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Reviewed by:
  • Agriculture and Pastoralism in the Late Bronze and Iron Age, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan
  • Jonathan Mark Kenoyer
Agriculture and Pastoralism in the Late Bronze and Iron Age, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. Ruth Young. Oxford: BAR International Series 1124, 2003. Bradford Monographs in the Archaeology of Southern Asia No. 1.

This volume provides a refreshing new perspective on the chronology, archaeology, and changing patterns of agriculture and animal husbandry in northwestern South Asia. Although many of the chapters contain a great deal of detail that will be of interest only to specialists, the general scholar interested in the history of South Asia should find this volume extremely useful.

Archaeological research in northwestern South Asia has a long history, beginning with the surveys by Cunningham in the late 1800s and subsequent excavations at Taxila and Charsadda in the early 1900s. The chronological framework and general interpretations proposed by scholars on the basis of these excavations and comparative historical documentation became the foundation for all later discussions of cultural development during the early historic period. Recent excavations and new radiocarbon dates from the site of Charsadda collected by the Bradford-Peshawar team (Ali et al. 1998) have for the first time challenged the older chronology and reoriented the discussion on the emergence of urbanism during the early historic period. The research presented in this volume represents the environmental archaeological component of the larger study being conducted on the transition between the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. [End Page 115]

In chapter 1, the overall setting for the study is discussed along with some of the major aims and objectives. Two contrasting areas—the northern valleys and the southern lowlands or plains—are compared using archaeological evidence from sites excavated in the Swat and Dir Valleys, the Peshawar Plain and the region around Taxila, which is located to the east of the Indus River. In chapter 2, the methods for studying ancient plants (archaeobotany) and animals (archaeozoology) are outlined, along with a discussion of the ways in which samples were collected from the different sites under consideration. One of the main problems identified by the author is the lack of consistent sampling and the problems faced in making comparisons between the types of samples collected for the different sites. Even with poor data, the author has been able to present a solid discussion by keeping her questions relatively simple and clearly correlated to the nature of the available data. The actual data from previously excavated sites as well as the recent excavations at the Bala Hisar area of Charsadda are compiled in extremely useful comparative tables in the appendices.

Chapter 2 also outlines the ethnographic study that was conducted to complement the study of the archaeological remains. A brief discussion of historical accounts of the agriculture and pastoral traditions is also included. The author should be commended on her careful attempt to avoid pitfalls in earlier ethnographic studies that assume continuity without carefully testing the evidence. In chapter 3 she has carefully pointed out that there have been major changes in populations, religious traditions, and ideology, as well as water management strategies. These changes are taken into account in her subsequent interpretations based on ethnographic patterns. Major factors that would have been equally relevant to the prehistoric inhabitants and modern populations of both the northern valleys and the alluvial plains are altitude, topography, climate patterns, and the availability of water. The main changes between the past and the present are seen in the nature of water management systems and the continuous fluctuation of ethnic groups.

Chapter 4 presents a summary of the archaeological sites in both study regions and a comparative chronology for the major cultural and subsistence developments in each region. As an archaeologist who is intimately familiar with the original excavation reports, I found this chapter to be quite interesting, and I greatly admire the author's ability to present a body of confusing data in a relatively meaningful manner. The nonarchaeologist may want to skip the details and read the general interpretation and conclusions. Basically, the sites in the northern valleys reflect a relatively similar trajectory of cultural development, with significant new developments occurring around...