Polychromed bowl, Indus Valley

, 3rd millenium BCE


3 1/4 x 5 1/2 (8 cm x 14 cm)


About this object

The Indus Valley (or Harappan) Civilization was a vast, complex, Bronze Age civilization along the alluvial plains of the Indus River and (now dry) Ghaggar Hakra River in present-day northwest India and eastern Pakistan. It lasted from late 4th millennium to late 2d millennium BCE, with the height of its urban culture (often known as Mature Harappan) from approximately 2600 to 1900 BCE. Although there is still much to be learned of the societies that inhabited the more than 1500 settlements that have thus been discovered, we do know that Indus Valley communities developed a distinctive (and still undeciphered) form of writing and that artisans used specialized techniques in stonework, metallurgy, and pottery production. This painted bowl depicts two striped bull-like animals, which may be zebus (a humped cattle native to the region), or perhaps a fantastical hybrid creature.

Holly Pittman. Art of the Bronze Age: Southeastern Iran, Western Central Asia, and the Indus Valley, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984, 79-88.

Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. “The Indus Civilization.” in Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, ed. Joan Aruz and Ronald Wallenfels (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003), 377-84.

Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. “The Indus Valley Tradition of Pakistan and Western India.” Journal of World Prehistory, December 1991, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 331-385.