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Clay figurines from Mehrgahr

Stone Age Indian art: Clay figurines from Mehrgahr

The earliest Indian art comes from the Stone Age, starting about 4500 BC. People arriving from West Asia about this time brought their art ideas with them, and they made small clay figurines of women that look a lot like Sumerian figurines from about the same time. Like Sumerian figurines, the clay figurines from Mehrgahr have hooked, pointed noses, big inset eyes, and big curly hair. They hold their arms folded in front of them (or they would, if their arms weren’t broken off).

But they’re also very different from the Sumerian figurines. The Mehrgahr figurines are all women, they’re nude, and they have big, high, round breasts. These are features that become common in later Indian art.

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Learn by doing: go see Indian art in a museum

More about Harappan period art
More about Ancient Indian art

Bibliography and further reading about Stone Age Indian art:

Eyewitness India, by Manini Chatterjee (2002). Easy reading. It’s not specifically about Indian art, but you’ll find information about Indian art in this book.

Ancient India, by Virginia Schomp (2005). Written for teens. Again, not specifically about Indian art, but very good for reports, and there is information about Indian art.

Indian Art (Oxford History of Art), by Partha Mitter (2001). A good survey of Indian art for ordinary people, going from ancient India to modern India.

Indian Art, by Vidya Dehejia (1997). Also written for adults. The author’s the curator of Indian art at the Smithsonian Institution. She emphasizes the close relationship between Indian art and religion.

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