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Archaeology Publication

Indus Copper and Bronze: Traditional Perspectives and New Interpretations

InArchCenter ID:- IACBN0011

All excavated Indus Civilization sites contain copper metal objects. Besides clay, there is no other raw material that Induscraftspeople worked into such a diversity of forms and types of artifacts. Evidence indicates that copper and bronze were used to make tools, weapons, ornaments, household materials, and items of possible economic control or religious importance. Traditional interpretations of Indus copper-based metallurgy reconstructed alloying practices as focused on the limited use of tin bronze. A re-examination of the available data from a fresh perspective demonstrates that Indus sites made use of a series of alloys and an expanded definition of ‘bronze’ alters the interpretative models for copper alloy use across the Indus Civilization

Keywords: Indus Civilization, copper, bronze, alloy, metallurgy.

In Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization

, John Marshall(1931: 31) states ‘the discoveries at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa have completely disposed of the hitherto accepted theory that bronze was not manufactured in India during the prehistoric age’. Previous to the finds from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, it was generally held that peoples in India were rarely manufacturing bronze and only produced a limited number of objects from copper prior to the historic period (Smith 1905). It had been stated that the subcontinent lacked a true prehistoric ‘Bronze Age’ and instead was largely a‘Copper Age’ development (Smith 1905 and Marshall1931). The finds and the associated chemical and chronological data that derived from the early excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro served as direct and indisputable proof that South Asia did indeed possess an indigenous prehistoric bronze making culture. Early researchers working on the emerging archaeological assemblages from Indus Civilization sites took several steps to analyze and interpret the nature of the copper and bronze metallurgy that their excavations were beginning to document. Primary among these efforts was the inclusion of chemical analyses of artifacts from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappan the final reports (Marshall 1931; Mackay 1938; Vats1940). The data, both archaeological and analytical, presented in these volumes laid the foundation for all future conclusions and research programs focused on Harappan copper-bronze metallurgy. While the initial researchers working with the copper-bronze artifacts found at the early excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro offered many data points, hypotheses, and statements on the nature of metallurgy in the Indus Civilization it is their focus on tin bronze that influences much of the later interpretations and discussion of Indus copper-bronze metallurgy.

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