With the Bay of Bengal littoral as its focus, this chapter reviews the archaeological evidence for human expansions, migrations, formation of exchange networks, long-distance trade, political impulses, and transmissions of technocultural traditions in deep time, from around 5000 bc to 500 ad. In doing so, the author offers the idea of the Bay of Bengal Interaction Sphere, a “neutral” model of analysis that sets aside the constraints of the old Indianization debate for South-Southeast Asian interaction and situates the Bay within a broader global framework extending from the Mediterranean to the Far East in a new narrative of contact and change.
Michael D. Petraglia and Nicole Boivin
Genetic and archaeological evidence indicates that South Asia was one of the world's most densely populated geographic regions in the Late Pleistocene. Genetic coalescence ages point to the colonization of the region by Homo sapiens between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago, corresponding with the Middle Palaeolithic stone tool industry. Middle Palaeolithic occupations occur prior to the Toba volcanic super-eruption of 74,000 years ago, suggesting Homo sapiens may have reached South Asia earlier. Populations emerging from Africa may have used coasts and transcontinental routes to disperse across the Indian Ocean rim. Indigenous South Asian hunter-gatherers survived the Toba super-eruption, and adapted to environmental changes across the Late Pleistocene. About 35,000-30,000 years ago, new cultural innovations appear that correspond with environmental deterioration, habitat fragmentation, and demographic increase. Lifestyles of foraging populations became increasingly heterogeneous during the Holocene. During the Middle and Late Holocene, foraging populations coexisted alongside complex urbanized state-level societies
The Harappan Civilization came up in the mid-third millennium bce over an area that extended over much of the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. This chapter will specifically focus on two major cities, Mohenjodaro and Harappa, to discuss material culture and childhood in Harappan South Asia, including the wide range of arguably child-related objects found at these sites which provide a lens through which we can get a glimpse of quotidian activities within these two cities. Many of the artefacts that have been categorized as toys represent household chores that took place around children as well as objects (such as wheeled vehicles), animals, and birds that they routinely encountered.
Ryan Rabett and Sacha Jones
Significant demographic, economic, social, and technological shifts occurred in south and South East Asia from the onset of the Holocene set against profound environmental restructuring. In South Asia, some areas became more humid and wet; in South East Asia the deglacial rise in sea levels dramatically altered the region’s geography. Each impacted on the survival, distribution, and density of hunter-gatherer populations, but it also sparked innovation. In South Asia there was an increase in seasonally sedentary occupation and a trend in some areas towards incipient agriculture. In South East Asia, pre-existing practices appear to have been intensified, coastal resources became prominent, and there was a new emphasis on arboreal prey. Across these neighbouring regions new forms of technology, changes in social structure, and symbolic expression accompanied these adaptive shifts, each making their appearance during this time, as new responses mixed with old traditions to meet new challenges.
Paul S.C. Taçon
This chapter discusses the rock art of South and East Asia, with particular emphasis on India, China, and Southeast Asia. It begins with an overview of early research and first discoveries of rock art in China, India, and various parts of Southeast Asia such as Indonesia and Malaysia. It then considers the range of techniques employed in the region, including painting, drawing, stencilling, printing, engraving, and bas-relief, as well as the subject matter and dating attempts. It also examines a number of key rock art–related issues that need to be addressed across India, China, and Southeast Asia, as well as concerns for different regions; these include the problem of regionalism, contact period rock art, and conservation and management. The chapter concludes by assessing the global significance of South, Southeast, and East Asian rock art, especially with respect to human diversity, cultural change, migration, and natural landscapes.
Sharri R. Clark and Jonathan Mark Kenoyer
Figurines of the Indus Civilization (c.2600–1900 BC) provide unique insights into technological, social, and ideological aspects of this early urban society. The Indus script has not yet been deciphered, so figurines provide one of the most direct means to understand social diversity through ornament and dress styles, gender depictions, and various ritual traditions. This chapter focuses on figurines from the site of Harappa, Pakistan, with comparative examples from other sites excavated in both India and Pakistan. Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic terracotta figurines, and special forms with moveable components or representing composite or fantastic creatures, are found at most sites of the Indus Civilization, with rare examples of figurines made of bronze, stone, faience, or shell. The raw materials and technologies used to make figurines are discussed, along with the archaeological contexts in which they have been discovered. These figurines provide an important line of evidence regarding Indus society and religion.
Ajita K. Patel and Richard H. Meadow
In South Asia, the earliest development of plant and animal husbandry and the first manifestation of urbanism occurred in the northwestern part of the subcontinent from the eighth through the third millennium cal bc. Archaeological excavations and zooarchaeological analyses have provided evidence for change through time in animal–human relations in that region, where wild forms of goat, sheep, zebu cattle, and water buffalo are or were native. Reviews of the faunal evidence for these animals show that the processes of domestication and development of pastoralism varied between taxa and in each case were complex. Genetic investigations of modern relatives, domestic and wild, have yielded insights into their entangled roots resulting from a (pre)history of human interaction with animals and their movement across the landscape. Our current understandings are compelling, but limited by lacunae in the archaeological records of the region and by the lack of successful analyses of ancient DNA.