02/20/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Revisiting Harappan Iconography

Seals, Sealing and Tablets as Small Windows onto the Indus Valley Civilization

Marta Ameri

During the second half of the third millennium BC, the Harappan civilization covered an area of over one million square kilometers in South Asia, extending from the Afghan highlands to Western India. Excavations sites in modern-day India and Pakistan like Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, and Dholavira have shown that this impressive civilization was characterized by a shared material culture and extensive trade networks. A fascinating example of this shared material culture is the extensive corpus of miniature arts — seals, seal impressions and molded tablets — found at sites throughout the Greater Indus Valley. The iconography of the Harappan world embedded in these objects includes a number of iconic characters, scenes, and narratives. While there is no question that these images played an important role in the visual codification of Harappan culture, the fact that the Indus script remains undeciphered, paired with the lack of comparable iconography in contemporary or later contexts, poses significant challenges to their interpretation. This talk focuses on the role that seals, sealings and tablets play in codifying the visual vocabulary of the Harappan world and on how the imagery they bear may have conveyed information to an informed viewer.
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