Cattle, buffalo meat residue found in Indus Valley vessels

Indus valley site in Rakhigarhi, Haryana in 2017.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A new study has found the presence of animal products, including cattle and buffalo meat, in ceramic vessels dating back about 4,600 years at seven Indus Valley Civilisation sites in present-day Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

The study, which was published on Wednesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science and conducted as a part of the Two Rains project of the University of Cambridge and Banaras Hindu University, analysed the lipid residue in pottery found at the ancient sites.

About 50-60% of domestic animal bones found at Indus Valley sites come from cattle/buffalo, the study said. “The high proportions of cattle bones may suggest a cultural preference for beef consumption across Indus populations, supplemented by the consumption of mutton/lamb,” it said.

Dr. Aksheyta Suryanarayan during an excavation at Lohari Ragho, Hisar in Haryana in 2017

Dr. Aksheyta Suryanarayan during an excavation at Lohari Ragho, Hisar in Haryana in 2017   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


The lead author of the study, Dr. Aksheyta Suryanarayan, said in a statement by the Cambridge University Department of Archaeology: “Our study of lipid residues in Indus pottery shows a dominance of animal products in vessels, such as the meat of non-ruminant animals like pigs, ruminant animals like cattle or buffalo and sheep or goat, as well as dairy products.”

She said the analysis of lipid residues involved extraction and identification of the fats and oils that were absorbed in the vessels.

“Lipids are relatively less prone to degradation and have been discovered in pottery from archaeological contexts around the world. However, they have seen very limited investigation in ancient ceramics from South Asia,” she said.

She added that the study was the first to look into the absorbed lipid residues in pottery from multiple sites, including Rakhigarhi, Farmana and Masudpur.

Speaking to The Hindu, she said that while cattle bones have been found in large numbers at Indus Valley sites, the study found little evidence of dairy products. However, she said there could be regional differences as a recent study of vessels in Gujarat had found evidence of dairy products.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 1:29:31 AM |

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