University of Cambridge > > Pitt-Rivers Archaeological Science Seminar Series > Study of organic residues in pottery from the Indus Civilisation in northwest India

Study of organic residues in pottery from the Indus Civilisation in northwest India

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Concepts of food production, agriculture, pastoralism, urbanism and climatic/cultural change in the Indus Civilisation (c. 3000-1300 BC), South Asia’s first urban civilisation, are inextricably linked. This talk will describe the results from my PhD research which is the first large-scale study of organic residues in pottery in the region. My research tests the extent of the survival of lipids within pottery recovered from different contexts from northwest India and Pakistan, and investigates what products were processed in ceramic vessels by Indus populations in rural and urban settlements in northwest India. Specifically, the study characterises how vessels may have been used at different settlements during the urban period (c. 2600/2500-1900 BC), and identifies whether changes in vessel use occurred in the post-urban period (c. 1900-1300 BC), a period hypothesized to be marked by dramatic societal transformations and potential climatic instability. Results reveal that there are significant challenges associated with conducting organic residue analysis in hot and seasonally wet environments, and interpretational limitations with the disentangling of mixtures of products in vessels in arid environments. Despite methodological challenges, the results provide a new means by which to investigate and imagine Indus foodways, providing insight into what ancient Indus cuisine at both urban and rural settlements may have looked like.

This talk is part of the Pitt-Rivers Archaeological Science Seminar Series series.

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