Sep 21, 2010

Abstract for RTD Novermber

Harappan Culture: The First Bronze Age Civilization of South Asia

Vasant Shinde
Department of Archaeology Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute Deemed University Pune/India

The period between the Stone Age and the Early Historic period was considered to be the “Dark Age” in Indian History. However, the discovery of the Harappan Civilization, the first Bronze Age Culture of South Asia, in the twenties of the last century pushed back the antiquity of the settled life in India by two thousand years at one stroke. This was considered to be the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century in the Indian subcontinent. The development and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in South Asian are complex phenomena that have taken place over the course of more than 9000 years. “First light on a long forgotten Civilization” was probably the first reference to the discovery of the today well known “Harappan Civilization” of the Indian Sub-continent by John Marshall in his article in the Illustrated London News dated September 20th 1924 to the western world. Today, this Urban Civilization known for its unique town planning, script, trade contacts with the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, well developed craft techniques etc. is the focus of popular academic debate not just within the sub-continent but international academic circles especially since even today we have not been able to decipher their writings.

The Harappan Culture is known by different terms by different scholars such as Indus Civilization, Indus Valley Civilization, Indus-Saraswati Civilization, etc. Today ideas of indigenous development as a result of regional interactions among the existing earlier groups of people is believed to be the cause for the development of this civilization covering an area of 2.5 million sq. km nearly four times the size of its contemporary Mesopotamian and Egyptian Civilizations. Today the Harappans are believed to be a complex of many ethnic groups representing several cultural identities with large regional urban centers like Harappa (Punjab), Mohen-jo daro (Sindh), Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Dholavira (Kutch/Gujarat) and Ganweriwala (Cholistan) supported by numerable craft centers, and smaller village settlements practicing agriculture which supported this urban and international trading economy.

The Harappan culture cannot be studied as a homogeneous cultural phenomena as the cultural assemblages are varied, and include the Pre/Early-Harappan between 3500-2500 BC; Mature Harappan between 2500-2000 BC and the Post/Late Harappan after 2000 BC. A date of 2600 B.C. marks the approximate beginning of the urban fabric of the Harappans with the unification of the urban settlements, the use of writing, weights, Harappan-type ceramic designs, civic planning, etc and is believed to have disintegrated by 2100-1900 B.C.

The urban or the Mature Harappan Phase includes a wide range of urban and non-urban rural sites that are varied in size and function but are inherently known for several features like the town planning with defensive walls with impressive gates around the site, two or more divisions of the settlement at the site, drains, baked brick structures, brick size (4:2:1 ratio), pottery, script, similarity in craft products and techniques (etched carnelian beads, copper-bronze artefacts, lithic blades), seals, weights and measures, evidence of external trade etc.

The economy was largely based on agriculture, animal husbandry and trade with specialized exchange networks for the procurement and distribution of raw materials and manufactured items within and beyond the civilization in existence.

The Harappan civilization boomed with industrial activity and a wide range of mineral resources were worked at various sites notably marine shells, ivory, carnelian, steatite, faience, lapis lazuli, gold, and silver. Craftsmen made items for household use (pottery and tools), for public life (seals), and for personal ornament (bangles, beads, and pendants) for elite markets and long-distance trade. The standardization of crafts is attributed to centralized control of production, organized by a state-level organization.

Harappan pottery is perhaps the finest in India and is betokening of the achievement of the Harappan potter. It is made of extremely fine, well-levigated clay, free from impurities, and is uniformly well fired. The surface is treated with a red slip over which designs are executed in black. The painted patterns are rich in variety and the characteristic ones include intersecting circles, fish scales, the pipal leaf, etc but the bulk of the pottery is plain. Typical Mature Harappan shapes include S-shaped jars, the dish-on-stand and perforated cylindrical jars.

Use of copper and bronze for shaping tools, vessels and ornaments was a characteristic feature of the Harappans. Most of the artifacts found are tools of everyday use such as axes, adzes, knives fish hooks, chisels including pots and pans and items of personal use such as jewellery in form of bangles, beads, diadem strips, etc., while relatively few weapons of war have been found.

Evidence from sites in Mesopotamia suggests that the Harappans (Meluhha) exported wood, shell, ivory, gold, decorated carnelian beads, lapis lazuli and perishable items like textiles, cotton and food grains; and much of this trade would have been routed via the Gujarat coast due to its strategic location at the delta of the Indus River. Other goods found are indicative of the trade networks include gold from southern India or Afghanistan, silver and copper from Oman or Rajasthan, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and turquoise from Iran and Afghanistan. It is believed that trade existed between Egypt and the Harappans on the basis of two terracotta mummies from Lothal. Also the blue colour used by the Egyptians is said to have come from Indigo cultivated in India. The presence of cubical weights of precise measures and impressions of seals (sealings) also point to a well-developed and structured system of trade with control and distribution methods. The well developed though undeciphered script was probably also an integral part of this network.

There is no clear idea about the composition of Harappan population in spite of the fact that a number of their grave-yards have been excavated. The sites like Harappan, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Lothal, Farmana, etc., have produced separate cemeteries, but due to lack of sufficient scientific analyses such as DNA, Isotope, Neutron Activation, Trace Element, etc. features like genetic aspects, health and diet of the people is not sufficiently known yet. However, social stratification is evident in their burials.

Due to deteriorating climatic conditions, collapse of social network, dwindling trade, loss of agriculture base, etc. the Harappan culture began to decline, which is clear in their material equipment. It continued to survive in a decadent form up to 1500 BC and then disappeared from the scene. However, the Harappan legacy still exists in the area it flourished and the modern population are carrying forward it’s numerous traditions.

Sep 17, 2010

Round Table Discussion on Nov 5, 2010

We invite Dr. Vasant Shinde (Deccan College, India) for lecturing in RTD of November (Nov 5, 2010).

Dr. Sinde's lecture would be about "Harappan Culture: The First Bronze Age Civilization of South Asia."

Please Mark Your Calendar and Join Us!!!

Abstract of RTD

Brief CV of Dr. Vasant Shinde

Date of Birth: June, 1956.

Education :
B.A. (History) Hons, University of Poona.

M.A. (first class first) in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, University of Poona.
Ph.D. in Protohistoric Archaeology (Early Settlements in the Central Tapi Basin), University of Poona.

Current Post:
Professor of Archaeology (Since December 2004) and Joint Director (Pro-Vice-Chancellor) of the University (Since November 2008)

Research Specialization: South Asian Protohistory: Field Archaeology

Excavations Directed:

1) Excavations at Padri (A Harappan site in Bhavnagar District, Gujarat)- February to March 1991.
2) Excavations at Padri, December- January 1991-92.
3) Excavations at Padri- December-February 1992-93.
4) Trial Excavation at Navdatoli (A Chalcolithic site in Khargon district, M.P.)- September 1993
5) Excavation at Padri- November-January 1993-94
6) Excavation at Balathal (Protohistoric- Early Historic site in Udaipur district of Rajasthan) January- March 1993-94.
7) Excavations at Balathal- November 1994 to February 1995.
8) Excavations at Balathal- November 1995- February 1996.
9) Excavation at Padri- February-March 1996.
10) Excavations at Balathal- November 1996 to February 1997.
11) Excavations at Balathal- November 1997 to February 1998.
12) Excavations at Balathal- November 1998 to February 1999.
13) Excavations at Gilund-A Bronze Age-Early Historic Site in Rajsamand District of Rajashtan- December 1999-March 2000.
14) Excavations at Gilund- December 2000-February 2001.
15) Excavations at Gilund- December 2001-February 2002.
16) Excavations at Bagor- A Mesolithic site in Bhilwada District of Rajasthan-December 2001.
17) Excavations at Iswal, an Early Iron Age site in Udaipur District, Rajasthan- December 2001-February 2002.
18) Rescue Excavation in the city of Pune- September 2003 (Discovered Satavahana culture for the first time, thus taking back the antiquity of the city by 1000 years).
19) Excavations at Gilund- December 2002-February 2003.
20) Excavations at Iswal- December 2002- February 2003.
21) Cambay Archaeological Research Project (Test Pitting at Padri and Sidhanath Temple area - December 2002-February 2003.
22) Excavations at Mudvi- An Early Historic site in Solapur district of Maharashtra- March 2003.
23) Excavations at Siddhapur- Early Historic-Early Medieval site in Solapur District of Maharashtra, November-December 2003.
24) Excavations at Iswal- December 2003- February 2004.
25) Excavations at Gilund- December 2004-February 2005.
26) Excavations at Iswal- December 2004- February 2005.
27) Excavations at Junnar- An Early Historic site in Maharashtra, December 2005- February 2006.
28) Excavations at Iswal- March 2006.
29) Excavations at Junnar, December 2006-February 2007.
30) Excavations at Nathara ki Pal, a Historical site in Udaipur District, Rajasthan- Feb- March 2007.
31) Excavations at Harappan culture sites of Girawad, Farmana (Rohtak District) and Mitathal (Bhiwani District), Haryana- March to May 2007.
32) Excavations at Nathara ki Pal, a Historical site in Udaipur District, Rajasthan- Feb- March 2008.
33) Excavation at Farmana, Rohtak District, Haryana- February-April 2008.
34) Excavations at Madina, a PGW site in Rohtak District of Haryana- February-April 2008.
35) Excavations at Nathara ki Pal, a Historical site in Udaipur District, Rajasthan- Feb- March 2009.
36) Excavation at Farmana, Rohtak District, Haryana- December 2008-April 2009.
37) Excavation at Farmana, Rohtak District, Haryana- December 2009-March 2010.

Aug 11, 2010

Round Table Discussion on Sep 10, 2010

Dr. In Uk Kang (Pukyong National University) is an assistant professor of department of history, Pukyong National University since 2006. After graduated in the dept. of archaeology and art history in Seoul National University(B.A. & M.A). From 1996 until 2001 he worked as researcher in the Institution of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, and got Ph.D in history supervised by the famous russian archaeologist V.I. Molodin(Academician of Russian Academy of Sciences). From 1996 up to now, he carries out archaeological excavations and surveys in Siberia, Far Eastern area of Russia and Northern part of China. Research interests include bronze age and early medieval age of Northern part of East Asia and its corelation with Korean Peninsula. Recently he excavates Kraskino fortress of Bohai empire in Russia, and conducts international multidiciplinary project "The Xiongnu(huns) in the context of Ancient history of East Asia". From 1996 to now he have published more than 60 articles and 10 monographs(included collaborative works).

Abstract of the Lecture

Tungus and the Paleoasiatic peoples
-New perspectives on the old-fashioned theory about the ethnic history of ancient East Asia.

Since the beginning of archaeology in East Asia, the problems of the Tungus and Paleoasiatic peoples have been one of the most important research task not only for archaeology, but for linguistic, ethnography, history and genetics because of being connected with the origin of Korean people.

However, this theory was criticized for the abstract evidences and the insufficient ethnographic materials. The biggest problem of previous Tungus theory is that the replacement or migrations of inhabitants cannot be testified based on the change of archaeological cultures. At present, the evidence about Tungus people's migration from west is difficult to be proved. Anyway, recent researches on the Far Easter Asia show up that there were dual-cultural stratums from neolithic age to iron age. For example, the people of Wuju(沃沮) and Ilou(挹婁) neighboured, but had different way of life. Wuju lived on cereal agricultures and Ilou on hunting and stockbreeding. These two ethnic race will be corresponded as Poltse cultural sphere(Ilou) and Krounovka culture(Wuju). And this division could replace the ambiguous division of Tungus and Paleoasiatic peoples in the archaeological cultures. If paleoanthropological studies will be joined on this matter, the unsloved "Tungus and Paleoasiatic peoples theory" will be figured out and take shed light on the ancient history of East Asia.

Jul 11, 2010

Jun 21, 2010

Round Table Discussion on July 9, 2010

We welcome your participation in our Round Table Discussion with Dr. Sang-Hyun Jee (National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea), for exchanging the opinions on common scientific interests.

Dr. Jee got his PhD degree in Chung-Ang University, Korea. His main research interests focus on population genetics for reconstructing historical migration and genetic evolution in ancient populations (human, animals, plant etc) by the molecular analysis of biological remains from archaeological sites of in the past. He is currently working for Conservation Science Division, National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea.

Below is the abstract of his lecture on "Applications of the Ancient Biomolecular Analysis in Cultural Heritage"

The biomolecules can frequently be detected in ancient materials. A nucleic acids, amino acids, lipids, and carbohydrates are important biomolecules that provide direct evidence for human activity in the past. Most biomolecules were founded to be mixed with amorphous organic materials isolated and analyzed using biochemical, and molecular biological techniques have provided insight into our understanding of ancient biological events at the molecular level. Now, the research of ancient biomolecules has been applying to variable archaeological remains by NRICH (National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage) in Korean. The aims of the research were to understand the peopling, palaeodiet, and palaeoecology in the past of an area during a given period of its history in the Korean Peninsula. Currently, ancient DNA (aDNA) and isotope analysis of human bone from the Joseon Dynasty period is performed continuously to reconstruct genetic structure and past dietary between modern and ancient Korean populations. In addition, studies of archaeological residues from some ancient potsherd and soil excavated from Neungsan-ri, Buyeo and Wanggoong-ri, Iksan, respectively have targeted the recovery of lipids using mass spectrometry. The results may provide evidence for understanding of life style in the Baekje Kindom preiod.

Photos of the RTD are here!!!

Jun 14, 2010

2009 Seoul International Conference on Ancient DNA and Paleopathology

We hosted 2009 Seoul International Conference on Ancient DNA and Paleopathology. Even if it was not a big conference where many people aggregate and discuss about common interest,  the conf time was very happy and enjoyable for every attendant. There were five presentations in the conference.

Dr. Dong Hoon Shin (Seoul National University, Korea) for
Paleopathological Studies in Korea

Dr. Israel Hershkovitz (Tel Aviv University, Israel), an anthropologist and anatomist, is from the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. He is the Head of the Tassiya and Dr. Yossef Meyshan Chair for the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Head of the Dan David Laboratory for the Search and Study of Modern Humans. He is also in charge of the fossil collection at Tel Aviv University, considered by many to be one of the most important in the world. He was the chief anthropologists in many of the prehistoric and historic excavations carried out in Israel in the last 30 years. He gained lot of field and laboratory experience and published considerable amount of papers on his findings. He is considered a leading authority in Paleopathology (identification and origin of diseases) and Evolutionary Medicine. His major scientific activities are in the following domains: A. Biohistory: The impact of the transition from foraging and hunting (Natufian culture) to farming (Pre-pottery Neolithic) on human health, B. Human evolution: Searching for the origin of anatomically modern humans in the Levant (Misliya and Qessem caves), C. Evolutionary medicine (promoting the concept of compromise design), mainly in the region of spine pathologies, D. The history of the Land of Israel as told by bones (e.g., leprosy, crucifixion), and E. Skeletal biology and forensic anthropology (sex and age identification).

Paleopathology-New Horizons
"The majority of Physical Anthropology’s forefathers, more or less worldwide, were physicians enchanted by the newly emerging ideas regarding evolution and the findings of early human fossils in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Anatomy departments at medical schools became a warm home for physical anthropologists. For more than a century, anthropologists have pretended that paleopathology may significantly contribute to the better health of modern human populations.
With the development of new technologies that enable extraction of DNA from ancient bones and mummified tissues, these hopes have been considerably enhanced. But have we been wrong from the very beginning? Is paleopathology only the study of ancient diseases? Is it useful in understanding the past history of diseases, but cannot be applied to practical treatment? The current study deals with these questions and raises an alternative approach."

Dr. Ildiko Pap (Hungarian Natural History Museum, Hungary) has been a head of Department of Anthropology, Hungarian Natural History Museum since 1993. Her research interests include anthropological studies to reconstruct human population history; middle and Upper Paleolithic and Carpathian Basin from Neolithic to the Middle Ages; stress indicators in the historical populations of Hungary; interdisciplinary examination of 18th-19th century mummies, Dominican Church of Vac, Hungary. Dr. Pap is currently a secretary of Anthropological Committee, Biological Department, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; and member of board, Forensic Anthropological Society of Europe.

Anthropological Studies in Hungary
"This essay offers a brief and selected review of the paleoanthropological research in Hungary The study mostly focuses: 1) Short history of physical anthropology in Hungary, 2) Organizations of anthropology, scientific committees, 3)Research institutes in anthropology in Hungary: universities, museums, and others, 4) Anthropological collections in Hungary, 5) Field of research on living and historical population, 6) The main topics and trends of the researches in historical anthropology: The reconstruction of historical populations of the Central Danubian Basin by genetic methods, Diachronic trends in the Central Danubian Basin, The reconstruction of life in the past, Paleopathological researches. At the end of the review there is a brief report on the current state of the Hungarian anthropological collections, housed in the Anthropological Department of the Hungarian Natural History Museum, the Department of Anthropology, University of Szeged and in different county museums."

Dr. Myeung Ju Kim (Dankook University, Korea) for
Establishment of sample collection much appropriate for current archaeological sciences

IFM originally planned to hold Seoul conference annually, and providing paleoplathologists in Korea and foreign countries with chances of exchanging the opinions on common interests. 

Anyway, one of the most important things for the researchers in this field must be friendship. Who can decide to study paleopathology for being rich or publication in Nature (of course, if it could be, I must be delighted)? It's for our curiosity, the fundamental basis of all the science existed.

Thank you for joining us again!!

Jun 13, 2010

RTD in May 12, 2010

Dr. Mark Spigelman with one of graduate students in my class. After lecture

Dr. Mark Spigelman, the paleopathologist of tuberculosis studies, comes to Korea to lecture before my graduate students in SNU. He also discuss in RTD about our common interests shared by both sides, researchers in Korea and Israel.

I hope he could enjoy happy stay in Korea.

The abbreviated CV of Dr. Mark Spigelman:

MB BS. Sydney University 1965.
FRCS. Royal College of Surgeons London 1971.
B Sc(Arch) Hons(Upper 2'nd). Institute of Archaeology UCL London 1994.

"Australian citizen currently residing and working in the UK as a human remains specialist/ anthropologist, researching the history and development of microbial diseases utilizing microbiological techniques on Ancient human remains. Previously a consulting surgeon for 25 years in Sydney Australia. Since becoming an Archaeologist/Anthropologist I have concentrated on developing the study of Paleomicrobiology and developing relationship between microbial diseases of the past and the diseases of today. I have developed extensive techniques for minimally destructive sampling of human remains particularly endoscopic sampling of mummies-which I have now done on over 500 occasions. I have lectured on the subject worldwide and our work has featured in many documentaries e.g. National Geographic, Discovery Channel, ABC as well as in many magazine and newspapers. Currently we have joint project with over 20 museums and universities worldwide. Whilst concentrating currently on tuberculosis and leprosy we have also had success in finding Leischmania, Malaria and Schistosoma in ancient tissues other bio-molecules such as proteins and lipids are also being investigated. We are currently also looking at histological examination of mummy specimens as well as the standard assessment of ancient material for paleopathological lesions...."

He is currently Visiting Professor Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious & Tropical Diseases and Ancient DNA Hadassah Medical School Hebrew University Jerusalem Israel; and Visiting Scientist Hadassah Medical School Hebrew University Jerusalem Israel.
He was the chair of 6th international Conference on ancient DNA Israel July 2002. And The Scientific Committee member of International Congress of Mummy Studies.

The information of the lecture in RTD is available at

RTD in April 14, 2010

The invited researcher for RTD in April, 2010 was Dr. Francisca Alves Cardoso (Federal University of Pará, Belem, Brazil; CENTER FOR RESEARCH IN ANTHROPOLOGY, FCSH-UNL, Portugal). She got her PhD degree in Durham University, UK (on Biological Anthropology/Paleopathology). Below is her research interests.

"Currently, my main research interests still focus on Physical Anthropology, specifically Paleopathology and Paleoepidemiology, within a Biocultural perspective. The importance of socio-economic and cultural variables in the interpretation of human skeletons represents an important aspect of my research. I have been encouraging a constructive discussion on the methods employed in the measurement and interpretation of pathological lesions, and promoting the use of new technologies, which may improve Paleopathological analysis. These include new imaging techniques, such as 3D scanning, as well as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. The development of statistical designs / models to analyse bony lesions, and permit a better interpretation of health based on human skeletons is another of my concerns. Most recently, I have also addressed issues related with ethical questions associated with reburial of human skeletons, and the preservation of human skeletal remains as patrimonial heritage."

After session, we also had happy dinner time. Thanks for all the participants in our Roundtable Discussion!!!