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Old December 24th, 2016, 03:08 PM   #1

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Painted Grey Ware - connecting archaeology with textual records and legends.


Painted Grey Ware was an Iron Age culture that existed from 1200 BC - 600 BC. It was mainly spread over what we now call Harayana and Uttar Pradesh in India.

Click the image to open in full size.

B.B. Lal identified this with Later Vedic Period and Mahabharata.

Here in this thread we will try to connect the dots between archaeological data with textual data that we get from Later Vedic Period and Mahabharata. Please share anything that you like to share regarding this. I will probably comeback on the holy day of Tuesday and will continue from there
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Old December 27th, 2016, 02:34 PM   #2

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First some archaeological information that we have regarding the Painted Grey Ware Cu


Painted Grey Ware (PGW) is very fine, smooth and even coloured pottery made out of very well worked and high quality clay. Simple geometric designs were painted on in black. PGW seems to have been deluxe table ware, used by well-to-do people. It forms very small (3-10%) of the total pottery assemblage at the levels it has been found.
Click the image to open in full size.

In the archaeological sequence of the Ganga Valley, PGW phase is followed by Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) phase. The evidence from various PGW sites suggest a proto-urban phase.

The credit of bringing the upper Ganges-Jamuna valley under cultivation goes to the Painted Grey Ware people. They cleared the heavy jungle with the help of iron axes. The PGW sites indicate a subsistence base that included the cultivation of rice, wheat and barley. There are no actual evidence of irrigation facilities, probably people were using kachcha wells to irrigate their fields. PGW sitea have yielded bones of cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, buffaloes, goats, fish and fowls.

The occurrence of the terracotta horse, in addition to the presence of skeletal remains, reinforces the belief that it was one of the favorite animals of the Painted Grey Ware people.

The nature of the houses varied: while the lowlier members of the community lived in round or rectangular huts of modest size, constructed essentially of wattle-and-daub, the more well-to-do lived in sizable houses with mud-walls, sometimes having as many as a dozen rooms. Burnt bricks do not appear to have been used for house construction, though their presence is duly attested. These may have been used in religious structures like altars.

Most of the artifacts found at PGW levels seems to be connected with war or hunting - indicating a war-like kshatriya tradition was flourishing in this culture. There is not much evidence of large-scale trade and commerce.

Very little evidence is available about the dress of the people. That cloth was woven is indirectly attested to by the impressions found on potsherds. But whether the cloth was just draped around the body or sown into garments, we have no idea !

(The information mentioned here is collected from the work of BB Lal and Upinder Singh.)
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Old December 27th, 2016, 05:05 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by mnsr View Post
Painted Grey Ware (PGW) seems to have been deluxe table ware, used by well-to-do people. It forms very small (3-10%) of the total pottery assemblage at the levels it has been found.
What kind of pottery was the other 90%?
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Old December 27th, 2016, 07:15 PM   #4

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What kind of pottery was the other 90%?
90 - 97% is non-elite pottery. Mainly Black and Red Ware.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 10:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by mnsr View Post
Painted Grey Ware (PGW) is very fine, smooth and even coloured pottery made out of very well worked and high quality clay. Simple geometric designs were painted on in black. PGW seems to have been deluxe table ware, used by well-to-do people. It forms very small (3-10%) of the total pottery assemblage at the levels it has been found.
Click the image to open in full size.

In the archaeological sequence of the Ganga Valley, PGW phase is followed by Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) phase. The evidence from various PGW sites suggest a proto-urban phase.

The credit of bringing the upper Ganges-Jamuna valley under cultivation goes to the Painted Grey Ware people. They cleared the heavy jungle with the help of iron axes. The PGW sites indicate a subsistence base that included the cultivation of rice, wheat and barley. There are no actual evidence of irrigation facilities, probably people were using kachcha wells to irrigate their fields. PGW sitea have yielded bones of cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, buffaloes, goats, fish and fowls.

The occurrence of the terracotta horse, in addition to the presence of skeletal remains, reinforces the belief that it was one of the favorite animals of the Painted Grey Ware people.

The nature of the houses varied: while the lowlier members of the community lived in round or rectangular huts of modest size, constructed essentially of wattle-and-daub, the more well-to-do lived in sizable houses with mud-walls, sometimes having as many as a dozen rooms. Burnt bricks do not appear to have been used for house construction, though their presence is duly attested. These may have been used in religious structures like altars.

Most of the artifacts found at PGW levels seems to be connected with war or hunting - indicating a war-like kshatriya tradition was flourishing in this culture. There is not much evidence of large-scale trade and commerce.

Very little evidence is available about the dress of the people. That cloth was woven is indirectly attested to by the impressions found on potsherds. But whether the cloth was just draped around the body or sown into garments, we have no idea !

(The information mentioned here is collected from the work of BB Lal and Upinder Singh.)
Do we have evidence of fire altars, chariots, etc..?
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Old December 28th, 2016, 03:51 AM   #6

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Do we have evidence of fire altars, chariots, etc..?
- "This culture is associated with village and town settlement, domesticated horses, ivory-working, and the advent of iron metallurgy.
- It probably corresponds to the middle and late Vedic period, i.e., the Kuru-Panchala kingdom, the first large state in South Asia after the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization.
- Two periods of PGW were identified recently at Ahichhatra, the earliest from 1500 to 800 BCE, and the Late from 800 to 400 BCE.
- In the 1950s, archaeologist B.B. Lal associated Hastinapura, Mathura, Ahichatra, Kampilya, Barnava, Kurukshetra and other sites of PGW culture with the Mahabharata period and the Aryans.
- The pottery style of this culture is different from the pottery of the Iranian Plateau and Afghanistan. In some sites, PGW pottery and Late Harappan pottery are contemporaneous.
- Jim Shaffer has noted that "at present, the archaeological record indicates no cultural discontinuities separating Painted Grey Ware from the indigenous protohistoric culture." However, the continuity of pottery styles may be explained by the fact that pottery was generally made by indigenous craftsmen even after the Indo-Aryan migration.
- Towards the end of the period, many of the PGW settlements grew into the large towns and cities of the Northern Black Polished Ware period.
- PGW early phases are much older than previously thought. Confirmation of this early PGW came when a team of the Archaeological Survey of India led by B.R. Mani and Vinay Kumar Gupta collected charcoal samples from Gosna, a site 6 km east of Mathura across the Yamuna river where two radiocarbon dates from PGW deposit came out to be 2160 BCE and 2170 BCE."
Excerpts from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_Grey_Ware_culture

Last edited by Aupmanyav; December 28th, 2016 at 03:54 AM.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 11:38 AM   #7

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Originally Posted by Aatreya
Do we have evidence of fire altars, chariots, etc..?
At Atranjikhera they found circular fire-pits with burnt grains and bones, and it was suggested by Ramesh Gaur from JNU that these might be the sacrificial fire-pits. And chariots are not found from PGW levels but from next NBPW levels.

The objects related to religion are not very clear. At Jakhera a female figure with an animal head has been found. This may be some deity ? May be Varahi or some other folk goddess.

Click the image to open in full size.
Goddess Varahi
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Old December 28th, 2016, 11:59 AM   #8

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Originally Posted by mnsr View Post
At Atranjikhera they found circular fire-pits with burnt grains and bones, and it was suggested by Ramesh Gaur from JNU that these might be the sacrificial fire-pits. And chariots are not found from PGW levels but from next NBPW levels.

The objects related to religion are not very clear. At Jakhera a female figure with an animal head has been found. This may be some deity ? May be Varahi or some other folk goddess.
As I recall, they can't however rule out a continuity with Harappan successor cultures though can they?
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Old December 28th, 2016, 04:26 PM   #9

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As I recall, they can't however rule out a continuity with Harappan successor cultures though can they?
At some sites PGW was preceded by Late Harappan with gap in between (Ropar, Alamgirpur, Hulas..)

At others, PGW was preceded by OCP (Ochre Coloured Pottery) with or without gap (Hastinapur, Ahichhatra, Jakhera, Atranjikhera..). Now is OCP a successor of Harappan tradition ? I think this is still disputed.

At some PGW was preceded by BRW (Black and Red Ware).

At Bhagwanpura, there is an interlocking phase between PGW and Late Harappan. I think that means Harappans co-existed with PGW people before getting absorbed into them.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 04:34 PM   #10

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Originally Posted by mnsr View Post

At Bhagwanpura, there is an interlocking phase between PGW and Late Harappan. I think that means Harappans co-existed with PGW people before getting absorbed into them.
Can we be sure the two were different cultures?
Could they be the same heritage as the Harappans, but with different pottery styles in different places, and changing at different times?
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