• Mehrgarh – Ruins of The Lost Civilization

Mehrgarh – Ruins of The Lost Civilization

Mehrgarh is an ancient site located in the modern-day province of Balochistan, Pakistan. It is one of the earliest known settlements in the region, and archaeologists have dated it to between 7000 and 2600 BCE. It is significant for its Neolithic and Chalcolithic remains, which provide insight into the earliest human settlements in the region. The site is also notable for its rich cultural heritage and well-preserved artifacts, which offer a glimpse into people’s daily lives. In this blog post, we will explore the history and significance of civilization and its place in the history of human culture.

History and Discovery of the Mehrgarh Civilization

It is an ancient archaeological site located in what is now modern-day Pakistan. The place was discovered in 1974 by French archaeologists Jean-François Jarrige and Catherine Jarrige. Mehrgarh was exhumed continuously from 1974 to 1986 and from 1997 to 2000. Archaeologists have found a wealth of artifacts and evidence of early human habitation at the site, making it an important location for studying ancient human history.

Scholars believe that a small farming village existed around 7000 BCE. Over time, it grew and developed into a thriving center of trade and commerce. The people were skilled in various crafts, including metallurgy, pottery, and agriculture. They also developed a complex system of governance and social organization.

The artifacts and remains found at Mehrgarh provide valuable insights into the early development of human civilization and culture. Its Neolithic and Chalcolithic remains are of particular significance, as they offer insight into the earliest human settlements in the region. The study of Mehrgarh is significant for understanding the Indus Valley Civilization, which is thought to have emerged from its culture. The continued research is vital for understanding the early history of human civilization.

The Archaeological Importance of the Mehrgarh Civilization

Mehrgarh is a site of significant importance to archaeologists. It is considered one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology and a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization. The discovery has provided new insights into the agricultural technologies and rural lifestyles of the ancient people of South Asia. Many historians believe it was the first settled village in the world and certainly the first within Pakistan. One cannot exaggerate its significance in the study of early human history.

The Ancient Roots of Mehrgarh – Evidence of Farming and Herding in South Asia

Mehrgarh is one of the oldest known sites that shows indication of herding and farming in South Asia. It was likely influenced by the Neolithic culture of the Near East, with similarities in domesticated wheat varieties, early farming practices, pottery, and other artifacts. Some scholars believe that the culture migrated into the Indus Valley and evolved into the Indus Valley Civilization of the Bronze Age. However, others argue for an independent origin, citing its originality and the evidence of a “cultural continuum” between it and other Neolithic sites in eastern Mesopotamia and the western Indus Valley.

Some researchers suggest that Mehrgarh experienced continuity in cultural development but with a population change. Dental evidence shows that the Chalcolithic population did not descend from its Neolithic population, indicating moderate levels of gene flow. Researchers believe that the present-day inhabitants of northwestern India and the western edge of the Deccan Plateau are the descendants of the Neolithic people who lived in Mehrgarh.

Recent research on lactose tolerance in India suggests that the west Eurasian genetic contribution to India came from gene flow from Pakistan, Iran, and the Middle East. The fact that lactose-tolerant Indians show a genetic pattern characteristic of the common European mutation supports the idea that lactose tolerance was introduced to India by European settlers. It indicates that the transformation for lactose tolerance likely migrated out of the Middle East and into India through the Persian Gulf. The earliest evidence of cattle herding in South Asia comes from Mehrgarh, 7000 years ago.

From the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic Periods

The people of Mehrgarh were nomadic and originally came from the mountainous regions in the north. They settled in the open pastures in the south and relied on hunting and gathering for survival. However, as they moved further from the mountains, they had to develop new technologies to replace their stone tools. They gradually turned to a life of cattle herding, raising sheep, goats, and cattle.

People began cultivating crops like wheat and barley as they developed agriculture. This period of the South Asian Stone Age is known as the Early Food-Processing Stage (ca. 7000-5500 BCE) and is by the development of agriculture and food processing. The archaeological series at the site of Mehrgarh spans over 11 meters in depth, covering the period between the seventh and third millennium BC. The excavators have proposed a chronology for the site, which includes the following periods:

I-A: Aceramic Neolithic, c.6500-6000 BC, Mound MR3

I-B: Ceramic Neolithic, c.6000-5500 BC, Mound MR3

II: c.5500-4500 BC, Mound MR4

III: Early Chalcolithic, c.4500-3500 BC, Mound MR2 

IV-VII: Late Chalcolithic, c.3500-2500 BC, Mound MR1

This chronology provides a framework for understanding the long history of human occupation in Mehrgarh, Pakistan.

Mehrgarh Balochistan Location

It covers an area of 495 acres near the Bolan Pass, between Quetta, Kalat, and Sibi, and to the west of the Indus River. It lies on the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan in Pakistan.

The Lifestyle and Technology of Mehrgarh’s Ancient Inhabitants

Early Mehrgarh civilization inhabitants made their tools out of local copper ore and lived in mud-brick homes with granaries for food storage. They raised sheep, goats, cattle, six-row barley, einkorn and emmer wheat, jujubes, and dates. The people of the later period (5500 BCE to 2600 BCE) put a lot of effort into crafting, including flint knapping, tanning, bead production, and metalworking. Mehrgarh is likely the earliest known center of agriculture in South Asia. The oldest known example of the lost-wax technique, a wheel-shaped copper amulet made from unalloyed copper, was found here.

Experts consider the civilization one of the earliest in the world and known for its contributions to the development of human society.

Artifacts at the Mehrgarh Site

In ancient culture, human figurines were quite popular. At this location, archaeologists discovered South Asia’s oldest clay figurines. Even before the invention of pottery, these figurines were present throughout the settlement’s history. The earliest figures were simple and did not show much detail, but they became more sophisticated over time. By 4000 BCE, the figurines began to show distinctive hairstyles and prominent breasts. In the beginning, all the figurines were female, but male figures started appearing in period VII and gradually became more common. Many female figurines held babies, leading some scholars to interpret them as depictions of the “mother goddess.” However, due to some ambiguity surrounding this interpretation, some scholars prefer to refer to them as “female figurines with likely cultic significance.”

Pottery

Pottery was an essential part of the civilization. Pottery from the earliest period, Period II, has been found at the site. Still, the pottery from Period III is much more abundant, likely due to the introduction of the potter’s wheel. The pottery from this period also shows more intricate designs and animal motifs. In later periods, pottery became even more sophisticated, with the use of firing techniques and the appearance of female figurines. However, by Period VIII, the quality of the pottery has declined due to mass production and a growing curiosity about metal vessels.

Dental Practices 

The people of the area, who lived in the Indus Valley around 9,000 years ago, practiced proto-dentistry. The tooth found in a Mehrgarh burial provided the basis for the analysis. The teeth had signs of having been drilled with flint tools, probably to relieve tooth pain. This discovery suggests that the people were quite advanced for their time, as this type of dental work is not commonly associated with the Neolithic period.

Burials and Metallurgy

The site contains two types of burials. In the first type, a single individual is buried in a narrow mud wall. In the second type, several individuals are buried together in a group, with their bodies laid out in a flexed position from east to west. Some burials also contained children’s bones placed in large jars or urns. The site also contains evidence of metalworking, with metal items dating back to the second period of Mehrgarh’s history.

Source of Income

Based on the artifacts and structures found at the site, they likely engaged in farming, herding, and possibly in crafts such as metalworking and bead production. These activities gave them food, resources, and items to trade or sell. It is also possible that they engaged in trade with other groups, exchanging their products for things they needed or traveling long distances to obtain desired goods.

How was Mehrgarh destroyed?

An armed conflict between two local tribes, the Rind and Raisani, destroyed the site. The fighting caused extensive damage to the site, including vandalism and accidental destruction by farmers. The lack of intervention by the government at the time allowed the damage to continue leading to the destruction of Mehrgarh Balochistan.

Important Facts about Mehrgarh

  • It is worth noting that the artifacts from the site are far more advanced and developed compared to those found in other excavations, such as those in Turkey and the Middle East, notably Jericho. 
  • One of the unique discoveries is the earliest known evidence of dental surgery and other medicinal activities, which suggests a high level of innovation and development among people around 9000 years ago.
  • Mehrgarh was also a manufacturing center for various figurines and pottery distributed to surrounding regions. These products are notable for their high quality, considering the period and the available technology.
  • It is worth noting that no other civilizations existed then, and the perfection in the art and craft produced in Mehrgarh, Pakistan is unmatched in other parts of the world.
  • It is interesting to note that the male figurines found have turbans similar to those worn by the inhabitants of modern-day Balochistan. It suggests that this region’s tradition of wearing turbans has a long history and is still practiced in the rural areas of Punjab. This fascinating insight into the cultural continuity of this region highlights the importance of Mehrgarh.

FAQs

What is Mehrgarh known for?

Mehrgarh, Pakistan, is known for its Neolithic and Chalcolithic remains, which provide insight into the earliest human settlements in the region. The site is also notable for its rich cultural heritage and well-preserved artifacts, which offer a glimpse into people’s daily lives.

Which animal was found in the burial of Mehrgarh? 

Dead people were buried with goats, as some cultures believed in life after death and may have buried their deceased with food to sustain them in the afterlife.

Conclusion

Mehrgarh Balochistan is a well-preserved artifact, and its rich cultural heritage provides valuable insights into the daily lives of the people there. The site’s Neolithic and Chalcolithic remains are particularly significant, as they offer insight into the earliest human settlements in the region. It is a fascinating example of human culture’s continuity and our ancestors’ ingenuity.