A Published report such as this is best read in two or more sessions don't try to cram all this information in at once...
Mehrgarh, Pakistan: Discovery of a 9000-Year-Old Civilized Settlement
Biot Report #579: December 18, 2008
The astonishing discovery in 1921 of the ruins at Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan, by R.D. Banerji, officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, and their subsequent excavation led by British archaeologists, unveiled a 4th millennium BC city built on a grid that “outclassed the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians.” (1-2) The city boasted a great public bath, upstairs bathrooms in houses, and covered sewers. (1) Uncovering the mysterious and beautiful city of Mohenjo-Daro immediately begged the question: What was the origin of its people and their culture? Some archaeologists postulated that they may have diffused from the west, i.e., from Balochistan province.
The evidence of a western origin for Mohenjo-Daro and other Indus Valley civilization towns and cities began to emerge in 1974 with excavation of the ruins at Mehrgarh (also spelled Mehrgarh, Merhgahr, and Mehergarh). Mehgarh archaeological site is located at the foot of the Bolan Pass, east of the mountain city of Quetta in Balochistan province, Pakistan.
The stunning Mehrgarh site spans nearly 500 acres and “contains traces of successive settlements since the aceramic (without pottery) Neolithic period (the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 7th millennium BC) until about 2600 BC, before the beginning of the Indus civilization
,” when the inhabitants appear to have abandoned the site. (3) The earliest Mehrgarh inhabitants lived more than 9000 years ago!
I# Implication of the Discoveries at Mehrgarh
“Discoveries at Mehrgahr changed the entire concept of the Indus civilization, asserts Ahmad Hasan Dani, professor emeritus of Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University. “There we have the whole sequence, right from the beginning of settled village life” (at Mehrgarh). (2,4)
What does Dr. Dani mean by his statement? He means that the Indus valley is a cradle of civilization—something that was not understood about the Indus valley civilization before the discovery of Mehrgarh. Dr. Dani writes,
[B][/The first settled life began in the eighth millennium B.C. when the first village was found at Mehergarh B][sic] in the Sibi districts of Balochistan comparable with the earliest villages of Jericho in Palestine (bolding added) and Jarmo in Iraq. Here their mud houses have been excavated and agricultural land known for the cultivation of maize and wheat
. Man began to live together in settled social life and used polished stone tools
, made pots and pans, beads and other ornaments. His taste for decoration developed and he began to paint his vessels, jars, bowls, drinking glasses, dishes and plates.
It was now that he discovered the advantage of using metals for his tools and other objects of daily use. For the first time in seventh millennium B.C. he learnt to use bronze
. From the first revolution in his social, cultural and economic life. He established trade relation with the people of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and other Arab world. [sic]
He not only specialized in painting different designs on pottery, made varieties of pots and used cotton and wool but also made terracotta figurines and imported precious stones from Afghanistan and Central Asia. This early bronze age culture spread out in the country side of Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and North West Frontier Province.
And this early beginning led to the concentration of population into small towns. Such as Kot-Diji in Sindh and Rehman Dheri in Dera Ismail Khan District. It is this social and Cultural change that led to the rise of the famous cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, the largest concentration of population including artisans, craftsman, businessmen and rulers. This culminated in the peak of the Indus Civilization
, which was primarily based on intensive irrigated land agriculture and overseas trade and contact with Iran, Gulf States, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Dams were built for storing river water, land was Cultivated by means of bullock- harnessed plough - a system that still prevails in Pakistan, granaries for food storage were built, furnace were used for controlling temperature for making red pottery and various kinds of ornaments, beads of carnelian, agate and terracotta were pierced through, and above all they traded their finished goods with Central Asia and Arab world
It is these trade divided that enriched the urban populace who developed a new sense of moral honesty, discipline and cleanliness, and above all a social stratification in which the priests and the mercantile class dominated the society. The picture of high civilization can be gathered only by looking at the city of Mohenjodaro, the first planned city in the world, in which streets are aligned straight, parallels to each other, with a cross streets cutting at right angles. It is through these wide streets that wheeled carriages, drawn by bulls or asses, moved about, carrying well-adorned persons seated on them, appreciating the closely aligned houses, made of pucca bricks, all running straight along the streets. And then through the middle of the streets ran stone dressed drains covered with stone slabs - a practice of keeping the streets clean from polluted water, for the first time seen in the world. (4)
II# History of Excavations of Mehrgarh
Beginning in 1951, French archaeologist Jean-Marie Casal worked at archaeological sites in Afghanistan (Pakistan’s neighbor to the north) and then relocated seven years later to the fertile Indus valley, the traditional reserve of British archaeologists
. From 1962 onwards, the French mission (led from 1975 on by Jean-Francois and Catherine Jarrige) concentrated its activities in Balochistan province, Pakistan. Note that the official spelling of what was formerly called Baluchistan is now Balochistan. (5) The French team excavated three important sites—Pirak (1968-1974), Mehrgarh (1975-1985) and Nausharo (1985-1996)--which provided for the first time in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent, a continuous sequence of dwelling-sites from 7000 – 500 BC. (5) This report focuses on their work at Mehrgarh.
Catherine Jarrige wrote up eleven field reports (one report/two years) corresponding to the eleven seasons of French excavation between 1974 and 1985 at the very remote Mehrgarh ruins in Kachi District, Balochistan. Though Ms. Jarrige is French, the reports were written in English for the Department of Culture and Tourism, Government of Sindh, Pakistan. Brief summaries of the reports fortunately are available in English at a German website (more below). (6)
The French team’s sketch of the site and its seven sub-sites, i.e., MR1, MR2, … , MR7, shows its relationship to the Bolan river, Bolan basin, and Bolan pass.
The sub-sites lay slightly uphill (altitude around 330 feet above sea level) to the west of the Bolan river (altitude around 300 feet) in the Bolin basin. Behind Mehrgarh (to its west) rise multiple bony parallel mountain ranges with heights of between 3000 and 6000 feet above sea level. The original settlers had found a cozy site.
A time line for Mehrgarh (see below) demonstrates its long history, beginning in 7000 BC and ending around 2500 BC when the population dispersed. About 2500 BC, Mohenjo-Daro was mature. The French team classified the age of the various smaller sites within the bigger site from earliest to most recent, i.e., IA, IB, IIA, IIB, III, IV, V, VI, and VII.
III # Brief Description of Seven Periods at Mehrgarh
Period I dates to the 6th and 5th millennia BC and Area MR3. It represents an aceramic (no pottery) Neolithic settlement (more below). Period IIA encompasses the end of the 5th millennium BC (Area MR4) and the first occurrence of potsherds in a very limited number. Period IIA represents the beginning of the 4th millennium BC (Area MR4, upper layers) with wheel-turned ware painted with geometric motifs and straw-tempered handmade ware. Period III correlates with the first half of the 4th millennium (3999-3500 BC) with wheel-turned ware painted with caprids (goat-antelopes), birds and geometric motifs.
eriod V corresponds to the third quarter of the 4th millennium (3500-3250 BC) at Area MR1 (main mound) with white pigment, monochrome pottery with geometric motifs, human figurines, and the first gray ware at the end of the period. Period VI (end of 4th millennium BC and beginning of the 3rd millennium BC (Area MR1, main mound) revealed black on gray ware, Quetta ware, Nal polychrome, red ware with painted pipal leaves, human figurines, compartmented stamp seals, and lapis lazuli. Period VII (middle of the 3rd millennium BC) was represented by black on gray ware (late Quetta style), mass production of female and male figurines [!], and a monumental platform whose function is not known. In the upper layers the French team also found some so-called Zhob figurines and a few Kot Dijian style sherds. (6)
# Brief Description of some of Ms. Jarrige’s Reports to the Sindh Government
A description of each of the eleven reports is beyond the scope of this article, but is available to interested readers. (6) Highlights are presented instead. For example, in the second season of excavation (1975/1976), the team excavated a five meter by five meter area. Jarrige writes,
A few walls were uncovered, and we were able to define part of a room or a yard with two intact storage jars surrounded by several grinding stones and pestles. Close to these buildings, a cemetery for children was found on two levels. Children who died between birth and three or four years of age were placed in a flexed position facing south with their heads toward the east and feet toward the west. They were laid in small boxes made of four mud-bricks and filled with dry mud. In one grave of the lower level, two terracotta beads were found below the neck of one child. A similar infants’ cemetery was uncovered in the 1974-75 season built upon deposits almost at the surface of the central part of the site. In our previous report, we noted that we could not ascertain whether or not this cemetery was prehistoric. The mud-brick boxes of the two cemeteries are so similar, however, that we can connect them without any doubt. The cemetery found in 1974-75, however, which must be of a later date (possibly Period III) shows a change in the orientation of the skeletons which here are lying with heads towards the southeast and feet towards the northeast. These infants' cemeteries provide us with interesting information about the burial practices for small children; they were not buried in deep graves but seem to be laid inside small mud-brick boxes on a flat surface near the houses. (7)
The French team spent the third season (1976/1977) as follows:
One of the main purposes of the third season was to explore the large archaeological area that extends from the main mound [MR1] toward the north to a cliff overlooking the Bolan River [MR3]. Over about two hundred hectares, the plain surface is cut by innumerable gullies and covered with potsherds and stone blades. Thus, it was important to dig trial trenches to look for possible occupational layers below the surface of the plain. Having defined the sequence at the main mound, we wanted to look for possible earlier settlements since some potsherds from the surface were quite different from the ones found at the main mound. Our attention was attracted to an area just overlooking the Bolan River that flows ten meters [30 feet] below at the foot of a cliff. Here, instead of the carpet of potsherds found elsewhere on the site, only stone and bone implements were visible [means it was old]. In looking at the ten-meter-high cliff from the river bed, we noticed at least nine meters of occupational layers interbedded with alluvial strata [!]. In the section cut by the river and in the fallen debris, the absence of potsherds was as conspicuous as it was on the surface above. This area, which has been named "MR.3", extends over a few hectares, limited to the east by the Bolan River, to the north and the west by deep gullies. To the south, the area ends where potsherds of an early type start occurring scattered on the surface of an area called by us “MR.4.” (8)
The cliff cut by the Bolan River yielded 45 buried individuals distributed in several levels in the six meters of aceramic neolithic deposits. Except for two of them, the graves were individual ones in simple shafts. (6)
During the third season (1977/1978), the French team analyzed the barley and wheat remains at the site, as well as faunal material, which revealed the kinds of animals hunted by the residents of Mehrgarh, as follows:
* gazelle (Gazella ?bennetti)
* blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra)
* wild sheep (Ovis ?orientalis)
* wild goat (Capra ?aegagrus)
* chital (Axis axis)
* pig (Sus scrofa)
* hemione (Equus hemionus)
* nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)
* barasingha (Cervus duvauceli)
* aurochs (Bos ?namadicus)
* water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis)
* elephant (Elephas maximus).
In the 1980/1981 season, the French team reconstructed houses from Area MR3 by the Bolan River.
V. Narrative of Mehrgarh’s Evolution 7000-2000 BC
1. Mehrgarh Period I (7000-5500 BC)
The French team excavated nine levels of building with nine corresponding levels of burial grounds for Mehrgarh period I. The Guimet Musee National des Arts Asiatiques in Paris houses their relics. The team describes what they found:
Houses of crude rectangular brick, some decorated with paintings on the external walls, were built to a roughly similar design. The agricultural economy was dependent on the cultivation of barley, but the staple meat diet was provided by hunting, even though the beginning of the domestication of goats was recorded at this time. During this same period, livestock farming overtook hunting and not only was the Indian zebu (Bos indicus) domesticated, the farmed variety became more common than the wild.
Palynological studies have shown that plant growth was less lush then than exists today. The excavation of nearly 360 tombs has enabled a detailed study of funerary effects, which provides a wealth of anthropological and social indicators. The funerary effects include utilitarian objects, but also especially an abundance of ornaments of a quality which bears witness to the skill and energy of craftsmen using materials from relatively faraway regions, notably several seashells, lapis lazuli, turquoise, steatites and calcites. The dead were sometimes buried with tarred baskets at their feet. Amongst the layers at the end of Period I were found ornaments with copper beads, one of which still carried the trace of a cotton thread, the oldest known example of this fibre being used.” (3,9)
Moulherat, et al. note, “The metallurgical analysis of a copper bead from a Neolithic burial (6th millennium BC) at Mehrgarh, Pakistan, allowed the recovery of several threads, preserved by mineralization. They were characterized according to new procedure, combining the use of a reflected-light microscope and a scanning electron microscope, and identified as cotton (Gossypium sp.). The Mehrgarh fibres constitute the earliest known example of cotton in the Old World and put the date of the first use of this textile plant back by more than a millennium. Even though it is not possible to ascertain that the fibres came from an already domesticated species, the evidence suggests an early origin, possibly in the Kachi Plain, of one of the Old World cottons.” (9)
In 2006, the oldest and first early Neolithic evidence for the drilling of human teeth while the person was living was found in Mehrgarh and reported by Coppa, et al. in Nature. The authors “describe eleven drilled molar crowns from nine adults discovered in a Neolithic graveyard in Pakistan that dates from 7,500 to 9,000 years ago. These findings provide evidence for a long tradition of a type of proto-dentistry in an early farming culture.” (10)
2. Periods II and III (5500-4800 BC and 4800-3500 BC)
“Mehrgarh Period II 5500 BCE–4800 BCE and Mehrgarh Period III 4800 BCE–3500 BC were ceramic Neolithic (i.e., pottery was now in use) and later chalcolithic [chalco=copper, lithic=stone]. Much evidence of manufacturing activity has been found and more advanced techniques were used. Glazed faience beads were produced and terracotta figurines became more detailed. Figurines of females were decorated with paint and had diverse hairstyles and ornaments. Two flexed burials were found in period II with a covering of red ochre on the body. The amount of burial goods decreased over time, becoming limited to ornaments and with more goods left with burials of females. The first button seals were produced from terracotta and bone and had geometric designs. Technologies included stone and copper drills, updraft kilns, large pit kilns and copper melting crucibles. There is further evidence of long-distance trade in period II: important as an indication of this is the discovery of several beads of lapis lazuli — originally from Badakshan” (northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan). (11)
3. Period VII (2600 BC-2000 BC)
“Somewhere between 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE, the city seems to have been largely abandoned, which is when the Indus Valley Civilization [i.e., Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, among a thousand other towns and cities)] was in its middle stages of development. It has been surmised that the inhabitants of Mehrgarh migrated to the fertile Indus valley as the Balochistan became more arid due to climatic changes.” (11) 6. Summary
The Mehrgarh, Balochistan, Pakistan, sequence dates to 7000 BC (9000 years ago), making it one of the oldest “civilized” settlements on the planet.
When its residents dispersed around 2000 years ago, they may have joined the Indus Valley cities to the east, such as Mohenjo-Daro and Harrapa.
1. SEMP Biot Report #576: “Mehenjo-Daro, Pakistan’s Mysterious Ancient Civilization. December 9, 2008. Available at http://www.semp.us/publications/biot_reader.php?Bi...;
accessed December 16, 2008.
2. Graham Chandler: “Traders of the Plain.” Saudi Aramco World, September, October 199, Volume 50, number 5. Available at http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199905/trade...;
accessed December 16, 2008.
3. “The Indus and Mehrgarh archaeological mission.” The Centre for Archaeological Research Indus Balochistan. Available at http://www.guimet.fr/Indus-and-Mehrgarh-archaeolog...;
accessed December 16, 2008.
4. Professor Dr. Ahmad Hasan Dani: “History through the Centuries.” Available at http://www.heritage.gov.pk/html_Pages/history1.htm...;
accessed December 15, 2008.
5. Sylvia Matheson: The Tigers of Baluchistan. Oxford University Press, 2006 (original published in 1967), p. xi.
6. “Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschiechte bis 1858. Available at Mehrgarh
accessed December 15, 2008.
7. “Quelle: Mehrgarh: field reports 1974 - 1985, from Neolithic times to the Indus civilization; the reports of eleven seasons of excavations in Kachi District, Balochistan by the French Archaeological Mission to Pakistan/edited by Catherine Jarrige [Karachi]: Dep. of Culture and Tourism, Gov. of Sindh, . XIII, 688 S.: Ill.; 29 cm. -- ISBN 969-81011-13-X. -- S. 134f. -- Man betrachte dort die Illustration!” Source: Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschiechte bis 1858. Available at Mehrgarh
accessed December 15, 2008.
8. Quelle: Mehrgarh: field reports 1974 - 1985, from Neolithic times to the Indus civilization; the reports of eleven seasons of excavations in Kachi District, Balochistan by the French Archaeological Mission to Pakistan/edited by Catherine Jarrige ....[Karachi]: Dep. of Culture and Tourism, Gov. of Sindh, . XIII, 688 S.: Ill.; 29 cm. -- ISBN 969-81011-13-X. -- S. 181.] Source: Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschiechte bis 1858. Available at Mehrgarh
accessed December 15, 2008.
9. Christophe Moulherat, Margareta Tengbert, Jerome-F. Haquet and Benoit Mille: “First evidence of cotton at Neolithic Mehrgarh, Pakistan: Analysis of mineralized fibers from a copper bead.” Journal of Archeological Science, December 2002, Volume 29, Issue 12, pp. 1393-1401.
10. A. Coppa, A Cucina, D.W. Frayer, et al: “Early Neolithic tradition of dentistry: Flint tips were surprisingly effective for drilling tooth enamel in a prehistoric population.” Nature, April 6, 206, Volume 440, pp. 755-756. Abstract available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v440/n7085/pd...;
accessed December 15, 2008.
11. “Mehgahr.” Source: TripAtlas.com - About Mehrgarh
accessed December 16, 2008.
Source: Mehrgarh, Pakistan: Discovery of a 9000-Year-Old Civilized Settlement