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chapter 1 Warfare in Prehistoric and Classical India Our examination of ancient Indian military history begins with the series of excavations carried out around the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in January 1921. During these excavations archaeologists uncovered the remains of a vast and flourishing civilization. Although the pictograms of this lost civilization have yet to be deciphered, researchers have created a remarkably detailed picture of these early inhabitants. However, we are far more limited in our understanding of their military institutions and practices . The only evidence we have to deduce the military capabilities of the Indus valley peoples is the archaeological remains and the Rig-Veda.1 One of the most visible indicators of the Indus peoples’ military style is the remains of massive fortifications. Some 25 miles east of Mohenjo Daro we find the largest of them, the fortress of Kot Dijian, which Sir Mortimer Wheeler describes as ‘‘a strong walled citadel armed with rectangular towers of stone and mud-brick.’’2 The cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were also ‘‘dominated by a massively fortified citadel.’’3 Wheeler describes Harappa’s defenses as a parallelogram of about 460 yards by 215 yards, with ramparts made of baked mud bricks.4 The western part of Mohenjo Daro has the same type of fortifications.5 Similarly fortified structures have been unearthed in the surrounding regions, a noteworthy example being the one found by Sir Aurel Stein in Sutkagen-dor in Makran; it is an elaborate complex enclosing a considerable area.6 Excavation at the Dholavira site in the 1980s led to the discovery of a similar citadel-type structure surrounded by huge gateways controlling access to it.7 Recently, scholars have expressed doubt as to whether city walls in the Indus valley were defensive in nature. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer notes that with regard to the walls in Harappa ‘‘it is impractical to have so many separate walled areas next to each other.’’8 He thinks that none of the Harappa gateways were designed to repel frontal attacks and that the lack of any evidence 3 Warfare in Prehistoric and Classical India of battle damage further proves his point.9 Kenoyer believes that the scant evidence and lack of any depiction of warfare or captive taking are due to the Indus cities’ evolution from local cultures that had roots extending back thousands of years to the earliest farming and pastoral communities. His implied conclusion is that the Indus peoples never engaged in warfare.10 However, these conclusions are questionable, to say the least. A heritage of past pastoral lifestyles and local roots is hardly convincing evidence of a lack of warfare. Similarly, the lack of battle damage on the existing walls might simply mean that the city was abandoned during a time of peace or that the walls were rebuilt. A more plausible explanation is that the inner Indus cities’ citadel structure is defensive in nature. Jane R. McIntosh notes that these raised citadels mirror Indo-Greek cities like Taxilla and the cities of ancient Greece, where this citadel location served as the heart of the city’s defenses. As for the existence of separate walled areas outside the citadel complex, McIntosh suggests that they were actually a separation between the public and private areas. By themselves the fortifications offer no substantive evidence of the Indus peoples’ military tactics. However, when examined along with weapons found in the sites, these fortifications show that the Indus inhabitants’ military system was clearly defensive in nature and relied heavily upon the forti fications. The most common weapons found in the ruins were baked clay balls.11 These missiles could not have been used for hunting; their sole purpose would have been to repel invaders attempting to scale the fortifications. Other weapons found in the sites include arrowheads made of thin copper pieces with long narrow barbs.12 The many arrowheads suggest that the bow and arrow was also the weapon of choice at Harappa. Other weapons found in smaller numbers include spearheads, daggers, axes, and mace heads, all of poor quality. The spearheads, for example, were thin and flat without a strengthening rib.13 Little evidence exists to suggest the use of swords, and this, combined with the absence of any bodyarmor, provides furtherevidence that the Indus peoples were unaccustomed to close combat tactics. Archaeologists also found representations of horses and horse bones.14 However, there is no evidence that indicates that the...


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