- A Peaceful Realm: The Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization
The fanciful title of this book should be a clue to the reader that this is actually a "story" rather than a serious scholarly text about the Indus Valley civilization. If read [End Page 376] as a story it is quite well written and engaging, with lots of excellent illustrations taken primarily from the website www.harappa.com. However, if used as a source for accurate information on the Indus civilization, the reader should be forewarned that the presentation is seriously flawed. The author does not appear to have had any first-hand experience working on the Indus Valley civilization and her information has been taken primarily from articles and recently published books by leading authorities in the field. The bibliography indicates that she has done a considerable amount of background research, but since there are almost no references cited throughout this text it is often difficult to differentiate her ideas from those derived from other scholars.
The text is organized in thirteen chapters that cover a wide range of topics, focusing on specific aspects of the Indus Valley civilization and comparisons with contemporaneous civilizations in West Asia and China. In the first introductory chapter the author sets the tone of the book with statements that serve to reinforce stereotypes of the Indus that scholars have been trying to erase for the past fifty years. She states that, ". . . within less than a thousand years the Indus Civilization—like a candle—had flared up, burned brightly, and gone out" (p. 8). She also argues that, ". . . the clues from the Indus Civilization seem to be showing us a state without violence or conflict. Who were these peace-loving people?" (p. 12). While these statements are clearly problematic, she does emphasize the point made by many Indus scholars, that the legacy of the Indus cities can be seen in "many aspects of modern South Asian life" (p. 12).
In her introduction she also provides a very detailed timeline that compares major events in the history of the Indus, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. Here again we see a pattern of inaccurate information that comes up again and again throughout the text. While the entries are generally significant, the dating of the events is very inaccurate, especially for the Indus. In the Indus Valley region, the earliest development of farming communities is actually around 7000 B.C. and not 4300 B.C. The beginning of the Harappan phase of the Indus Valley civilization is around 2600 B.C. (Kenoyer 1991, 1998) and not 3000 B.C. Finally, the decline of the Indus cities begins around 1900 B.C. and not 2100 B.C. Similar inaccuracies are found in her dating of writing in Egypt and China, as well as the beginnings of agriculture and copper metallurgy in Mesopotamia. It is not clear if the errors are due to bad editing or mistakes by the author herself, since the dates for some events are restated incorrectly in the body of the text, while others are accurately stated. Anyone who is not familiar with the correct dates would be very confused in comparing the text with the time line, and they would be seriously mistaken if they used her timeline for teaching or comparative study.
In the first chapter "Lost Civilizations," she continues with more outdated interpretations that no serious scholars would support. For example, she says that, "The historical Ganges Civilization was built on foundations laid by the Indo-Aryans, a nomadic people who had invaded the subcontinent at some time before 1000 BC . . ." The idea of "invading Indo-Aryans" has been beaten to death by numerous scholars (Lal 1998; Shaffer 1984) and at present, no one supports this idea. She makes some general comparisons between the Indus and early urban societies in Mesopotamia and Egypt that are generally accurate, but do not add anything new to the discussion.
The second chapter looks at the...