Academic journal article Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific

Mobility, Economic Strategies, and Social Networks: Investigating Movement in the Mewar Plain of Rajasthan

Academic journal article Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific

Mobility, Economic Strategies, and Social Networks: Investigating Movement in the Mewar Plain of Rajasthan

Article excerpt


Most of human history in South Asia has been a mobile one. It is only around 7000 B.C. at Mehrgarh (C. Jarrige et al. 1995; J.-F. Jarrige et al. 2005), and later in more southern regions, that people settled down into permanent habitations. Even with the onset of sedentism, though, many people continued to practice a mobile lifestyle in concert with a variety of subsistence strategies including foraging, pastoralism, craft production, and performance. Many archaeologists who study early farming communities and early complex societies in South Asia have identified connections between sites occupied by mobile groups and more permanent settlements. In contrast to this type of research, which studies mobile people through the lens of sedentism, I present here a study of the practice of mobility that focuses on the direction, range, and patterns of movement of the people who inhabited the site of Bagor (c. 5500 B.C.-A.D. 200). While the connections between the temporary occupation of Bagor and nearby permanent settlements have been well documented, the movements of the Bagor occupants have been less well studied. In this article, I use new survey data and examine the raw materials used at Bagor to determine the direction, extent, and range of movement of the site's occupants. Examining these different aspects of mobility provides important context for understanding broader practices linked to mobility, including the pursuit of economic strategies and engagement in social networks.

Mobility is a practice that enhances particular subsistence strategies, but should be considered separately from subsistence (Jacobson 1975; Kelly 1992; Wendrich and Barnard 2008). For example, the practice of transhumance among pastoralists allows the keepers of livestock to adequately feed their flocks year-round, while simultaneously opening up new markets for selling livestock and secondary products. Among craft producers, mobility ensures direct procurement of raw materials and a steady supply of customers in need of pedaled crafts. Similarly, by regularly shifting residence, performers can continuously encounter new audiences ready for entertainment. For these reasons, many communities in South Asia have practiced a degree of mobility through the twentieth century and to some extent in the present day.

It should be cautioned that in many ways the sedentary-mobile dichotomy is somewhat misleading (Binford 1980; Kelly 1992; Wendrich and Barnard 2008). Farmers leave the village regularly as part of daily work and social routines. They also make seasonal trips for hunting, resource acquisition, ritual performance, exchange, and social interaction. Pastoralists and foragers also range in their degree of mobility and may shift camp on a daily basis or as little as once a year. Mobility may split a community for a period of time, as segments move in different directions. Alternatively, at times, entire communities may move together as a single group. These patterns may change in response to drought or environmental concerns as well as disease, warfare, and extra-annual religious or social cycles. Mobility and sedentism should be considered on a continuum; all human groups use a diverse strategy that varies from day to day and year to year. For these reasons, it is difficult to study mobility directly in the archaeological record (Close 2000).

Numerous archaeological examples of interaction between highly sedentary and highly mobile people in the first few millennia b.c. through historic periods have been documented in South Asia (Allchin 1977; Cooper 1997; Meadow and Patel 2002; Morrison 2002c; Possehl 1979; Rissman and Chitalwala 1990; Selvakumar 2002). The most notable examples include the pastoral camps near Harappa and the site of Langhnaj near Lothal. At these sites the presence of metal artifacts, distinctive pottery, or beads, provide evidence of interaction.

Evidence in the Indus suggests that the inhabitants of farming settlements and cities interacted regularly with nomadic pastoralists. …

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