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  • Development of a Field Petrographic Analysis System and its Application to the Study of Socioeconomic Interaction Networks of the Early Harappan Northwestern Indus Valley of Pakistan
  • Heidi J. Miller
Development of a Field Petrographic Analysis System and its Application to the Study of Socioeconomic Interaction Networks of the Early Harappan Northwestern Indus Valley of Pakistan. Graham Mansfield Chandler. Oxford: BAR International Series 995, 2001. 425 pp., 75 b/w maps, photos, illustrations, appendices with 164 pp. of data, bibliography. ISBN 1-84171-196-9.

Graham Chandler's book presents a systematic and significant research project wherein the methods are clearly discussed and the data are published unambiguously. His analysis of the mineralogical composition and technology of Early Harappan (3500–2650 B.C.) ceramics from four sites in Pakistan is a welcome addition to the corpus of analytic studies of South Asian pottery. Moreover, Chandler has made a noteworthy contribution by devising a portable petrography kit for producing and analyzing ceramic thin sections in the field. He shares the process by which he assessed [End Page 383] the equipment choices and their sources, and thus ensures the reproducibility of such a kit. This research was Chandler's Ph.D. dissertation and thus the methodology and results are well discussed, however, the study is limited in sample size and extent. The book is divided into two sections: the first describes the creation of the portable petrography kit while the second discusses the analysis of 165 sherds from Early Harappan contexts.

The creation of thin sections of sherds for petrographic analysis has relied on cumbersome equipment and export permits, and one of Chandler's goals was to devise a system that would produce and analyze thin sections under difficult working conditions on an archaeological site. The kit had to be physically small and lightweight (and thus easy to travel with) and yet powerful enough to cut and polish a significant number of sections with the least amount of supporting materials (e.g., blades and abrasives). He condenses a complicated sequence of production steps into four stages, each with distinct equipment requirements: consolidating, cutting and grinding, polishing, and analysis. The equipment possibilities for each stage are discussed and the price ranges, availability, weight, and performance of the various possibilities are explored. Chandler makes his decisions and field-tests the kit in Pakistan and Turkey where it performs well with some fine-tuning. The second and longer portion of the book reports the results of his analysis of seven common ceramic forms found at four sites with Early Harappan occupations in Pakistan.

Chandler explored one aspect of possible socioeconomic interaction during the Early Harappan period: was pottery moved between sites or was technical information shared? Three of the sites sampled (Rehman Dheri, Tarakai Qila, and Lewan) are located in close proximity to each other in northwestern Pakistan, while the fourth (the site of Harappa) is a discrete distance away in the Punjab. A total of 165 thin sections were made and analyzed, and the results are presented graphically and in spreadsheet format, per sample, in the appendixes. The vast majority of the samples were from the Early Harappan levels of the sites, along with some wasters collected from the surfaces of three of the sites and some Harappan period material from Rehman Dheri (included for comparative purposes). Geographically the sites form an interesting group. Rehman Dheri is a large settlement in the Gomal Plain with characteristic Harappan cultural features of a complex society, while Tarakai Qila and Lewan are much smaller sites to the north, in the Bannu Basin. It has been suggested by the excavator (Durrani 1986) that Rehman Dheri may have been a ceramic distribution center for the region, a hypothesis Chandler tests. The site of Harappa, one of the type-sites of the Harappan civilization, is geographically and geologically distinct from the other three sites, and thus proves to be an interesting counterpoint.

In the background chapters, Chandler covers all the bases, albeit briefly in some instances. The site descriptions are uneven and the discussions regarding theoretical issues (e.g., reasons for the widespread occurrence of a particular style) are very short and not always critical; however, the review of...