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Evidence of dairy production in the Indus Valley Civilisation

Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Evidence of dairy production in the Indus Valley Civilisation:


For the first time it’s been proved scientifically that dairy production was in place in the Indus Valley civilization in 2500 BCE, and the earliest known evidence of dairy production.

  • The results were based on molecular chemical analysis of residue in shards of pottery found at the archaeological site of Kotada Bhadli located in Gujarat.
  • Of the 59 samples studied, 22 showed the presence of dairy lipids.

Key findings from a latest study:

  • Dairy production in India began as far back as in the 3rd millennium BCE and may have been a factor behind sustaining the Indus Valley Civilisation.
  • Through a process called stable isotope analysis, the researchers were also able to identify the type of ruminant used for dairy, and concluded that these were cattle, like cows and buffalo, rather than goats and sheep.
  • Industrial level of dairy exploitation: The Harappans did not just use dairy for their household. The large herd indicates that milk was produced in surplus so that it could be exchanged and there could have been some kind of trade between settlements. This could have given rise to an industrial level of dairy exploitation.

Why these findings are significant? What can we learn from them?

When we talk about Harappans, we always refer to the metropolitan cities and the big towns. But we have no idea of the parallel economy — agro-pastoral or rural.

We know they had great urban planning, trading systems, jewellery making. But we don’t have any idea how the common masters were living during the Harappan times, their lifestyle and how they were contributing in the larger network.

How was the study carried out?- Carbon isotope studies:

Molecular analysis techniques were used to study the residues from ancient pottery.

  1. Pots are porous. So as soon as we put any liquid form of food, it will absorb it.
  2. But, the pot preserves the molecules of food such as fats and proteins.
  3. Using techniques like C16 and C18 analysis we can identify the source of lipids.

Point to note:

2020 marks 100 years of discovery of Indus Valley Civilisation.



Prelims Link:

  1. About Indus Valley Civilization.
  2. Important sites.
  3. Trade routes.
  4. Port cities.
  5. Excavations and important findings.
  6. Town planning.
  7. Evidence of animal rearing.

Sources: the Hindu.