February 13, 2011

Play was central at class-less Indus Valley Civilization... and other Archaeo News

As they do regularly, the people of Stone Pages bring us some archaeological news from around the world.

Most interesting to me this time is that, according to Elle Rogersdotter, one of every ten artifacts at the intriguing Indus Valley Civilization, the first civilization of South Asia, was for fun, including dice and gaming pieces.

The magnificent civilization, unlike others of its kind, does not include anything that can be interpreted as a temple or palace, confusing researchers used to think that elites were necessary for social organization. However other early civilizations of West Asia (Jericho, Çatalhöyuk) were also classless it seems. 

Besides the many toys and games, the people of Mohenjo Daro also enjoyed other recreations like this huge public bath or swimming pool:

Other items I found notable in this newsletter are:


  1. But all indications point to a capitalist society. Of course, bourgeois society does not require feudal elite classes.

  2. Why do you claim that? (No matter that a Capitalist society in a pre-industrial context and without previous private appropriation of the land would be very much anomalous).

    All the indications I have for these early societies are of being classless, what means communist societies.

    This is particularly interesting, if confirmed, because we can move conceptually from the usual hunter-gatherer primitive communism to a farmer and even urban communism. Communism that would later have been destroyed by the following process:

    1. Asian production mode or bureaucratic/priestly elite (not too different from 20th century Stalinism)

    2. Privatization or feudalization of these state functions, mostly to the former priestly and military elite (not too different from post-Soviet Russia)

    In less organized areas of the world the process would have been different and happened within a tribal context rather than one of civilization. Yet the advance of civilization and/or pastoralist tribes was crucial probably in the extension of this private property or feudal model in the peripheries.

  3. "one of every ten artifacts at the intriguing Indus Valley Civilization, the first civilization of South Asia, was for fun, including dice and gaming pieces".

    I have a friend who's mad keen on chess. It's usually claimed the game developed in Persia or northern India. Perhaps it's origins go back as far as The Indus civilisation.

  4. I doubt chess is so old, as it implies a concept of war and monarchy and is not attested until later. However backgammon is (allegedly) attested in nearby Jiroft culture (East Iran) by that age.

    There are other curious boardgames known from Jiroft, shaped as eagles and scorpion-men.

    Their medicine was also advanced (artificial eyes, brain surgery).

    Chess is only documented since 500 CE in India.


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