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Thursday, 23 June 2016

Exploring Indus crop processing: combining phytolith and macrobotanical analyses to consider the organisation of agriculture in northwest India c. 3200–1500 BC

Jennifer Bates1 • Ravindra Nath Singh2 • Cameron A. Petrie1


This paper presents a preliminary study combining
macrobotanical and phytolith analyses to explore
crop processing at archaeological sites in Haryana and
Rajasthan, northwest India. Current understanding of the
agricultural strategies in use by populations associated with
South Asia’s Indus Civilisation (3200–1900 BC) has been
derived from a small number of systematic macrobotanical
studies focusing on a small number of sites, with little use
of multi-proxy analysis. In this study both phytolith and
macrobotanical analyses are used to explore the organisation
of crop processing at five small Indus settlements with
a view to understanding the impact of urban development
and decline on village agriculture. The differing preservation
potential of the two proxies has allowed for greater
insights into the different stages of processing represented
at these sites: with macrobotanical remains allowing for
more species-level specific analysis, though due to poor
chaff presentation the early stages of processing were
missed; however these early stages of processing were
evident in the less highly resolved but better preserved
phytolith remains. The combined analyses suggests that
crop processing aims and organisation differed according 
to the season of cereal growth, contrary to current models
of Indus Civilisation labour organisation that suggest
change over time. The study shows that the agricultural
strategies of these frequently overlooked smaller sites
question the simplistic models that have traditionally been
assumed for the time period, and that both multi-proxy
analysis and rural settlements are deserving of further
Keywords Indus Civilisation  Crop processing
Phytoliths  Plant macro-remains  South Asia  Bronze Age


See also :
Oxygen isotope in archaeological bioapatites from India: Implications to climate change and decline of Bronze Age Harappan civilization

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