It was in the hills of Balochistan, west of the Indus Valley, that the first agricultural cultures of this part of South Asia appeared. The best known site of this culture is that of Mehrgarh. It is dated around 6500 BC The first farmers had domestic animals and mastered the cultivation of wheat. It was first assumed that the mastery of this “Neolithic” economy came from the Near East. Nevertheless, according to genetic studies, there were no massive migratory movements from the Near East. The Neolithization of the Indian subcontinent would therefore have been essentially made by populations of hunter-gatherers present in the region from the end of the Paleolithic. Pottery was used there from 5500 BC The 4th millennium BC, called the early Harappan phase, is increasingly seen as a long “era of regionalization” during which the sedentary communities of the Indus began to form proto-urban settlements. It emerges at this time a common culture. This period has been identified at approximately three hundred sites . They are divided between several regional cultures more or less well documented and circumscribed in space and time, designated from eponymous sites and identified by their ceramic material. This culture developed on three main sites.

Balochistan, the oldest site

In Balochistan, the so-called Kili Gul Muhammad period extends from 4300 to 3500 BC. The eponymous site was at that time located in the Quetta Valley. The Mehrgarh site continues its development to reach approximately 100 hectares. It has many workshops working pottery on the wheel, lapis lazulli and other quality stones. Archaeologists have seen that the funerary material found on the site is integrated into exchange networks crossing the Iranian plateau. The following periods called Kechi Beg which goes from 3500 to 3000 BC and that of Damb Saadat which extends from 3000 to 2600 BC see the development of a monumental architecture concentrated on building terraces. In particular, there will be the vast partially unobstructed terrace of Mehrgarh. Further south, the site of Nal gave its name to polychrome ceramics with naturalistic and geometric decorations. This precedes the development of the so-called Kulli culture, contemporary with the era of integration and linked to that of Sind.

The Lower Indus Valley, a more diversified economy

The lower Indus valley is dominated by its own cultures. The Balakot period dates from 4000-3500 BC. This site, located on the coast eighty-eight kilometers northwest of Karachi, is the oldest known village in the lowlands, erected in raw brick. Its inhabitants seem to base their subsistence largely on fishing, with exploitation of maritime resources and the coastal zone, hunting and gathering, even if they have domesticated animals and cultivate wheat and jujube, a red date . The oldest ceramic material found on this site already testifies to links with the cultures of the highlands of Balochistan. The site of Amri (Sind), located further north on the western bank of the Indus, in direct contact with Balochistan, gave its name to a later period ranging from 3600 to 3000 BC. attests to the continued development of communities in the low areas: increasingly elaborate mud-brick architecture (with sorts of attics as found in the high areas), introduction of wheel-painted pottery, copper objects and the appearance of the triangular terracotta “loaves” characteristic of the integration era. Twenty other contemporary sites have been unearthed in the province of Sind, a sign of the success of the colonization of the Indus Valley, which lays the foundations for the development of the Indus or Harappan culture.

In Punjab: development of the Hakra-Ravi tradition

Further north, in the Punjab, cultures characterized by the “Hakra-Ravi” tradition of pottery develop, which goes from 3500 to 2700 BC. J.-C. The pottery of the type Hakra is made with the wheel, painted and incised and, as its name indicates it, it is widespread in the basin of Hakra. That of the Ravi type was found further west, notably at Harappa, where settlement began during this period. It is similar but it is not known if it comes from the same cultural group. No less than ninety-nine sites from this period have been identified in the Cholistan desert, therefore in the Hakra zone, during a survey, ranging from the temporary camp to the permanent village such as Lathwala. This is proof of the existence from this period of a hierarchical habitat network and of the debate about a concentration of habitat around a few major sites. Hakra and Ravi type pottery represent motifs that will later be found in the styles of the following period, the so-called “mature” Harappan period.



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