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Rethinking the Indus myths: A comparative re-evaluation of the Indus Civilisation as an alternative paradigm in the organisation and structure of early complex societies

Rethinking the Indus myths: A comparative re-evaluation of the Indus Civilisation as an alternative paradigm in the organisation and structure of early complex societies
Edward Cork

2006

Department of Archaeology, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UNITED KINGDOM.

ABSTRACT

Since the earliest archaeological work at Indus sites, this civilisation has been contrasted with od1er early complex societies further west, primarily Mesopotamia. During the 1960's Walter Fairservis put forward a model constructed in this way. Using impressionistic observations of differences in the archaeological records of Mesopotamia and the Indus, he suggested that Indus society was a bipolar opposite to the type of hierarchical societal organisation he envisioned in Mesopotamia. This interpretation has exerted enormous influence on Indus archaeologists, and elements of it are still prominent in their work today. However, to date the comparative basis of this interpretation has never been critically and rigorously evaluated. None of its constituent elements, such as the absence of social stratification, the absence of warfare and the absence of centralised control, has ever been tested by detailed comparison with Mesopotamian data. This thesis undertakes this task, comparing the sorts of data cited as evidence for Fairservis' interpretation with equivalent data from contemporary West Asian societies. It focuses on three specific datasets: metalwork, domestic architecture and settlement patterns. The analyses reveal Fairservis' model to be a gross oversimplification. The rigorous comparative method adopted here demonstrates many of the perceived differences between the Indus and Mesopotamia to be highly problematic or simply wrong.