The Mewar Plain Archaeological Asessment
The Mewar Plain Archaeological Assessment (MPAA) is a collaboration between Indian and American scholars that investigates microregional economic and social processes in the Mewar Plain of southeastern Rajasthan, India. From the third through second millennia BC, the region was inhabited by multiple communities including the agro-pastoral “Ahar Culture” which is characterized as Chalcolithic with a distinctive white painted Black-and-Red Ware, and others that mainly pursued pastoralism, but are commonly described by their use of microliths. Although surrounded by sites associated with the urban Indus Civilization in northwest Rajasthan and Gujarat, the Mewar Plain appears to have been relatively isolated, with settlements remaining small-scale and economic exchange largely limited to local networks. It was only during the early second millennium BC that the Mewar Plain became incorporated into broader economic, political, and social networks. This period, considered the start of the “Iron Age” in South Asia, is associated with sweeping changes across the subcontinent including the gradual disintegration of many Indus urban traditions and the emergence of new technologies and ideologies of ritual worship. Many of the sites of the Mewar Plain are occupied through both periods, and some continued to be occupied through the Medieval Period, when the region was a center of revenue, while others remain occupied today. The MPAA examines changes in Mewar by systematically sampling archaeological sites in the immediate vicinity of Gilund, the largest known Ahar site in the Mewar Plain. Before the MPAA, only Gilund and four other Ahar sites had been excavated in Mewar, though hundreds have been documented. To date, the MPAA research team has excavated three sites, conduct a regional site census, and collect oral histories from local communities. As many of the sites are in grave danger from encroachment by farming or expanding village construction, the project has also emphasized local community engagement and the creation of effective documentation strategies. Our participatory methods include formal and informal meetings and discussions with community groups, families, and individuals, the collection of oral histories, hosting of open houses, and the hiring and training of local workers.Excavations undertaken at Chatrikhera, Jawasiya-Arni, and Panchmata examined the role of each site within regional and long-distance networks, and assessed the nature of economic and social organization in the region. We began each excavation with three major goals: determine the chronology and cultural sequence, examine evidence for micro-regional and long-distance trade and exchange, and collect comparative data of subsistence practices and material culture to contrast with our knowledge of other regional sites. The data provides a broader understanding of intra- and inter-regional dynamics in Mewar during the Chalcolithic and later periods and points to a spectrum of economic and social variability between communities. In addition, chronological changes in subsistence, pottery production practices, and stone raw material procurement indicate the beginnings of broader economic and social transformations that mirror those occurring across the Indian subcontinent.