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ModAgrO

Modelling the Agricultural Origins and Developments

Modelling the Agricultural Origins and Developments
The ModAgrO project geographical focus is on the lower Indus alluvial plain, where there is evidence of early groups with agro-pastoral economies before the Early Harappan.

The Indus Civilisation extended over most of the Indus River Basin, which includes a mix of diverse environments influenced by the partially overlapping rain systems of the summer monsoon and the winter cyclone. This climatic system was influenced by the 4.2ka BP event and resulted in increased aridity. The Indus Civilisation has been characterised using the archaeological evidence of a set of unique architectural and artefactual types (see Wright 2010:23 and 326–30). More notably, the urban phase of the Indus Civilisation, also known as Mature Harappan period (c.2600/2500-1900 BC), represents one of the earliest examples of urban settlements worldwide. The full expression of Indus urbanisation appears in five “cities” of significant size (80+ ha) that thrived for an exceptional amount of time (c. 600–700 years). Indus cities were far apart from each other, and were located in different ecological zones within the plains of the Indus River Basin. Therefore, extensive rural areas, which represented the basis of the Indus economy, surrounded such cities. The Indus Civilisation thus presents a compelling case of contrasting trajectories of different components of a socio-ecological system, where the rise and decline of urban lifeways coexists with the resilience of rural contexts.

 

The ModAgrO project is a collaboration between CaSEs at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Department of Archaeology at Shah Abdul Latif University, and it is part of the Japan, Spain, Pakistan Archaeological Research Initiative (JASPAR). ModAgrO also collaborates as a partner with the Mapping Archaeological Heritage in South Asia (MAHSA) project coordinated by the University of Cambridge.  

 

The ModAgrO project geographical focus is on the lower Indus alluvial plain, where there is evidence of early groups with agro-pastoral economies before the Early Harappan. These early groups that exploited the fertile plains (where land was available for both pastures and crops) created the basis for the agricultural economy that fuelled the urbanization process of the Indus Civilization (Mature Harappan 2600/2500 to ca 1900 BC). The earliest evidence of these developments (Early Harappan/Indus) in the main plain are represented by regional cultural trajectories, such as Hakra, Kot Dji or Amri traditions, that culminate with the setting of the urban phase. The work of the ModAgrO project is focusing on the following general objectives:

1) Investigate the first agricultural evidences that laid the foundations for the development of the Indus urban civilization,

2) Clarify its palaeoenvironmental framework, and

3) Understand the processes of technological change in agriculture (eg intensification and / or extensification) that favoured urban development and the formation of some of the largest cities in the prehistory of the old world.

 

More specifically, the ModAgrO Project seeks to:

 

a) Agglomerate and systematize the existing archaeological and palaeoenvironmental information for northern Sindh – lower Indus plain (including new information created by ModAgrO, ancient surveys data, bibliographic information, etc.) to create a database for the academic community and government agencies.

 

b) Understanding the environment dynamics of the lower Indus plain during the Holocene and how these create the settings for the pre-Harappan and Harappan settlements.

 

c) Carry out an exhaustive analysis of the land use and agricultural strategies of the pre-Harappan and Harappan settlements and especially of the urban phase known as the Indus Civilization.

 

The project is carrying out surveys at the eastern (next to the Thar Desert) and western (Sindh Kohistan) edges of the Indus plain, where the sedimentary deposits are less prominent and the earliest evidences for pre-Indus agro-pastoral groups should be more accessible, together with excavations of long-chronology mid-size settlements such as Bhando Qubo (which was excavated during two seasons in 2019/20), Taloor Je Bhitt (at the edge of the Thar; excavation planned for the end of 2021), Pir Qudo (in Sindh Kohistan) and Kot Diji, the site that gave the name to one of the Early Harappan traditions with more than 16 m of stratigraphy. All these sites should have chronologies spanning from the earliest villages to the end of the urban phase. The excavations aim at collecting a set of samples, including material culture, bio-remains, and samples for isotopes and proteomics analyses that will be key to understand the land use and the agricultural strategies from the early settlements to the post 4.2k event and seemingly deurbanization dynamics (e.g. intensification versus extensification, changes in agricultural crop assemblages and technologies, plant and animal exploitation approaches). Furthermore, we would like to establish the first extensive absolute chronology for the lower Indus Valley to critically link material culture, agricultural evidence and technological changes in what Possehl called the Sindhi domain of the Indus Civilization. Our area of study has also been carefully chosen to assess different ecological settings and the possible diverse strategies of the Indus people with sites sitting at the edge of the Thar Desert, in the middle of the Indus plains next to old river channels and next to alluvial fans of the seasonal streams of the Sindh Kohistan.

 

Principal researchers

Marco Madella
The ModAgrO project is a collaboration between CaSEs at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Department of Archaeology at Shah Abdul Latif University, and it is part of the Japan, Spain, Pakistan Archaeological Research Initiative (JASPAR). ModAgrO also collaborates as a partner with the Mapping Archaeological Heritage in South Asia (MAHSA) project coordinated by the University of Cambridge.