The Social Lives of Figurines: Recontextualizing the Third-Millennium-BC Terracotta Figurines from Harappa
Papers of the Peabody Museum 86
After more than eighty years of international research on the Indus Civilization, this geographically extensive ancient society remains deeply enigmatic. With no known monumental art or deciphered texts, the largest category of representational art recovered from many Indus sites is terracotta figurines. In this detailed research report, archaeologist Sharri R. Clark examines and recontextualizes a rich and diverse corpus of hundreds of figurines from the urban site of Harappa (ca. 3300–1700 BC) to reveal new information about Indus ideology and society. The hand-modeled figurines—including anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, fantastic creatures such as unicorns, and special forms with wheels or movable parts—served as a medium of communication and exchange that reflects underlying structures of Indus society and cultural change. The author focuses on the figurines as artifacts whose “social lives” can be at least partially reconstructed through systematic analysis of stylistic and technological attributes and spatial and temporal contexts. Comparisons with ethnographic data, historic texts, and contemporaneous ancient societies enrich and inform the groundbreaking interpretations. Lavishly illustrated, the volume includes an extensive database on disk.
Sharri R. Clark is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology (Archaeology) from Harvard University.