Information about Clay figures and toys

|by Sharri Clark|

This article is hear so that you can have more information about the clay figures and toys from Harappa

1. A group of terracotta figurines from Harappa.
After many decades of research, the Indus Civilization is still something of an enigma — an ancient civilization with a writing system that still awaits convincing decipherment, monumental architecture whose function still eludes us, no monumental art, a puzzling decline, and little evidence of the identity of its direct descendants. In a civilization extending over an area so vast, we expect to find monumental art and/or architectural symbols of power displaying the names of the powerful. Instead, we find an emphasis on small, elegant art and sophisticated craft technology. In this so-called “faceless civilization,” three-dimensional representations of living beings in the Harappan world are confined to a few stone and bronze statues and some small objects crafted in faience, stone, and other materials – with one important exception. Ranging in size from slightly larger than a human thumb to almost 30 cm. (one foot) in height, the anthropomorphic and animal terracotta figurines from Harappa and other Indus Civilization sites offer a rich reflection of some of the Harappan ideas about representing life in the Bronze Age. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
2. Ox- or water buffalo-drawn cart with driver from Harappa.
Terracotta figurines have long been considered toys, often without question. Other objects such as carts, wheels, and charpoi (cots) made of terracotta at a similar scale may reinforce this interpretation for at least some of the terracotta figurines. Several styles of carts as well as wheels made of terracotta have been found at Harappa. These were probably originally held together by wooden components that have not been preserved. These terracotta carts are very similar to carts drawn by oxen or water buffalo today in South Asia. A realistic scene can easily be created with the addition of anthropomorphic figurines representing human drivers accompanied by miniature pottery and bundles of straw. (Photograph by Sharri R. Clark and Laura J. Miller)
3. Early Harappan stylized female figurine from Harappa.
The earliest anthropomorphic figurines from Harappa thus far are from the Early Harappan (Ravi Phase, Period 1, and Kot Diji Phase, Period 2) levels. Among these are stylized seated female figurines with exaggerated buttocks and thighs and joined legs extended in front. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.0 x 4.0 x 2.0 cm. (Photograph (from the side and the rear) by Richard H. Meadow)
4. Early Harappan female figurine with painted features from Harappa.
Another style of Early Harappan female figurine holds a round object, possibly a vessel, with both hands at the waist above a flaring lower body which ends in a (broken) forward-extending base. The hair is bound at the back of the head into a tiered hairstyle. Details such as a necklace with long pendants, bangles, and grid-like lines possibly depicting textile designs are painted in black. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.7 x 7.9 x 2.4 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
5. Female figurine with a fan-shaped headdress from Harappa.
At the peak of the Indus Civilization or the Harappan Period (Period 3), the most common dress for female figurines was the belt and/or short skirt usually situated at the same point on the hips as the figurine’s hands. The fan-shaped headdress was one of the most commonly depicted Indus headdresses. Figurine headdresses were typically decorated in a variety of ways through the addition of terracotta cones, twisted ropes (possibly representing hair), flowers and other applied ornaments. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.3 x 14.3 x 3.4 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
6. Three female figurines with painted fan-shaped headdresses from Harappa.
Many of the fan-shaped headdresses were painted black. While the headdress may have been worn as a symbol of distinction, it has been suggested that this type of headdress actually represents black hair stretched over a frame made of bamboo or some other material. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D) of the most complete figurine: 6.1 x 7.5 x 3.2 cm. (Photograph by Sharri R. Clark)
7. Female figurine with a pannier headdress from Harappa.
Some of the female figurines are very ornate with elaborate headdresses, chokers and/or necklaces, and decorated multiple-strand belts. The fan-shaped headdresses sometimes have panniers or cup-like attachments on either side of the head and depictions of flowers added at the top or sides of the head. Some of these panniers contain traces of black residue that may indicate that oil or an essence was burned in them, possibly as part of a ritual. Approximate height: 13.2 cm. (Photograph by J. Mark Kenoyer)
8. Head of a female figurine with a “tiara” headdress from Harappa.
A few female figurines from Harappa have a sort of “tiara” attached to the front of the fan-shaped headdress. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 6.0 x 8.7 x 3.9 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
9. Female figurine with a double volute headdress from Harappa. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.9 x 10.2 x 2.4 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
Other female figurines have a double volute headdress that is usually decorated and sometimes painted black as well. Female figurines are usually depicted standing with their legs pressed together all the way to the feet and sometimes have their hands raised to their heads. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.9 x 10.2 x 2.4 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
10. Female figurine with a double volute headdress from Harappa.
The “cones” that often decorate figurine headdresses may be reproductions of the small gold cones that have been found at Indus Civilization sites. Similar small gold cones are still used as hair ornaments in South Asia. Approximate dimensions Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.9 x 6.7 x 2.9 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
11. Female figurine with painted hair from Harappa.
In addition to headdresses and hair decorations, loose hair is sometimes depicted on figurines. A few figurines have painted black hair extending from the back of the head to below the shoulders. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.9 x 5.2 x 2.6 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
12. Female figurine with locks of hair from Harappa.
Other figurines have loose hair arranged in “ringlets” or separate locks made of terracotta, possibly representing a wig. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.0 x 9.1 x 2.9 cm.
13. Female figurine with a “turban” from Harappa.
The hair of female figurines is sometimes bound up in a sort of “turban”. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.6 x 9.5 x 2.8 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
14. Two female figurines with other head decor from Harappa.
Both male and female figurines may have hair swept around the top of the head, to the side, or to the front. Some female figurines also have a somewhat simple flaring headdress with an attached headband. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 2.9 x 7.1 x 2.0 cm. and 3.4 x 7.9 x 2.3 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
15. Female figurine with three chokers/necklaces from Harappa.
One of the largest female figurines found at Harappa has a (badly broken) fan-shaped pannier headdress with black residue in the cups of the panniers and a forward-projecting face. She is heavily ornamented with an elaborate choker and two other necklaces, each with three strands and many pendants. This elaborate ornamentation of figurines is one reason that female figurines have often been interpreted as deities, most commonly as “Mother Goddesses.” Residues that may indicate burning of oils or other substances in the panniers have also prompted a cultic interpretation, although there is not yet any contextual evidence to support such an interpretation. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 7.8 x 14.0 x 5.8 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
16. Female figurine with painted ornaments from Harappa.
Some of the ornaments on female figurines were accentuated with white and/or black pigment, and some ornaments were completely rendered in pigment. One female figurine has a choker, a necklace, and bangles on the left upper and lower arm, all painted white. The white bangles may represent shell bangles. Shell bangles were also found on the left arms of the skeletons in some of the burials in the Harappan Period cemetery at Harappa. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.8 x 8.1 x 3.1 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
17. Female figurine with a decorated belt and “skirt” from Harappa.
The multiple-strand belt on some of the female figurines is often accompanied by a plain short “skirt”. The applied decorations on the belt may represent beads or other decorations. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.8 x 7.3 x 2.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
18. “Fat” female figurine from Harappa.
Although most Indus Civilization female figurines are quite curvaceous, some “fat” female figurines are also found. These are often hollow, but sometimes solid. Like other Indus female figurines, some of these “fat” figurines are holding infants at their breasts. They may have been intended to represent pregnant or affluent females. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.0 x 9.0 x 5.0 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
19. Female figurine nursing an infant from Harappa.
The infants being nursed by female figurines are usually very schematically represented by a bent and pinched roll of clay with or without applied eyes. The head, body, and legs of the infant are usually pressed against the female’s breast and torso with the legs dangling or gripping the female’s waist. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.4 x 9.0 x 2.7 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
20. Female figurine holding a nursing infant from Harappa.
The female figurine usually holds the infant’s head to her breast with one or both arms encircling the infant. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.2 x 8.4 x 1.9 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
21. Three male figurines from Harappa.
Male figurines may be distinguished by genitalia and/or small flat nipples. A few male figurines wear chokers with pendants very similar to those worn by females. Some males are depicted with bowed legs. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D) of the largest figurine: 5.3 x 9.0 x 1.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
22. Standing male figurine from Harappa.
Other male figurines stand with their hands on their hips and their legs pressed together, a common posture for female figurines. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.0 x 9.7 x 2.8 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
23. Male figurine from Harappa.
A few male figurines demonstrate unusual postures such as one with one leg extended forward and the other extended behind. Male figurines also sometimes wear a simple headband around the top of the head. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.3 x 7.2 x 3.2 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
24. Two seated male figurines from Harappa.
Most male figurines from Harappa sit with knees bent and arms at the sides of the legs or around the knees. Some of these figurines have facial features and even genitalia, and a few have stylized legs joined into a single projection. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.6 x 6.3 x 4.4 cm. and 3.2 x 4.6 x 4.9 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
25. Seated male figurine from Harappa.
Seated male figurines may have their knees drawn up tightly to their chests. While some have facial features and headbands and/or hair, many have featureless faces and no ornamentation. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.6 x 4.9 x 3.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
26. Seated male figurine with hands raised from Harappa.
Another type of male figurine sits with legs extended straight in front of the body and arms raised in front of the chest with hands clasped together, probably a posture of devotion or prayer. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 2.9 x 5.1 x 5.8 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
27. Male figurine with hair swept forward from Harappa.
In addition to different postures, male figurines also exhibit a variety of hairstyles. Both male and female figurines may have hair swept around the top of the head, to the side or to the front. A few male figurines also wear a sort of “torque” choker made of two strands with a slight pinched projection at the throat. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.8 x 7.1 x 2.2 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
28. Two male figurines with painted hair from Harappa.
The hair of male figurines is sometimes bound into a sort of folded bun or mounded on top of the head and secured by a headband or a fillet. The hair may be painted black and sometimes also has a punctate decoration. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.6 x 5.1 x 2.8 cm. and 1.7 x 3.2 x 2.2 cm. (Photograph by Sharri R. Clark)
29. Male figurine with a fan-shaped headdress from Harappa.
Most male figurines from Harappa do not wear headdresses. An unusual exception is a standing male figurine wearing a fan-shaped headdress usually worn by female figurines as well as a choker with pendants. This may be a representation of an alternative gender. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.0 x 13.2 x 3.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
30. Four male figurines with horned headdresses from Harappa.
Male figurines are sometimes also identified by secondary sex characteristics such as beards. Occasionally, male figurines wear a headdress with two upward and/or outward projections like horns. Similar figures with horned headdresses are found in the iconography of seals, tablets, and pottery. It is possible that these represent composite figures with anthropomorphic and animal attributes or the appropriation of animal attributes in the form of a headdress. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D) of the largest figurine: 2.9 x 8.0 x 2.6 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
31. Composite figurine with horns from Harappa.
A few figurines are not clearly male or female, or even anthropomorphic or animal. One unusual recently discovered figurine has no clear sex characteristics. It does have two projections (broken off) that pointed forward from the back of the head as possible animal attributes and a crude beard or choker with pendants that hang down from the bottom of the face/neck onto the chest. It is a relatively rare example of a figurine with a circular base from Harappa. Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.3 x 5.5 x 2.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
32. Three Early Harappan zebu figurines from Harappa.
The earliest animal figurines from Harappa are Early Harappan (Ravi Phase, Period 1 and Kot Diji Phase, Period 2) zebu figurines. They are typically very small with joined legs and stylized humps. A few of these zebu figurines have holes through the humps that may have allowed them to be worn as amulets on a cord or a string. One Early Harappan zebu figurine was found with the remains of a copper alloy ring still in this hole. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D) of the uppermost figurine: 1.2 x 3.3 x 2.8 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
33. Early Harappan zebu figurine with incised spots from Harappa.
Some of the Early Harappan zebu figurines were decorated. One example has incised oval spots. It is also stained a deep red, an extreme example of the types of stains often found on figurines that are usually found in trash and waste deposits. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 1.8 x 4.6 x 3.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
34. Zebu figurine with painted designs from Harappa.
Other animal and sometimes anthropomorphic figurines are decorated with black stripes and other patterns, and features such as eyes are also sometimes rendered in pigment. Figurines of cattle with and without humps are found at Indus sites, possibly indicating that multiple breeds of cattle were in use. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.9 x 8.5 x 5.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
35. Painted torso of a figurine from Harappa.
Painted designs on figurines occasionally reached the level of those often found on Harappan pottery, especially in the later periods. An interesting combination of figurines with pottery was the occasional addition of animal heads to pottery, either on the rims of vessels or, in the case of birds, as schematic components of vessel stoppers and cup handles. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 5.4 x 9.5 x 9.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
36. Water buffalo figurine from Harappa.
Water buffalo are often similar to figurines of humpless cattle, except that the water buffalo figurines usually have large (and sometimes incised) backswept horns. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 6.0 x 8.0 x 6.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
37. Water buffalo figurine from Harappa.
Some quadruped figurines are difficult to classify because the general form and many of the attributes of humpless cattle, water buffalo, and even rams may be very similar. Any of the three may have incising on the face and/or horns. Sometimes the shape of the horns and the posture provide the only clues to differentiating them. Some water buffalo figurines have featureless upturned faces and large backswept horns with no incised lines and the ends of the horns may project slightly upward. (Thus the ends of the horns might, in fact, project slightly forward if the head was facing forward, complicating the problem of identification.) However, the raised head is a typical posture for an alarmed water buffalo. Other examples of water buffaloes with raised heads can be found on some of the seals and tablets. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 6.0 x 7.3 x 6.4 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
38. Ram figurine from Harappa.
Ram figurines are identified by their large curled horns. Some have incised horns and/or muzzles like the water buffalo figurines and are only distinguished by the curvature of the horns. Approximate height (length): 6.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
39. Ram figurine with painted designs from Harappa.
The ram figurines are also sometimes decorated with black stripes and patterns. Some may be painted black. Occasionally, incised “wool” is depicted on the bodies of sheep figurines. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.3 x 6.6 x 6.3 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
40. Three markhor figurine heads from Harappa.
In addition to domestic animals, wild animals such as the markhor (wild goat) are represented in the corpus of Indus figurines. The markhor figurines’ distinctive long spiral horns were formed by wrapping the clay around a stick or rod while it was wet. Some markhor figurines from Harappa have holes at the bases of finished necks, probably for joining them to a separate body. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D) of the uppermost figurine: 10.9 x 2.9 x 2.9 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
41. Deer figurine from Harappa.
Other depictions of wild animals include deer figurines with pronged antlers. Deer bones found at Harappa may indicate that deer were hunted. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.7 x 10.0 x 6.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
42. Two rhinoceros figurines from Harappa.
Larger wild animals such as the rhinoceros with its distinctive “horned” snout are also represented. Although the rhinoceros is no longer found in many areas of the Indus region, rhinoceros bones have been found at Harappa. Some rhinoceros figurines have applied lips, and some have an applied strip of clay down the center of the back beneath the applied decorated “hide” that is characteristic of rhinoceros figurines. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D) of the larger figurine: 3.1 x 6.0 x 8.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
43. Rhinoceros figurine from Harappa.
Although it was surely a wild animal, some of the rhinoceros figurines wear collars. While a collar might indicate domestication, it is unlikely that this is the case with the rhinoceros, although they may have been held as captives. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.3 x 8.7 x 4.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
44. Elephant figurine head with painted designs from Harappa.
It is unknown whether elephants were domesticated in the Indus Civilization. However, one of the few elephant figurines from Harappa is a head with large stylized ears and red and white stripes painted across the face. This may mirror the custom of decorating domesticated elephants (red and white are common colors) for ceremonies or rituals that is still practiced in South Asia. Elephant bones have also been found at Harappa. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 5.4 x 4.8 x 4.6 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
45. Hollow elephant figurine from Harappa.
Another elephant figurine has an undecorated head with two flat ears and a trunk (all broken) on a round hollow body. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.5 x 7.1 x 7.1 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
46. Feline figurine from Harappa.
Among the dangerous wild animals represented in the figurine corpus are large wild felines. One feline figurine with punctuate designs on the face (possibly representing spots) and an open mouth showing teeth is a relatively naturalistic representation of a large wild cat, possibly representing a leopard or a cheetah. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.6 x 11.5 x 6.2 cm (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
47. Feline figurine from Harappa.
Many of the feline figurines are depicted with collars around their necks (as with the rhinoceros). Rather than indicating that these large cats were tame, this symbol of domestication may have been used in rituals of sympathetic magic to obtain a symbolic conquest of and protection from powerful wild animals such as the large cats and the rhinoceros. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.6 x 11.5 x 6.2 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
48. Two feline figurines from Harappa.
Other feline figurines with large round ears and beards may represent tigers or lions. They are often depicted either standing or lying down with their legs extended to one side. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D) of the larger figurine: 3.3 x 8.2 x 4.7 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
49. Feline figurine with “coffee bean” eyes from Harappa.
It has been suggested that some feline figurines have anthropomorphic facial features. While features such as “coffee bean” eyes are unusual, the facial features of many animal figurines are stylized. Such features as beards are not necessarily anthropomorphic features, but may represent either tigers’ ruffs or lions’ manes. Variations in facial features may represent differences in wild felines rather than anthropomorphization. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.1 x 12.2 x 6.1 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
50. Bear figurine from Harappa.
The Asiatic bear with its large round ears and elongated snout sometimes sits with its front paws on its rear legs, the same posture that is depicted in some figurines. It might have been captured by the people of the Indus Civilization, just as bears have been kept for sport and show in recent times in South Asia. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.9 x 7.9 x 4.4 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
51. Monkey figurine from Harappa.
Monkeys are also still found in South Asia, both in the wild and as pets. A few of the Indus figurines represent uniquely primate postures, such as a monkey sitting with its long arms and hands held on either side of its head. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 2.6 x 3.6 x 2.9 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
52. Hare? figurine from Harappa.
Some animal figurines with long ears, especially those with the ears laid back against round hollow bodies, have been identified as hares. One animal figurine with long ears laid back above a small solid body may also represent a hare. Figurines with shorter ears and round bodies probably represent hedgehogs instead. One unusual and well-made figurine from Harappa is clearly a pangolin, the scales of which are represented by flattened discs from its head to its long graduated tail. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 2.1 x 4.9 x 3.6 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
53. Turtle figurine from Harappa.
Several turtle figurines have been found at Harappa, some with few defined features and others with clearly delineated shells and other features. The gharial is also represented among the figurines, and is depicted in the iconography of several tablets as well. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.8 x 6.6 x 3.8 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
54. Fish figurine from Harappa.
Another aquatic creature represented in the figurine corpus of Harappa is the fish, which has applied fins, incised gills, and a vertical hole through the center of its body. Like the gharial, the fish is also a common motif on tablets as well as in the Indus script. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 1.5 x 6.4 x 1.6 cm. (Photograph by Sharri R. Clark)
55. Dog figurine with a collar from Harappa.
Some texts from ancient Mesopotamia mention imports received from the land of “Meluhha”, widely considered a reference to the Indus Civilization. Among these imports, according to some interpretations, is a colored dog. A number of dog figurines have been found at Harappa and at other Indus sites. The collars found on dog figurines probably signify domestication, unlike the collars on the rhinoceros or the large feline figurines. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 1.9 x 5.3 x 3.3 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
56. “Begging dog” figurine from Harappa.
The somewhat schematic “begging dog” figurine on a circular base holds its front paws in front of its body, a posture that is commonly associated with dogs. The figurine wears an elaborate collar that is decorated with applied discs that may represent beads or gems. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 2.5 x 7.2 x 3.7 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
57. Crouching dog figurine from Harappa.
Dogs are also depicted in playful postures, such as one small dog that seems to be crouching with its tail curving up and onto its back. Approximate dimensions (W x H (L) x D): 1.9 x 3.3 x 2.1 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
58. Unidentified animal figurine from Harappa.
Although many animal figurines have identifiable traits (e. g., the applied “hide” and horn typical of a rhinoceros figurine), some figurines are not readily identifiable. Animal figurines that are badly broken are sometimes particularly difficult to identify, but even the more complete figurines are not necessarily recognizable. Perhaps the makers of Indus figurines created abstractions, possibly by emphasizing particular features (as is common in caricatures), that were and are not recognizable to others. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 2.7 x 5.4 x 3.6 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
59. Bird figurine from Harappa.
Several types of birds are represented in figurines. Bird figurines with long tapered tails probably represent parakeets. These birds often have flattened stylized feet that were attached to other terracotta objects such as cages of which there are at least two examples from Harappa. One of the male figurines from Harappa holds a bird, possibly a chicken or a duck, which also suggests that the Harappans kept birds as pets or perhaps as a food source. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 2.0 x 5.0 x 2.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
60. Bird figurines and grain from Harappa.
A circular terracotta platform or container with many small lozenges, possibly representing grain, between the flattened broken feet of two birds perched on opposite sides of the container provides another possible example of the keeping of birds by the ancient Harappans. Approximate diameter: 6.4 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
61. Bird figurine from Harappa.
Many bird figurines have circular bases instead of legs and feet. Some have outstretched wings and may represent birds in flight. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.4 x 5.4 x 5.3 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
62. Bird figurine/whistle from Harappa.
Other bird figurines have no wings depicted at all and either stand on a circular base or on two legs that were inserted into the base of the body (only holes remain). Still others have no legs depicted at all. Among the most convincing cases for figurines as toys are the hollow bird figurines that have a hole either on the back near the tail or in front of the torso that allowed them to be used as whistles. Similar terracotta “bird whistles” are still found in South Asia. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.8 x 5.5 x 5.3 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
63. Animal “puppet” figurine from Harappa.
Some terracotta figurines such as the unusual ithyphallic pot-bellied animal figurines with tails and holes through the shoulders for movable arms were probably used as toys or puppets. A few examples also have holes in their bases. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.5 x 8.4 x 4.1 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
64. Body of a figurine with a movable head and tail from Harappa.
Another figurine that may have been used as a toy is the quadruped, probably a bovine, with a movable head and tail. It usually has pierced projections extending from the base of the neck to secure the (separate) head and neck laterally and a pierced projection above the shoulders (possibly a stylized hump) to secure and move the head vertically. It sometimes has a pierced projection on the rump as well, presumably for a movable tail. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.0 x 8.0 x 6.0 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
65. Movable head of a bovine figurine from Harappa.
The movable heads of figurines often depict cattle. They are usually pierced laterally through the neck and vertically or sagittally through the head in order to secure them to the bodies and control them with a cord. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.0 x 4.0 x 2.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
66. Bodies of two figurines with neck shafts from Harappa.
A different style of quadruped body has a vertical neck shaft for attaching and possibly changing the (separate) head. Figurine heads with this type of neck shaft include the markhor heads discussed earlier (see image #40). Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D) of the larger figurine: 3.1 x 6.0 x 5.37 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
67. Movable head of a bovine figurine from Harappa.
Some movable figurine heads are pierced in other places, such as through the horns on either side of the head. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 7.2 x 9.4 x 3.0 cm. (Photograph by Georg Helmes)
68. Wheeled zebu figurine from Harappa.
A small subset of the figurines from Harappa originally had wheels. Of the many small terracotta wheels found at Harappa, at least some must have been intended for these wheeled objects. One style of wheeled figurine has lateral holes for the axles through the bottom of the torso. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 5.9 x 6.2 x 8.7 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
69. Wheeled ram figurine from Harappa.
One type of wheeled figurine has lateral holes for the axles through the ends of the legs. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 3.6 x 11.0 x 7.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
70. Mask/amulet from Harappa.
Loosely included under the rubric of terracotta “figurines” are the terracotta masks found at some Harappan sites. One mask clearly has a feline face with an open mouth with exposed fangs, a beard, small round ears and upright bovine horns. It is small and has two holes on each side of the face that would have allowed it to be attached to a puppet or worn, possibly as an amulet or as a symbolic mask. The combination of different animal features creates the effect of a fierce composite animal. As an amulet or a symbolic mask, it may represent the practice of magic or ritual transformation in Indus society. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 4.9 x 5.2 x 2.5 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
71. Attachable water buffalo horns from Harappa.
The appropriation of animal attributes can be accomplished through such paraphernalia as masks/amulets and other objects that can be attached to a costume. Several large terracotta water buffalo horns with incised lines on the horns have been found at Harappa. Some are broken in the center or have the ends missing, but most have holes through the horns, often near the center, allowing them to be attached to something and possibly worn. These might have been used in magic or ritual transformation in Indus society, or they may have been worn as symbols of authority like the horned headdresses depicted on figures in the iconography of Indus seals and tablets. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D): 11.9 x 3.3 x 2.2 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)
72. Two composite anthropomorphic / animal figurines from Harappa.
Whether or not the masks/amulets and attachable water buffalo horns were used in magic or other rituals, unusual and composite animals and anthropomorphic/animal beings were clearly a part of Indus ideology. The ubiquitous “unicorn” (most commonly found on seals, but also represented in figurines), composite animals and animals with multiple heads, and composite anthropomorphic/animal figurines such as the seated quadruped figurines with female faces, headdresses and tails offer tantalizing glimpses into a rich ideology, one that may have been steeped in mythology, magic, and/or ritual transformation. Approximate dimensions (W x H(L) x D) of the larger figurine: 3.5 x 7.1 x 4.8 cm. (Photograph by Richard H. Meadow)

© Harappa 2001