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TwoRains Blog

TwoRains Blog

Welcome to the TwoRains blog! This page is regularly updated with the latest blog post from one of our team members. For the full archive of posts please see our wordpress page (click here).

In today's post, Adam discusses his recent paper considering the question: We know that there are large numbers of archaeological sites that belong to the Indus Civilization, but where, exactly, are they?

Landscapes of Urbanization and De-urbanization

Map of surveyed sites
Distribution of site locations collected with or without the use of GPS
We know that there are large numbers of archaeological sites that belong to the Indus Civilization, but where, exactly, are they? In a recent article in the Journal of Field Archaeology, Cameron and I present an overview of recent work on the Indus Civilization’s settlement distributions in northwest India. The article presents one of the initial stages in the field research plans of the TwoRains project. We built an integrated database by combining a large number of archaeological surveys and secondary studies that have focused on northwest India. The resulting pilot database allowed us to examine two hypotheses that have been widely discussed in the literature on South Asian archaeology: 1) Indus urbanism was characterised by the nucleation of settled population; and 2) northwest India’s settlement density increased as the cities declined.

The pilot database made it possible to closely examine large-scale patterns in northwest India’s site location dataset. We have confirmed previous research that suggested that prior to the emergence of Indus cities, settlements were widely distributed in northwest India. We have also demonstrated that at the height of Indus cities, the overall number of settlements decreased, while in the wake of their de-urbanization there was an increase in the overall number of settlements in northwest India.

Graph of settlements
Bar graph derived from the number of sites reported that belong to particular periods
This integrated dataset also made it possible to assess degrees of certainty in the data; some site locations were collected many years ago prior to the regular use of modern survey methods, while other locations were reported more than once with different names. Joining these data together made it possible to identify some of these discrepancies and flag them for future testing. Many intriguing patterns became apparent as a result; some of the earliest reported sites had been mentioned in many subsequent publications, especially those in the region north of Rakhigarhi. These sites also play an important role in a possible Post-Urban settlement transformation, as most of them seem to date to the Late Harappan Period, and over the past two field seasons, we have been examining this ‘Late Harappan shift’ in the field.

The density of settlements in particular areas of northwest India was a major feature of South Asia’s first landscapes of urbanization and de-urbanization. The pilot database presented in the article represents the first step in testing the veracity of some of these patterns and understanding how they fit within the overall trajectory of social complexity, and we will bring you further updates as we complete the analysis of the information we collected during our recent field seasons.

The published paper is available here, and the Supplemental material can be downloaded here.