patterns as well as its craft and trade specialization. Following its abandonment it was covered by alluvial silts until it was exposed following a flash flood in the 1970s. The French Archaeological Mission to Pakistan excavated the site for thirteen years between 1974 and 1986, and they resumed their work in 1996. The most recent trenches have astonishingly well preserved remains of mud brick structures proving the urban streak of this civilization.

Mehrgarh is a Neolithic (7000-3200 BC) site on the Kachi plain of Balochistan, Pakistan, and one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in south Asia. The site is located on the principal route between what is now Afghanistan and the Indus Valley.

The earliest settled portion of Mehrgarh was in an area called MR.3, in the northeast corner of the 495-acre occupation. It is a small farming and pastoralist village dated between 7000-5500 BC, with mud brick houses and granaries. The early Mehrgarh residents used local copper ore, basket containers lined with bitumen, and an array of bone tools. They grew six-row barley, einkorn and emmer wheat, jujubes and dates.

Sheep, goats and cattle were herded at Mehrgarh beginning during this early period.

Later periods included craft activities like flint knapping, tanning, and bead production; also, a significant level of metal working. The site was occupied continuously until about 2600 BC, when it was abandoned.

Mehrgarh was discovered and excavations begun by a French team led by Jean-François Jarrige; the site was excavated continuously between 1974 and 1986.

Mehrgarh is the centre of the first known developed place of civilization in its advanced form as compared to the contemporary and the predecessor human settlements around the world. The town of Jericho, mentioned earlier, has not got the level of sophistication and developmental level attained as that in Mehrgarh. The symbolic artifacts retrieved from Mehrgarh are far more advanced and more developed as compared to the artifacts retrieved from Turkish sites and Middle Eastern sites especially Jericho.

The Mehrgarh site has the unique tradition of burying the dead with the pitchers being used as the supporting material along with the dead person’s body. This is the most unique cultural legacy of the Mehrgarh civilization for the area of Pakistan as I myself saw in late 1980’s in a village Kalyan near Lahore in district Kasur, that, while burying the dead person, about 8-10 pitchers of average size were placed over the dead body and thus the  burial process was completed.[3] This unique similarity to 8000 years old tradition is the direct proof of the deep rooted traditional affinity of the Pakistani area, which is quite in contrast to the   later Hindu and Magian periods when the dead were burnt and placed under the sun respectively. (These are still followed in the Hindu and Parsi community of the subcontinent).

It is interesting to note, however, that the male figurines have turbans — much like those worn by the inhabitants of Balochistan today. These turbans are not only found in Baluchistan, they are still worn in the rural areas of Punjab.

One of the most unique discoveries of the Mehrgarh civilisation is the first known origin of dental surgery and related medicinal activities in the area. This medicinal and different aspect of Mehrgarh shows the great innovative and developmental level of the people of the area about 9000 years ago. According to a report in the April 6, 2006 issue of Nature, Italian researchers working at a cemetery site in the Neolithic town of Mehrgarh discovered drill holes on at least eleven molars from people buried in the MR3 cemetery. Light microscopy showed the holes were conical, cylindrical or trapezoidal in shape. A few had concentric rings showing drill bit marks; and a few had some evidence for decay. No filling material was noted; but tooth wear on the drill marks indicate that each of these individuals continued to live on after the drilling was completed.

Dental caries (or cavities) are the result of sugars and starches in the food we eat. Hunter-gatherers, who rely on animal protein, do not generally have cavities; cavities associated with the use of roots and tubers, or starchy grains.[4]. Researchers point out that only four of the eleven teeth contained clear evidence of decay associated with drilling; however, the drilled teeth are restricted to molars in the back of both lower and upper jaws, and thus are not likely to have been done for decorative purposes. Flint drill bits are known from Mehrgarh, long associated with the bead industry there. The researchers conducted experiments and discovered that using a flint drill bit attached to a bow-drill, it required under a minute to produce similar holes in human enamel.mehrgarh_tooth

Left: Drilled, maxillary left second molar from an adult male (MR3 90) from Neolithic Mehrgarh.
L. Bondioli (Museum L. Pigorini, Rome) & R. Macchiarelli (Univ. of Poitiers).

The dental techniques have only been discovered on about .3% of the population (11 teeth out of a total of 3880 examined from 225 individuals studied to date), hence it was a rare occurrence, and, appears to have been a short-lived experiment as well. Although the MR3 cemetery contains younger skeletal material (into the Chalcolithic), no evidence for tooth drilling has been found later than 6500 BC. [5]

Jarrige carried out extensive archaeological explorations and investigations under the French Archaeological Mission in Kachi area.
The mission has been doing exploratory work in Balochistan for nearly three-and-a-half decades. According to Jarrige, Mehrgarh and its associated sites provide irrevocable evidence of considerable cultural development in early antiquity as far back as 8,000 years.

mehrgarh_birdRight: The Bird shaped Figurines from Mehrgarh

Many beautiful ceramics were found at the site in Baluchistan, continues Jarrige, and were believed to be of the era as early as eighth millennium BC. The French archaeologist further said that the studies suggested the findings at Mehrgarh linked this area to the Indus civilization.

Continued…

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Next: Innovation right from the start […]

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  4. Thanks for historical tour, very well versed.

  5. I am very much interested in anything that has to do with discoveries about the ancient civilisations and believe that the Indus Valley is one of the oldest and that the people there traded with Sumerians, since artifacts were found in the 1920s that looked just like the Indus Valley clay models, stamps and symbols.

    I would like to see it proven one day that the Indus Valley used boats on the sea to trade with Sumerians. The clay tablets found in Sumer in the Ur cemetery, state the story of the seven wise people from the east with a maritime culture, who taught them good things. All this vanished in the great floods caused by the Ice age melting and covering the places that were once the lands, with 300 feet of ocean. Many other lands were lost too. The Suder Shelf, the land between Europe and the British Isles. The land from which Venice was 70 miles further out.

    The Persian Gulf was once land with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flowing where the bottom of the Persian gulf is now. Read Graham Hancock. There is scientific evidence that Dwarka in western India on the coast existed further out on land which is now under the sea.

    All these miles of ice in Canada, Scandinavia, Russia and China melted over a long period 18,000 years ago, sometimes slowly and then when the sun became very much hotter than usual- quickly turning meltwaters into huge lakes which later gave way. There is evidence that this happened in the Americas 14 times.

    I believe that people in what is now called Pakistan & India, Persia and Sumer traded before these meltwaters broke and heightened the sea levels all over the globe. They are mentioned in the Bible by Abraham, in the Rig Veda and in the Mahabharata. All the stories are alike and mention seven sages. In the Bible they become Noah. ONE DAY WE WILL HAVE ANOTHER ICE AGE AND DISCOVER ALL THESE LOST ARTIFACTS AND THE TRUTH OF WHAT HAPPENED.

    • Your comment is very interesting especially when you write that Indus people might have been using boats to trade with Sumerians and others. In this regard the findings of researchers like Lawler, Luis Fram and Andrea Cucina do hint towards such a possibility.

      Though traders in ancient times used all types of “vehicles” i.e. the animals of transport such as horses, bullocks & camels etc. However, all these animals even in those days of ancient-age could not match the economy and the ease of trading via boats.

      In this regard I would recommend you to a post titled: Indus Valley Civilisation -“Boring No More”.

      https://wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/the-indus-civilisation-boring-no-more/

      penned down by this scribe as well as some other posts relating to the Indus Valley Civilisation. What you need to do is to click on the tag under the same name on right hand strip of the main page and in a nu you will be landing onto the archive having all the articles pertaining to the IVC on the Wonders of Pakistan site..

  6. […] […]

  7. […] for any traveler, a ‘Must Visit’ for a tourist who wants to know the origin of humanity. The human teeth found at Mehrgarh, drilled 7000 years ago by a dental surgeon; to relieve a person o… is a testimony to the innovation of early man in Mehrgarh (the starting point of Indus Valley […]

  8. Wonders of Balochistan.

  9. […] for any traveler, a ‘Must Visit’ for a tourist who wants to know the origin of humanity. The human teeth found at Mehrgarh, drilled 7000 years ago by a dental surgeon; to relieve a person o… is a testimony to the innovation of early man in Mehrgarh (the starting point of Indus Valley […]

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  11. […] Previous 1,  2, 3. 4 Next […]

  12. I saw in some paragraphs pakistanis trying to take credit for a civilisation muslims tried to invade and destroy in 12th century. Pakistanis believe they are descendants of arabs and therefore no right to say it’s pride of Pakistan, because they belong to a culture which believes in discrediting and destroying anything before Islam. So at one side they say they are a relief to the Indian Subcontinent and here cheaply trying to take credit by saying there they have deep rooted traditions similar to pakistan like burying dead and wearing turban. What a hypocrisy. .so you nean to say you learned some culture after reaching Indian Subcontinent. .what everyone should understand here is Pakistan is an artificial country first Islamic State formed by dividing ancient Indian civilisation to appease muslims and because of cold war games. As claimed by pakistanis (that they are superior race and descendants of arabs, they have no claims to ancient civilisations of Indian Subcontinent . Also, science is slowly finding out that burning dead is the most environment friendly way of disposing bodies so how can anyone claim which is more advanced. If they take claim if this site also means pakistanis are sons of Indian sSubcontinent who were raped and forcefully converted into islam by ruthless and barbaric islamic invaders who destroyed vast ancient Buddhist universities like Nalanda and Taxila, with the intendof wiping out all other ccivilisations and killing infidel’s. .first known Islamic Terrorism

    • The fact is, all Pakistanis, 99.99% are indigenous Indians, with not more than 10-15% foreign genes. There’s no use denying our ancestors, who were sons of the soil.

      BTW burning is not the best way to dispose off bodies. causes far more pollution. Burying allows all components to return to the earth, from where they came, in the most eco-friendly manner.


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