The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

The violence of everyday life: pathology, trauma, and community membership at Harappa


Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University

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The Indus Civilization has generally been viewed as an exceptionally ‘peaceful’ realm, a rare example of a heterarchical prehistoric state, based on corporation rather than exclusion. This paper questions the view that Indus state formation was exceptional in this way. We examined evidence for mortuary treatment, pathology, and trauma in three burial communities at Harappa—one of the largest cities in the Indus River Valley Civilization. We compared prevalence and patterning of traumatic injury and infectious disease in skeletal samples from an ‘elite’ urban cemetery (R-37), a post-urban cemetery (H), and an ossuary located outside the city, near a sewer drain (Area G). Our results demonstrate heterogeneity in the treatment of the dead and in the epidemiological profiles of different burial communities through time. The prevalence of violence and infectious diseases increases through time; women were more frequently affected in the urban cemetery populations through time; and, men, women and children interred in the ossuary were most affected by both trauma and infectious diseases. We suggest the different burial treatments, combined with the patterning of trauma and disease, support the hypothesis that community membership, exclusion, and structural violence determined who suffered in the everyday life at Harappa.

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