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Female figurine with three chokers/necklaces from Harappa

Female figurine with three sets of chokers and necklaces. This is one of the largest female figurines found at Harappa and it has the common fan shaped headdress with cups on either side of the head.

Traces of black pigment or soot have been found inside the cups, and suggest that they were filled with oil and used as a sacred lamp. On the other hand, a sooty black pigment may have been applied to depict black hair. The forward projecting face is made separately and attached to the body after all of the ornaments had been applied.

Material: terra cotta
Dimensions: 14 cm height, 7.8 cm width, 5.8 cm thickness
Harappa, Lot 01-13
Harappa Museum, H87-189

One of the largest female figurines found at Harappa has a (badly broken) fan-shaped pannier headdress with black residue in the cups of the panniers and a forward-projecting face. She is heavily ornamented with an elaborate choker and two other necklaces, each with three strands and many pendants. This elaborate ornamentation of figurines is one reason that female figurines have often been interpreted as deities, most commonly as "Mother Goddesses." Residues that may indicate burning of oils or other substances in the panniers have also prompted a cultic interpretation, although there is not yet any contextual evidence to support such an interpretation.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 7.8 x 14.0 x 5.8 cm.


Female figurine with painted ornaments from Harappa

Some of the ornaments on female figurines were accentuated with white and/or black pigment, and some ornaments were completely rendered in pigment. One female figurine has a choker, a necklace, and bangles on the left upper and lower arm, all painted white. The white bangles may represent shell bangles. Shell bangles were also found on the left arms of the skeletons in some of the burials in the Harappan Period cemetery at Harappa.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.8 x 8.1 x 3.1 cm.


Female figurine with a decorated belt and "skirt" from Harappa

The multiple-strand belt on some of the female figurines is often accompanied by a plain short "skirt". The applied decorations on the belt may represent beads or other decorations.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.8 x 7.3 x 2.0 cm.



Female figurine with a fan-shaped headdress from Harappa

At the peak of the Indus Civilization or the Harappan Period, the most common dress for female figurines was the belt and/or short skirt usually situated at the same point on the hips as the figurine’s hands. The fan-shaped headdress was one of the most commonly depicted Indus headdresses. Figurine headdresses were typically decorated in a variety of ways through the addition of terracotta cones, twisted ropes (possibly representing hair), flowers and other applied ornaments.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.3 x 14.3 x 3.4 cm.

Early Harappan female figurine with painted features

Another style of Early Harappan female figurine holds a round object, possibly a vessel, with both hands at the waist above a flaring lower body which ends in a (broken) forward-extending base. The hair is bound at the back of the head into a tiered hairstyle. Details such as a necklace with long pendants, bangles, and grid-like lines possibly depicting textile designs are painted in black.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.7 x 7.9 x 2.4 cm.



Painted torso of a figurine from Harappa

Painted designs on figurines occasionally reached the level of those often found on Harappan pottery, especially in the later periods. An interesting combination of figurines with pottery was the occasional addition of animal heads to pottery, either on the rims of vessels or, in the case of birds, as schematic components of vessel stoppers and cup handles.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.4 x 9.5 x 9.0 cm.


Female Figurine

Female Figurine


Female Figurine

Female figurine with four flowers arranged on the front part of a fan shaped headdress with cups at two sides and braided edging. This figurine is heavily adorned with a triple strand choker with pendant beads, a double strand necklace with central disc pendant, and a triple strand belt with disc shaped ornaments.

Material: terra cotta
Dimensions: 13.2 cm height
Harappa National Museum, Karachi, HP 1603

Female figurine with a double volute headdress from Harappa

Other female figurines have a double volute headdress that is usually decorated and sometimes painted black as well. Female figurines are usually depicted standing with their legs pressed together all the way to the feet and sometimes have their hands raised to their heads.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.9 x 10.2 x 2.4 cm.



Female figurine with locks of hair from Harappa

Other figurines have loose hair arranged in "ringlets" or separate locks made of terracotta, possibly representing a wig.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.0 x 9.1 x 2.9 cm.

Female figurine with a "turban" from Harappa

The hair of female figurines is sometimes bound up in a sort of "turban".

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.6 x 9.5 x 2.8 cm.


Head of a female figurine with a "tiara" headdress from Harappa

A few female figurines from Harappa have a sort of "tiara" attached to the front of the fan-shaped headdress.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 6.0 x 8.7 x 3.9 cm.


Female figurine with a double volute headdress from Harappa

The "cones" that often decorate figurine headdresses may be reproductions of the small gold cones that have been found at Indus Civilization sites. Similar small gold cones are still used as hair ornaments in South Asia.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 4.9 x 6.7 x 2.9 cm.


Female figurine with painted hair from Harappa

In addition to headdresses and hair decorations, loose hair is sometimes depicted on figurines. A few figurines have painted black hair extending from the back of the head to below the shoulders.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.9 x 5.2 x 2.6 cm.


"Fat" female figurine from Harappa

Although most Indus Civilization female figurines are quite curvaceous, some "fat" female figurines are also found. These are often hollow, but sometimes solid. Like other Indus female figurines, some of these "fat" figurines are holding infants at their breasts. They may have been intended to represent pregnant or affluent females.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.0 x 9.0 x 5.0 cm.


Female figurine nursing an infant from Harappa

The infants being nursed by female figurines are usually very schematically represented by a bent and pinched roll of clay with or without applied eyes. The head, body, and legs of the infant are usually pressed against the female’s breast and torso with the legs dangling or gripping the female’s waist.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 5.4 x 9.0 x 2.7 cm.


Female figurine holding a nursing infant from Harappa

The female figurine usually holds the infant's head to her breast with one or both arms encircling the infant.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 3.2 x 8.4 x 1.9 cm



Two female figurines with other head decor from Harappa

Both male and female figurines may have hair swept around the top of the head, to the side, or to the front. Some female figurines also have a somewhat simple flaring headdress with an attached headband.

Approximate dimensions (W x H x D): 2.9 x 7.1 x 2.0 cm. and 3.4 x 7.9 x 2.3 cm.


Female Figurines

Fat women figurines with turban-like headdress and appliqué ornaments. Bangles are worn on both wrists and upper arms, ankle bracelets and a choker probably represent beaded ornaments. The right hand is held to the mouth and the left hand clutches the heart, in an expression of amazement that is still typical in the subcontinent today.

Period III, Harappan, 2300-2200 B. C.
Material: terra cotta
Dimensions (left): 10.9 cm height, 6.76 cm width, 5.3 cm thickness
Nausharo [Baluchistan], NS P,
locus I Department of Archaeology, Karachi.


Female Figurines


Early Harappan female figurines are often broken. On the left is the lower half of a figurine, showing wide hips and pointed legs. On the right is the upper half of a figurine with traces of painting.




Three female figurines with painted fan-shaped headdresses from Harappa

Many of the fan-shaped headdresses were painted black. While the headdress may have been worn as a symbol of distinction, it has been suggested that this type of headdress actually represents black hair stretched over a frame made of bamboo or some other material.
Approximate dimensions (W x H x D) of the most complete figurine: 6.1 x 7.5 x 3.2 cm.

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