Figurines the new “Writing”

What I found to be interesting in the last couple weeks was in relation to the Harrappan Society who reside within the Indus Valley, in particular a focus on their material culture.  The Harrappan Society is one of shrouded in mystery because of the lack of knowledge from writings. There is still no known bilingual object or “Rosetta Stone” for this ancient writing so the ancient tablets go unread, Though there has been progress on the writings by use of a computer program that was initiated by  an assembly of computer scientist from universities in India and the United States. The use of the program is to find patterns within the writing in hopes to be able to construct a script of the writing. Even though most of the Ancient Empires information that have been discovered comes from ancient writings, the Harrappan have another way to show their “society”.

Yet the Harrappan society has another way for understanding. The material culture of the Harrappan society is consistent of ceramics, figurines and beads. The figurines in particular are a way for the ancient world to be open to the eyes of the modern world. Most of the figurines are made out of terracotta. They carved into animals or gods , and are painted over with reds and blacks in some cases. Averaging in about 6 inches in height, the figurines are distinctive in their designs. They could be used to help understand certain aspects of the Indus Valley empire.

Figurines can be seen through out many ancient culture and states. They can be used to help learn about ancient cultural norms or constructs such as ideas about fertility, dress or even about their sub-cultures. Some of the earliest Harrappan figurines are stylized seated females with exaggerated buttocks and thighs.  These type of figurines have been found all over the world and are thought to symbolize fertility. Especially in a time where plumpness meant healthiness and wealth.

Other figurines also are portrayed as women. The figurines portrayed what could be seen as traditional dress. Showing the design of  headdress, necklaces, skirts and even bangles on some. On some of the figurines the designs were carved into the actual figurine, where other were painted in the traditional reds and blacks. The actual headdress are actually very detailed in design showing braided cords, and flowers.

These figurines can be seen as a way instead of written texts that past empires can be researched. As well as discovering new cultural aspects of certain cultures that sometimes can not be seen in writings. Do to the normal social inequality that is a part of writing.

 

http://www.harappa.com/figurines/5.html

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1919795,00.html

1 thought on “Figurines the new “Writing”

  1. austin49

    I absolutely love that somebody wrote on this (thank you!). I agree completely. I feel like people often get too caught up in learning about a culture through translating texts, to the point where they often lose sight of all the other “texts” they could be learning from.
    As an English major, I was taught that while my discipline focuses mainly on what can be garnered from the written word, writing is not the only form of “text” available for examination and analysis. I was taught to consider all traces left by societies as “textual,” and that the same methods applied to analyzing and learning from literature can be applied to these different forms of “text” as well in order to gain knowledge.
    Why does this matter? Because it’s a useful concept when you happen to be curious about a culture that either doesn’t have written records or has records that haven’t been deciphered yet. The material culture can fill in our knowledge gap by giving us some sort of idea of what was important to the culture. This way, even without any sort of text, we can usually get some kind of general idea of what religion(s) were like, what kind of symbols were used and probably what they were used for. We can piece together what everyday life might have been like. We can assemble clues on how society may have been socially organized. Rather than being a “new” text for interpretation, the examination of material culture continues to provide us with valuable information about the past.
    In cases where we do additionally have a written text to go by, material culture provides a wonderful context by which to gain further meaning and understanding. After all, who wouldn’t get the picture more fully when twice as many pieces of the puzzle are at hand?

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