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Can you help me please - India & Ancient History

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adamski
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Apr 5 2006 01:18
Can you help me please - India & Ancient History

Hello,

Iv just signed up to this forum and i was wondering if anybody could help me with something iv been wondering about for a while now.

Im pretty unsure on the details so I cant find the information i want anywhere and i would be greatful if sombody could explain to me what it is i am about to try to describe.

I think there was at some point fairly recently the excavation of several large cities in modern day india and pakistan which belong to an ancient civilisation, in the cities there were no temples, palaces or any obvious signs of a hierachical structure to their society and almost no signs of war.

Thats all i can remember.

I would be really grateful if anybody could give me any hints as to what i might be talking about because im begining to think iv made this place up and its driving me mad to be honest.

confused

Jacken
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Joined: 7-04-06
Apr 7 2006 19:51

ooh.. yeah, i watched a tv programme about them a while ago.. but i only came in halfway through, and cannot remember the name of the civilisation... so this can only serve as confirmation you are not insane.. sorry...

petey
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Apr 7 2006 20:38

there were recently - about 2 years ago maybe? - traces of some towns found on the NW coast, submerged, which, it was claimed, predate sumerian settlements of the same level of complexity. but about the details i know nothing. specifically i recall that it would have been a textbook-rewriting discovery and was met with a fair amount of scepticism, and i've heard nothing since, so maybe it was hype? i see nothing about it here: http://www.archaeology.org/cgi-bin/perlfect/search/search.pl?q=india&mode=all

no, you're not insane, but there are levels of settlement in sumeria which are well-documented and easy to research and seem to show relatively non-hierarchical and peaceful organization, such as in the hassuna and samarra periods.

sorry, i used to teach this stuff.

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RevolutionReversal
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Apr 7 2006 21:03

well the more information the better, you have me intrigued.

petey
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Apr 25 2009 14:00

...

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cantdocartwheels
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Apr 7 2006 21:43

i assume you mean the indus valley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_civilization

Don't know about 'no signs of a hierarchical society', since plenty of people have postulated on class divisions between merchants and labourers in the city and the nature of a centrlaised authority that may have operated there, but certainly they at least seem to have operated a form of proto-capitalism which for the time was pretty progressive with some of the most advanced drainage, water based technologies, medicine and arithmetic in the world. It appears their religion was limited to folk based beleifs and the personal form rather than a larger organised religion used to justify a feudal hierarchy.

socialist
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Oct 15 2011 22:56

!

baboon
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May 5 2009 16:35

Adamski's correct about the lack of trappings in the Indus Harrapan society and it's certainly an interesting one.

The development of this society, in what is now modern day Pakistan, was part of the post-Neolithic development towards civilisation and the state. The state itself seems to arisen independly in several geographical areas: west Asia; east Asia; Meso and southern America. While all represented the same development there were obviously specifics in this complex and sometimes contradictory process.

The Indus Harrapan civilisation, unlike almost all other civilisations (apart, to some extent, the Mycenean), had no religious iconography, shrines or palaces. There seems to be no "Kingship" but a well ordered society with no rich burials, well defined weight system, developed craft specialities, brick building and well laid out roads. There's public works, baths, gymnasiums but no royalty and while there are household cults, there appears no state religion. The pictographic script of the Indus Harrapan has not yet been deciphered.

Read Gregory Possehl and Colin Renfrew in "Prehistory and the making of the human mind".

baboon
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May 15 2009 20:55

Adamski, if you're still around and still interested, I found some notes from Scarre 2005, on the history of the Indus around this time. There may be further references there.

In his Ethnographic Notes, Marx describes the persistence of communal society even in the face of the most despotic civilisations: "Assyrian, Babylonian, Median and Persian empires, for occasional wars of conquest, levied vast armies from populations spread over immense areas: (demanded) absolute obedience to their occasional commands, punished disobedience with the upmost cruelty; dethroned petty kings, transplanted whole communities, etc. (But) interfered little with everyday religious or civil life of the groups to which their subjects belonged."

In the Indus over a time, Marx notes the prevailing and persisting communality, communistic tendencies to production. The basis was agriculture and production, independent but collective as a group and the surpluses from the graneries were redistributed, with some going to growing elites and paving the way for corveable labour.

In the chapter on Labour and Manufacture in volume I of Capital, Marx, underlines the reproduction of production of these communities: The simplicity of the productive organism in these self-sufficient communities - which continually reproduce their kind, and, if destroyed by chance, reconstruct themselves in the same locality and under the same name - this simplicity unlocks for us the mystery of the unchangeableness of Asiatic society, which contrasts so strongly with the perpetual dissolutions and reconstructions of Asiatic states, and with unceasing changes of dynasties. The structure of the economic elements of the society remain unaffected by the storms in the political weather".

But it had to eventually give way to the development of civilisation, the state and class society.

ernie
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May 18 2009 23:56

Michael Wood in his The history of india quotes Mark Kenoyer (author of Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization) saying We have a strange situation of a complex ancient society without the ostentations of ideology or evidence of a focused leadership, like a king or queen...there is no real model in history of a civilization like this one".
Sir Mortimar Wheeler in his The Indus Civilisation says that whilst there was contact/trade between the Indus civilisation and that in Semur etc there is not real cross cultural fertilization. He talks about a parallel development. He also raises the question of the lack of clear military vestiges etc. However, Wheeler did feel that there was some form of compulsion to labour, but then he said this is what happened in ancient Egypt: an idea that now seems to have been greatly modified. He also felt that the existence of the main large Citadel was an indication of the domination of the society by some form of ruling group. Wheeler was writing in 1953. That said what is clear from what I have read of his short book is that he was struggling to understand this complex society that did not fall easily into any established models.
Re the idea of slave labour building the pyramids I read one history of Archeology (I cannot remember which one) which said this idea was introduced by US academics in order to rubbish all of the evidence that was building up pointing to a more cooperative non-slave system of labour. The US academics feared this would give further grist to the Communist mill.

slothjabber
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May 20 2009 08:39

Archaeology and ancient history are certainly used a lot to justify the present. The way Athens and Sparta have been portrayed over the past 300 years is pretty interesting for instance.

I believe (have been told, don't have sources, so it's not exactly academically watertight) that the main plank against the slave-labour theory of the pyramids is records of payments to individual sub-contracting gangs. Which unfortunately just "proves" (ie, doesn't prove at all, but never mind) that Ancient Egyptians were capitalists, just like us... (it's "human nature" to be Del Boy Trotter, you know).

Del Boy Trotter, to those under 30 or not in the UK, was a fictional independent businessman is a very un-funny TV show from the 1980s. He is unlikely to ever be the subject of archaeology. I hope.

ernie
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May 27 2009 08:05

Slothjabber

I see what you are getting at, but the thing that is interesting is that the US bourgeoisie felt that had to react against the growing evidence of the importance of cooperative labour.
I am reading Renfrewš Prehistory: the making of the human mind and he gives prominance to the role of cooperative construction of monumental structures such as those found at Gobeki Tepe in Turkey in drawing together human groups into settelements and this before the development of agriculture. If anyone saw the BBC1 programm on the origins of man this week they will have seen the remarkable structures and sculputures in this ancient settlement. Absolutely astonishing.

baboon
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May 27 2009 21:04

The "temples" of Gobekli Tepe, along with Nevali Core, Cayonu in the Urfa region of southern Turkey, are some of the most important finds in the last twenty years. As Ernie says above, they predate agriculture and you could argue that they lead to it. The buildings, and the dwellings around them, are over eleven thousand years old and well predate agriculture, civilisation and the state. These very concrete expressions suggest new levels of associated labour and the further development of tools. They are clearly situated in a period of human transition - sedentism - in a period of the development of consciousness, organisation and production in society. These impressive buildings, massive stone structures, dramatically carved, 50 and 70 tonne carved, fitted slabs,benches, pillars, complex architecture requiring all sorts of skills, organisation, tools, and a general development of society, were built by hunter-gatherers.

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888
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May 28 2009 00:46

Aha... that puts a crack in primitivists' arguments, doesn't it?

ernie
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May 28 2009 16:29

One would hope so, but it probably will not. One could imagine a primitivist saying that such developments marked the beginning of the end.

baboon
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May 29 2009 10:22

I've seen references to it here and there, but don't know what the "primitivist's argument" is. Can anyone help?