Ritual, urbanism, and the everyday: Mortuary behavior in the Indus civilization

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gwen Robbins Schug, Visiting Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Human skeletal material from archaeological sites is the most important source of evidence about embodied experience, habitual behaviors, and aspects of health in past people. Within bioarchaeology’s broad area of inquiry, analysis of mortuary behavior (particularly when combined with paleopathology) is potentially the most critical tool for archaeologists to reconstruct ritual and meaning in the past. This work typically combines embodiment and practice theory to examine the importance of ritual, its contours, and its social function. This chapter asks what we mean by “ritual” and how “ritual” emerges from mortuary artifacts and features. This chapter seeks to move away from mortuary ritual as a distinct category of behavior in the Indus context, separate from a secular life in the urban environment. I argue that mortuary behavior for individuals in the Indus civilization varies because of the nature of the heterogeneous populations that occupied these urban settlements but perhaps also that mortuary and other ritual behaviors in the Indus civilization were entangled, enmeshed, and interacted with the everyday heterogeneity of people’s life in the urban environment. While there is no common tradition apparent within or among all Indus cities, what is clear is that the urban lifestyle and environment participated in creating diverse rituals performed in a funerary context and that participation would contribute to memories of the cities long after their decline. Evidence is drawn from mortuary archaeology and objects, bodies and emergent behaviors, pathophysiology and health. These ritual and everyday dimensions of life in South Asia’s first urban period speak to the deepest anthropological questions we can ask about meaning in the past and how it was lived in the urban context.

Additional Information

S. DeWitte, & T. Betsinger (Eds.), The Bioarchaeology of Urbanization (pp. 49-72). Cham: Springer.
Language: English
Date: 2020
Harappan civilization, Indus archaeology, Bioarchaeology, Urban, Bronze Age, South Asia

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