One of the Indus seals, potentially a religious scene, with signs from the Indus script running across the top.
Unanswered questions Indus valley archaeology has come a long way in a century. Nonetheless, it throws up many more unanswered fundamental questions than the archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt (and China). Was the civilisation a wholly indigenous development, apparently emerging from Baluchistan, where there is ample evidence of village settlement at Mehrgarh as early as 7000 BC? Or was it influenced by the growth of civilisation in not-so-distant Mesopotamia during the fourth millennium BC? What type of authority held together such an evidently organised, uniform and widespread society, if it truly did manage to prosper without palaces, royal graves, temples, powerful rulers, and even priests? The only portrait that might contradict this — iconic in Indus studies — is a steatite sculpture, a mere 17.5cm in height, known as the ‘priest-king’. But there is no definitive evidence for this identification. The name derives largely from the strength of his commanding face, with its half-closed eyes and closely manicured beard, and the elaborate draped garment he wears, leaving his right shoulder bare — a style that is still considered appropriate in India and the Buddhist world when approaching a shrine or holy person.
The Past | April/May 2021