Mobility and Subsistence Strategies: A Case Study of Inamgaon, A Chalcolithic Site in Western India

By Panja, Sheena | Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview
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Mobility and Subsistence Strategies: A Case Study of Inamgaon, A Chalcolithic Site in Western India


Panja, Sheena, Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific


ARCHAEOLOGY TODAY deals with being critical of our assumptions; being reflexive, relational, and contextual. The conclusions are always flexible and open to change as new relations emerge. It is impossible to approach the data without prejudice and without some general theory, but the aim is to evaluate such generality in relation to the contextual data. Our own understanding about human behavior acts as a generalization with which to understand the past. Nevertheless, we can agree that the past is objectively organized in contexts that are different from our own. The internal archaeological evidence then forces us to consider whether the past subject we are dealing with is familiar to us or makes us rethink deep-seated presuppositions about the nature of human behavior. The objective component of archaeological data means that the archaeologist can be confronted with a past that is different from the present. It is this guarded objectivity of the material "other" that provides the basis of critique. It is thus a hermeneutical procedure that involves a dialectical interplay between our own understandings and the forms of life we are seeking to understand. It is an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present in which the outcome resides wholly in neither side but is a product of both (Hodder 1991; Hodder et al. 1995; Wylie 1989).

It is with these ideas in mind that this article is aimed to analyze critically certain categories archaeologists use to understand human behavior in a dialectical effort to understand the past. Two of the most common categories involve mobility and subsistence strategies. Mobility-subsistence change and its archaeological indicators have been dealt with extensively in the archaeological literature. Binford's (1983) seminal work sought to develop conceptual tools to understand the differences between mobility and subsistence patterns and their roles in creating diverse forms of archaeological remains. Other works have also tried to understand movement and its material consequences (e.g., Cribb 1991) through a detailed study of a particular group.

Researchers working on the Chalcolithic site of Inamgaon in western India have postulated that there was a change in mobility and subsistence associated with the later levels of this site due to environmental degradation. However, these scholars often used present-day categories to describe past human behavior without critically analyzing to what extent these categories are identifiable in material culture of the past. Moreover the evidence was limited to the level of one site only, that of Inamgaon.

One way to link categories is through "critical" analogies derived from ethnographic situations or anthropological accounts, often called "middle-range research." This approach argues that mobility and subsistence change has to be understood through archaeological patterning across a landscape as well as on a single site. Further, this approach argues that to understand these aspects the researcher has to move beyond the confines of a single-site approach and comprehend the archaeological record in a holistic way, both at the level of the region and at the site.

The aim of this article is therefore to present a critical analysis of mobility and subsistence change at the site of Inamgaon within a regional framework using actualistic research and anthropological literature as heuristic devices with which to give meaning to patterning in the archaeological record. The procedure used is dialogical, in which there is continuous interplay between our own notions and the objective past archaeological record in order to come to terms with the complexity of human behavior in the past and present.

THE SITE OF INAMGAON

The site of Inamgaon, a village in Shirur taluk, Poona District, Maharashtra State (western India), is located 89 km east of the city of Pune (Fig. 1). The ancient mound, 3 km from the modern village, is situated on the right bank of the river Ghod.

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