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The Magic in The Image: Women in Clay at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa

Shereen Ratnagar (Author)

Hundreds of clay figurines of women and their fragments, were found in the remains of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, major cities of the Indus civilization, but almost none in the other Harappan towns or villages. What could be the explanation. This study begins with the background: the archaeological history, various studies of figurines and how they came to be linked with the idea of the mother goddess. There is also an attempt to draw a general picture of popular religion of the time and to detect archaeological traces of Harappan beliefs and religious practices. There follows an analysis of the figurines themselves: what were their antecedents. Do the few male clay figurines fall in the same genre as the plentiful remains of women’s images. There were youthful women, mothers, portly matrons and also women at the grinding stone, but nothing that could be a representation of ‘womanhood’. Attention is paid to the variation in headgear, hairstyles, ornamentation and the all-pervasive hip-girdles. Nudity is also a topic of discussion. Besides, they cannot be stood upright. As for their distribution, it was significantly irregular. Although attempts to replicate the firing of these solid objects using simple methods failed, it is doubtful to what extent they were made by skilled potters, the modelling being unpractised and even clumsy, as the photographs of some profiles, published here for the first time, shows. The author dares to suggest these images were part of magic rituals or domestic cults that in their turn were impelled by the uncertainties and stresses of a newly emergent city life.

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About the author

Shereen Ratnagar

Trained in Indian and Western Asiatic archaeology, Shereen Ratnagar is the author of several books and academic papers on the Indus civilization, and on pastoralism and urbanism.  She has also been investigating the sources of certain assumptions behind current archaeological interpretations, and has made interventions concerning the political abuse of archaeology.  She taught for many years at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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Bibliographic information

Title The Magic in The Image: Women in Clay at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa
Format Hardcover
Date published: 31.12.2018
Edition 1st. ed.
isbn 9350981858, 9789350981856
length 444p., Illustrations Black and White and Colour; 25cm.