Many aspects of the Harappa Civilisation, the most extensive of all the civilisations in the ancient world, remain yet an enigma. Questions about its nature, origin and decline have preoccupied the world's scientists and philosophers. And an understanding of its builders themselves has been of abiding interest to many.
Harappa yielded a lot of human skeletal remains during 1921-46. The series happens to be the only extensive one of any size yet discovered in prehistoric South Asia. The last excavator of the material was Sir Mortimer Wheeler.
Pratap Dutta has re-examined the skeletal material and made an effort to put a biologically realistic picture about the bronze age people of Harappa. He has, for the first time, attempted a biometrical treatment of the series to interpret it in conformity with the realities of natural biological groupings of man.
This book contains application of modern quantitative procedures to such technical problems as the usability of biometric data on skeletons, construction of models for interpreting archaeological osseous materials and the analysis for detecting internal consistency of different samples from a locality. The racial affinities of the Harappans is evaluated by applying a measure of generalised distance estimate.
Many scholars, since Dr. B. S. Guha initiated the study in 1931,' have spent much of their time and energy to understand and describe the human skeletal remains that were excavated from the ancient city-site of Harappa in the Indus basin.' The skeletal series from Harappa, dated third millennium before-Christ, is the most important one from the point of view of palaeoanthropology. This is because of the very fact that the series happens to be the only collection of any size yet discovered in the Indian subcontinent that can be used for both spatial and temporal studies of human groups to appreciate the ongoing evolution in this part of the world. And that is why so many scholars concerned them-selves in the past to study this particular key-series.
The skeletons, which were excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in several operations stretching between the years 1921 and 1946, are housed and preserved in the Osteology Laboratory of Physical Anthropology in the Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Calcutta. It was my advantage that I held the office of the Officer-in-Charge of the Osteology Laboratory of Physical Anthropology of the Survey.
The main results of this long years of study and research on the series have been summarised duly in Chapter I, and following it I have explained my stand why I undertook study of the series afresh. I believe there is no need of pleading my case here further, but I do feel that there is still some scope for me to hint upon how I looked into the whole problem of understanding and defining the ancient inhabitants of Harappa. I viewed the valuable human remains in the context of 'population' concept and attempted to realise the anthropological status of the Harappans with the aid of multivariate analysis.
I could not include at least three vital things which I should have liked to have dealt with. First, is the comparison of different excavated material from India in the context of the Harappa series, which could not be done owing to insufficient material available from other sites ; second, the temporal study, which evaluates variation and chan0 of characters from the Harappans down to present day populations of India, remains vet to be accomplished ; and, third, the study of pathological changes as recorded in the Harappa skeletons could not also be done. With respect to the last item, I may put on record that a beginning has already been made by me,' and a critical assessment on it is in progress by Dr. .A. K. Roy Chowdhury` formerly Professor of Medicine at the R. G. Kar Medical College, Calcutta.
I must mention here the genesis of this study. It is due to the ideas received from the Late Dr. D. K. Sen, the former Director of the Anthropological Survey of India, who, unfortunately, died in harness in March 1972. During the past few years which I took to study, I have felt that his ideas have influenced me much in working out the project. While I was in Europe for sometimes in 1974, I benefited through discussing problems connected with the Harappa series with some fellow colleagues there, especially Dr. Jan Jelinek of the Moravian Museum, Brno, Dr. Milan Stloukal of the National Museum of Prague, Professor J. A. Valsik (now late) of the Bratislava University, and Dr. Don Brothwell of the British Museum (Natural History), London.
In India, after so much of 'typological' approach, I suppose this study would be able to stimulate thoughts how meaningfully we may interpret the excavated skeletal material. I shall now set down my obligations here.
First and foremost, my thanks are due to the Late Dr. D. K. Sen, former Director of the Survey for having suggested the project to me. After him I am indebted to my friend Dr. N. C. Chowdhury, then holding the charge of Director of the Survey (1975-76), now Professor and Head of Sociology and Social Anthropology at North Bengal University, for the active interest he took in the project and also the encouragement he had shown for the completion of the work. I must thank next my good friend, Dr. (Mrs.) Bharati Debi for all the advice and assistance received from her whenever needed. Without the keen personal interest of both of them, this work could not have seen the light of the day.
I am indebted in many ways to my colleagues here in the Survey. It is not possible to name all of them who helped me variously in the study and also in the preparation of the manuscript, but I must single out those who made specific contributions. I benefited from Mr. H. K. Rakshit, Director of the Survey, who out of his abieing interest in the study took the pain of going through the manuscript, suggesting some changes. Mr. A. K. Sen who took a personal interest has been very helpful in reducing the great mass of data and for further computations. He is also courteous in providing me with the draft drawings of distance estimates illustrated in text, The assistance rendered by Mr. B. N. Bagel* Head Artist (now retired), for preparing the illustrations was excellent.
Thanks are also due to my colleague Dr. Mahadeb P. Basu for kindly preparing the index, and to Mr. M. Das, Publication Officer, for his overall supervision in printing the book. I am much indebted to Mr. Jyotish Ranjan Chakraborty of the Publication Section, who took the full responsibility of bringing this volume out of press. Mr. Naren Roy, Artist of the Indian. Museum, deserves a note of thanks for his excellent skill in preparing the jacket.
I must now set down my gratitude to my old friend Mr. R. N, Chose (now retired) of the Printing & Publication Section of the Survey. He was, all the time, very generous with me and had devoted his time with the manuscript for its improvement, a very delicate task indeed. Without his help the text would never have been what it is now.
Lastly, I should be failing in my duty if I do not express my indebtedness to my wife, Karabi (Ruby), who have had been a constant source of inspiration in my scientific persuits.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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