Cemetery H culture

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File:Rigvedic geography.jpg
Geography of the Rigveda, with river names; the extent of the Swat and Cemetery H cultures are indicated.
File:Indo-Iranian origins.png
Archaeological cultures associated with Indo-Iranian migrations (after EIEC). The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have often been associated with Indo-Iranian migrations. The GGC (Swat), Cemetery H, Copper Hoard and PGW cultures are candidates for cultures associated with Indo-Aryan migrations.
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Carved decoration of the gateway torana to the Great Sanchi Stupa, 3rd century BCE.

The Cemetery H culture was a Bronze Age culture in the Punjab, north-western India, from about 1900 BCE until about 1300 BCE. It has been related to both the late phase of the Harappan (Indus Valley) civilisation, and the Indo-Aryan migrations.


The Cemetery H culture was located in and around the Punjab region in present-day India and Pakistan. It was named after a cemetery found in "area H" at Harappa. Remains of the culture have been dated from about 1900 BCE until about 1300 BCE.

According to Rafique Mughal, the Cemetery H culture developed out of the northern part of the Indus Valley Civilization around 1700 BCE, being part of the Punjab Phase,[1] one of three cultural phases that developed in the Localization Era or "Late Harappan phase" of the Indus Valley Tradition.[2][3] According to Kenoyer, the Cemetery H culture "may only reflect a change in the focus of settlement organization from that which was the pattern of the earlier Harappan phase and not cultural discontinuity, urban decay, invading aliens, or site abandonment, all of which have been suggested in the past."[4] According to Kennedy and Mallory & Adams, the Cemetery H culture also "shows clear biological affinities" with the earlier population of Harappa.[5] [6]

Some traits of the Cemetery H culture have been associated with the Swat culture, which has been regarded as evidence of the Indo-Aryan movement toward the Indian subcontinent.[7] According to Parpola, the Cemetery H culture represents a first wave of Indo-Aryan migration from as early as 1900 BCE, which was followed by a migration to the Punjab c. 1700-1400 BCE.[8] According to Kochhar, the Swat IV co-founded the Harappan Cemetery H phase in Punjab (2000-1800 BCE), while the Rigvedic Indo-Aryans of Swat V later absorbed the Cemetery H people and gave rise to the Painted Grey Ware culture (to 1400 BCE).[9]

Together with the Gandhara grave culture and the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture, the Cemetery H culture is considered by some scholars as a factor in the formation of the Vedic civilization.[9]


The distinguishing features of this culture include:[10]

  • The use of cremation of human remains. The bones were stored in painted pottery burial urns. This is completely different from the Indus civilization where bodies were buried in wooden coffins. The urn burials and the "grave skeletons" were nearly contemporaneous.[11]
  • Reddish pottery, painted in black with antelopes, peacocks etc., sun or star motifs, with different surface treatments to the earlier period.
  • Expansion of settlements into the east.
  • Rice became a main crop.
  • Apparent breakdown of the widespread trade of the Indus civilization, with materials such as marine shells no longer used.
  • Continued use of mud brick for building.


Cremation in India is first attested in the Cemetery H culture, a practice previously described in the Vedas. The Rigveda contains a reference to the emerging practice, in RV 10.15.14, where the forefathers "both cremated (agnidagdhá-) and uncremated (ánagnidagdha-)" are invoked.

See also[edit]


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  1. M Rafiq Mughal Lahore Museum Bulletin, off Print, vol.III, No.2, Jul-Dec. 1990 [1] [archive]
  2. Kenoyer 1991a.
  3. Shaffer 1992.
  4. Kenoyer 1991b, p. 56.
  5. Kennedy 2000, p. 312.
  6. Mallory & Adams 1997, pp. 103, 310.
  7. Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 103.
  8. Parpola 1998.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Kochhar 2000, pp. 185-186.
  10. "Archived copy" [archive]. Archived from the original [archive] on 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2009-08-26. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Sarkar 1964.


  • Kennedy, Kenneth A. R. (2000), God-Apes and Fossil Men: Palaeoanthropology of South Asia, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark (1991a), "The Indus Valley tradition of Pakistan and Western India", Journal of World Prehistory, 5 (4): 1–64, doi:10.1007/BF00978474 [archive]<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark (1991b), "Urban Process in the Indus Tradition: A preliminary model from Harappa", in Meadow, R. H. (ed.), Harappa Excavations 1986-1990: A multidiscipinary approach to Third Millennium urbanism, Madison, WI: Prehistory Press, pp. 29–60<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kochhar, Rajesh (2000), The Vedic People: Their History and Geography, Sangam Books<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mallory, J. P.; Adams, D. Q. (1997), Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, London and Chicago: Fitzroy-Dearborn, ISBN 1-884964-98-2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Parpola, Asko (1998), "Aryan Languages, Archaeological Cultures, and Sinkiang: Where Did Proto-Iranian Come into Being and How Did It Spread?", in Mair, Victor H. (ed.), The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern and Central Asia, Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man, ISBN 0-941694-63-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sarkar, Sasanka Sekhar (1964), Ancient Races of Baluchistan, Panjab, and Sind<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Shaffer, Jim G. (1992), "The Indus Valley, Baluchistan and Helmand Traditions: Neolithic Through Bronze Age", in Ehrich, R. W. (ed.), Chronologies in Old World Archaeology (Second ed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. I:441–464, II:425–446<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links[edit]