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Ceramic Traditions in Indian Archaeology

Ceramic Traditions in Indian Archaeology
Item Code: NAU656
Author: J.S. Nigam
Publisher: Rishi Publication, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9788191024050
Pages: 322 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details: 11.00 X 9.00 inch
weight of the book: 1.32 kg
About The Book

These are the select collection of papers on Indian Ceramics published by the Author from time to time basing on the available evidence. The papers have been updated with fresh data of new discoveries revealed from excavations and arranged in a chronological sequence ranging from Mesolithic to Medieval times. Chapters 1 and 2 describe the process of clay preparation to the making of the pot or vessels and the stages of development thereof. Further the decorations executed on the outer surface or body of the vessels are mentioned in detail. How the pottery is collected from excavations at site, the function of pottery yard, sorting for study-all of form part of chapter 3. The next five chapters trace the beginning of the ceramics from the Mesolithic times to the Neolithic period, on the basis of evidence from northern, north-eastern and central regions, including the portion on the south-east coast highlighting the ceramic forms and features at great length. Tracing the Early Harappan ceramic forms and features and developing to later Mature Harappan stages with all the shapes and surface decorations and attendant ramifications form the core content of chapters 9 to 12. Representation of human figures on the painted pottery of the chalcolithic period is the subject matter of chapter 13. A detailed study of the origin, technique of preparation, colour content, distribution and dispersal of the well known luxury ceramic Northern Black Polished Ware forms the main gist of chapter 14. Decorated pottery of varieties of rich patterns and designs forming a great creative art practiced during the Early Historic Period in North India are extensively dealt with in chapter 15. Two prominent and well defined datable ceramics from excavated sites of south India viz. The Roulette Ware and Russet-coated Painted Ware are the subjects dealt with in chapters 16 and 17. The glazed pottery is another chronometer in Indian Archaeology has been analytically described in chapter 18.

About The Author

Shri Jagdish Sahai Nigam, is a retired Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India. Born on the 18th July, 1929 at Unnao (U.P.) M.A. in Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, Proficiency Certificates in French, from Lucknow University, Lucknow in 1952. Joined the Archaeological Survey of India in 1954, as a Technical Assistant after taking training in Field-Archaeology during two seasons, 1952-53 and 1953-54. In service obtained Post-Graduate Diploma in Archaeology from the School of Archaeology (now Institute of Archaeology). Awarded French Government Scholarship for Specialized Training in Archaeology and Museology, and obtained a Diploma in Archaeology and Museology during 1964-65 in France. Ever since, in the Survey, has been associated with major excavations, of which, half a dozen directed by him. During 1981-82 was deputed as Consultant to the excavations at Qusair-al-Quadim, in Egypt, conducted by the University of Chicago (U.S.A.). While in service, has been teaching in the School/Institute of Archaeology and continuing till now. Post retirement, was Consultant to the excavations at Sravasti (U.P.) during 1987-89 seasons, jointly excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India and Kansai University (Japan). In 1992, was Consultant to the Orissan Institute of Maritime and South-east Asian Studies. Government of Odisha for the excavations at Manikpatna. Since 1997 has been a Guest Faculty in the Department of Ancient Indian history and Archaeology, Lucknow University, Lucknow till 2010 and had been teaching the students of the Post-Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Museology. During this period, excavated about a dozen ancient sites in Uttar Pradesh on behalf of the University. The reports on the excavations of six sites have been prepared under his supervision and five of them published. The sixth is ready for the press.


The art of pottery-making leading to the creation of pot-forms or vessels constitute a major device or innovation evolved by man in the course of forming a settled way of life, subsequently. The very nature of the function and purpose of the pottery vessels or the art of ceramics is the beginning of a continuous process in the social life of man which resulted in a silent and steady evolution of the pottery with distinct features and characteristics developing into shapes and forms later on. In the historical process of evolution, a change in the way of life or due to the influence of incoming forces, new norms and trends are introduced which have a direct bearing in the creative art of ceramic modelling and these are reflected affecting the social and cultural life of the people. Pottery constitute the largest number in terms of finds from excavations at sites and equally they furnish abundant data for understanding the socio-cultural set-up and also in a way the period of time or the relative chronology in a connected sequence. Hence the significance of pottery and a comprehensive understanding of its use and purpose necessitates the study of the technique of preparation and its historical background. In order to know the historical aspect, its technical knowledge becomes essential. The beginning and subsequent development of pottery studies could be traced to the first two decades of the last century during which numerous excavations have been carried out at different parts of the country, revealing rich source material and for the first time the various forms, fabric, shapes were understood and thus laying down certain broad classification by designating, the Wares and their characteristic types. A more broader understanding of the pottery in all aspects was given a fillip by the landmark discovery and subsequent excavations at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa and later at Chanhudaro. Similarly enough ceramic knowledge has been gained already by several excavations of historic sites and renowned towns in the north-west and northern India comprising the core central Ganga Valley and thereby a corpus of pottery types and wares have been identified steadily. Many of the settlements coincides with life and times of both Mahavira and the Buddha. This is the beginning of the Early Historic Period and the ceramic forms and features crystallises with a broad frame work that could be worked, albeit tentatively. Study of pottery involves, an understanding of the various aspects of its manufacture, functional utility of the shapes and the evolutionary process of changes arising therefrom. Broadly speaking, vessels are used in the household, in the kitchen for storing drinking, cooking and eating purposes. As and when necessity arose, new features were added and shapes modified and put to use becoming normal in the long run. The evolution of the shapes have their roots in the local traits of the way of life and these are aspects of the social nature that changes the functional utility of the vessels. There are some other vessels which are used on specific occasions. This aspect is not clearly identified so far. But the shapes suggest that they do not belong to the category of every day vessels in the household. Hence their use for some extra-ordinary occasions and the other alternative could be for auspicious or ceremonious use. Surface decorations on vessels comprise a major source of historical information of the cultural manifestations on the ways of life of the people and also reflect their artistic creativity. Ornamentation of the vessels are executed on the body, the neck and the shoulder portions and consist of paintings, incised designs, mouldings, pelleting and etching. These form a basis to classify and interpret the social and religious trends current in society and diffusion to adjacent places. This brief survey will reveal how significant is the study of Indian Ceramics and their historical contribution to the development of the life of man through millennia of his existence. A knowledgeable and an understanding presentation of the varied aspects of Indian ceramic forms and archaeological interpretation of their types and shapes is indeed an uphill task that has been ably handled by the author of the book. Shri J. S. Nigam, an expert in the field of ancient Indian ceramics specially on the technology and classification of Indian pottery and handling the pot forms and shapes from excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India and other institutions for more than four decades, is perhaps the fittest personality to deal with the subject matter. In a way, the book represents a collection of well researched papers by Shri J. S. Nigam written in different periods of time and are specialised in nature on varied features of Indian ceramics in historical continuity and great care taken to assess the pottery from all angles such as fabrics, shapes and types including the surface treatment. It is also equally a form of text book of the Corpus of Indian Ceramics in-built in a chronological sequence beginning from Mesolithic to Medieval times and perhaps published for the first time.


The bulk of the archaeological finds in an excavation or exploration are the discarded fragments of earthen vessels and rarely complete pots in a habitation area. Full pots are recovered from the exposed burials. The entire process of producing vessels from the primeval stage to the final makes an interesting study. It is said and rightly so, that 'necessity is the mother of invention. The prehistoric wanderers must have felt the need of a container to carry drinking water and eatables for consumption. Natural objects, subject to the availability in a given region and time, like ostrich egg-shells, dried gourd/bottle-gourd, leather bags, etc., may have been used to keep drinking water and food. These could be easily carried while moving from one place to the other for food-gathering and hunting-fishing expeditions. Even while camping, such containers may have been used for drinking, eating and storing. Craft of basketry was known before the advent of earthenware. The baskets were claylined on the internal surfaces and the coating, when dried could have been used to store the seeds or other eatable fruits, roots and prey provided by nature. Clay-lined baskets are known in India and elsewhere. Accidental burning of a clay-lined basket turned the residue into a baked, hardened and durable mould. This unexpected incident proved to be boon and gave birth to the idea of giving desired shape to the plastic clay and baked the same after drying for durable use, it was pottery. Before the invention of pot-making, the prehistoric craftsmen had already known about the plasticity of the clay as same was used earlier in case of the baskets.

It is generally believed that sedentary living gave rise to agriculture, animal husbandry and making earthen vessels. However, this postulate is not corroborated by the universal evidence much less in India. Potsherds have been recovered from the Mesolithic settlements. Hence the art of making pottery has precedence over agriculture and domestication of animals. As mentioned earlier, the prehistoric man had already known about the plasticity of clay. It was an innovation and progressively developed by virtue of experience gained possibly through the generations of pot producers. They had learned about the preparation of clay removing the foreign materials like rootlets and large grains of rocks. etc., after pounding the clods. The quantum of water and time needed to slack it was determined by the amount of the raw materials. Kneading the soaked clay for a long time increased its plasticity. As the clay particles were electrically charged and came closer to each other filling the voids created by air. Thus the well levigated paste produced fine vessels. Thick and heavy pots which seemingly used for storage purpose were made of clay tempered with grain-husks, chaff or other vegetable matter or small grains of rocks. The product obviously was coarse. Having learned to prepare the clay, the dough was rolled into convenient size of strips.

application of slips and glazes. Initially the pot forms were simple and need -based of a community. The Neolithic communities in various parts of India developed the pot forms for cooking, drinking, eating and storing in their hutments. The belief in life after death, bade the near ones to keep food and drinks in the jars and smaller vessels which were used for drinking and taking food while living and after death in the graves. Often such vessels were burial specific. The semi-urbanite societies such as the Early Harappans and highly civilized Harappans had a large quantity of diverse types of pot forms, some of them richly decorated are examples of sophistication during the Copper/Bronze Age. There are certain fossil types such as Indus goblets, perforated jars and certain types of huge storage jars including the `S-twist' ones etc., were produced by the Harappans. The Neolithic settlements are scattered throughout India except in the Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Although Neolithic implements have been reported from some sites in the Punjab but no habitation site is reported. The grey ware is reported almost from all the Neolithic sites. It is generally burnished and in Southern India these often bear linear paintings in red ochre executed after firing. In North-Eastern and sites in Saryupara region of eastern Uttar Pradesh and the sites in Belan-Adwa-Son Valleys have yielded the characteristic pottery known as Cord-impressed Ware. The pottery shapes in the Saryupara region are common at different settlements. The excavations at Lahuradeva have pushed the date of this ware to c. seventh century B.C.E. The rest of the settlements in adjoining region do not appear to be so old and these settlements can at the most be placed in the second half of the second millennium BCE. However the date at Lahuradeva more or less confirms to the dates arrived from Koldihwa in the Belan Valley. The ceramic evidence from the Nelithic settlements almost presents homogeneous evidence which includes Corded Ware, Red Burnished Ware, Black Burnished Ware and Rusticated Ware in the Belan-Adwa-Son Valley Neolithic settlements. South Indian Neolithic settlements have different ceramic traditions than their counterparts elsewhere in India. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 deal with the raw material used for producing earthenwares and the entire process to finished vessels go through including their selection for the analysis and study. Mesolithic pottery is the subject matter of Chapter 4. Chapter 5 to 8 are devoted to the study of Neolithic ceramic traditions in different parts of India. Chapters 9 and 10 describe the Early Harappan ceramic industries. In order to distinguish it from the well-known Harappan pottery recovered from the excavations at Kalibangan from the earlier deposits which was different from the latter, was identified into six Fabrics A to F basically on surface dressing and potting technique. The Archaeological Survey of India, excavating agency prefers continuing to define the Early Harappan pottery as per the field study. I was associated with the excavations, during all

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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