How India’s Metallurgical Tradition Represents Continuity Between Geographies And Time

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Oct 8, 2019, 1:55:30 AM10/8/19

The CUNNING pathologically lying bible thumping western white christians
COMPLETELY DISTORTED INDIAN HISTORY to inject self loathing into
Indians/Hindus. The entire Indian History MUST BE RE-WRITTEN and REALITY


I have previously pointed out that the telling of India’s history has
been hijacked by the ideologically prejudiced, who, with great
sophistication, put forth entirely baseless speculation as respectable
scholarship, which then, by force of repetition, acquires the status of
established fact.


How India’s Metallurgical Tradition Represents Continuity Between
Geographies And Time

by Anil Kumar Suri

- Oct 06, 2019, 7:48 pm

Alexander’s soldiers had heard of the fantastic steel swords that could
cut through fine gauze, which Darius, the Emperor of Persia, had
received as a gift from India over couple of millennia ago, and of the
fabulous amounts of gold dust he had received in tribute from his Indian

But nothing prepared them for the wonders they saw in Taxila. They had
mistaken the giant statues and vessels as being of gold, only to be told
they were brass. And they were horrified when they found that the bronze
vessels they dropped by mistake broke instead of getting dented, only to
be reassured by the strange people of the Indus that the metalsmiths
would cast them back from the fragments again.

Cast? Weren’t they hammered from sheets like everywhere else? The
Indians were bemused in return: how could the Greeks even think of using
ordinary bronze and copper vessels for holding food? Didn’t they know it
would poison them?

Tin Bronzes, And High-Tin Bronzes

Bronze containing up to 16 per cent tin in copper is in the form of a
solid solution, a physical mixture — like sugar in water — except that
it is solid. If the content of tin were increased further, up to around
23 per cent, the copper (chemical symbol, Cu) and tin (Sn) would form
what is known as an intermetallic compound, with the formula, Cu5Sn.

This is known as beta- (β-) bronze. It forms at a high temperature, and
can only be retained by quenching, or rapidly cooling (a process called
quenching) from the high temperature at which it is cast, to prevent the
formation of other, unwanted forms of bronze.

The solid solution form, as you may have guessed, is called alpha- (α-)
bronze. The problem with β-bronzes, though, is that they are brittle at
room temperature (which explains why they broke upon impact).

The way around this is to heat it back up to between 600-750°C, where it
is plastic (i.e. like a putty, although a very hard one) rather than
brittle, and shape it by hammering. In other words, β-bronze vessels
were cast and wrought.

As it is a compound (where the atoms are held together by strong
chemical bonds), the copper does not dissolve into the food placed in a
β-bronze vessel, and there is no danger of copper poisoning, even if you
use the vessel to hold yogurt. For metalsmiths, the recipe is easy to
remember: two parts of tin and seven of copper.

The earliest known instance of β-bronzes may go back to Mohenjodaro in
the Indus Valley Civilisation. Fragments of bronze containing 23 per
cent or more of tin were found at multiple levels at this site, the
oldest of them going back to the late fourth millennium BCE.

Barring stray instances of objects which may have been obtained by
trade, the earliest appearance of tin-bronzes outside the Indian
subcontinent is only from the mid-third millennium BCE.

The discovery that tin could be alloyed with copper to produce bronze,
which had significantly better mechanical properties than copper,
ushered in a revolution in the prehistoric world.

It appears that the Indus civilisation was not only the earliest to
discover tin-bronze technology for producing stronger and tougher alloys
but had also gone much further in exploring different types of bronzes
and their uses.

Many plates, cups and vessels ranging from the prehistoric to the
historic period found at different sites in Balochistan were also found
to have 23 per cent tin or more, the fact that they were all meant for
holding food quite clearly being the reason behind their composition.
Many β-bronze objects were also found in the Gandharan Grave Culture
(early first millennium BCE).

Corroborating the accounts of Alexander’s Greeks, a large number of
β-bronze objects were found in the Bhir mound at Taxila, dating from the
fourth century BCE to the second century CE. The tradition of making
β-bronzes has obviously had an unbroken continuity to the present day in
this region, as they are still made there.

The technology spread to other parts of India too, with β-bronzes being
reported from the early historic period in Bengal. Many Chola plates
from the 10th-11th centuries were also found upon analysis to be β-bronzes.

As may be known to some readers, there are a small — and unfortunately
dwindling — number of traditional workshops in places such as
Pazhayangadi (also known as Payangadi) in Kerala and Nacharkoil and
Swamimalai in Tamil Nadu that even today manufacture these traditional
bronze vessels, alongside other artefacts such as temple bells and mūrtis.

Bronzes containing an even higher proportion of tin — 32.6 per cent to
be precise — are also special in a very different way. At this
composition, copper and tin form the intermetallic compound, Cu31Sn8,
which is also called the δ-phase.

This bronze can be polished to an exceptional degree of reflectance, and
can be used as a mirror. Bronze mirrors are not unique to India. They
have been used in Egypt, China, Mesopotamia and Rome.

But they invariably use high amounts of lead to make them easier to
cast, which also leads to a duller appearance and some loss in
reflectance. They were also much thicker than Indian mirrors.

To overcome the problem of brittleness, Indian bronze mirrors were cast
as very thin discs, which were then stuck to a wooden block and
polished. The finished mirror was traditionally left on the wooden
block, with a handle provided at the back, as this image of a damsel
from the Chennakesava Temple in Belur, Karnataka illustrates.

High-tin bronze mirrors too were historically made in many parts of
India. The Harappans, who, thanks to the scarcity of tin on the Indian
subcontinent, never left metal objects in graves and scrupulously
recycled virtually all their metal objects and jewellery, made an
exception for mirrors.

However, the Harappan mirrors are so heavily corroded that analysis is
not possible. Nevertheless, the fact that the mirrors appeared to be
very thin, in the style of later ones, suggests that Indian bronze
mirror-making goes all the way back to the Indus civilisation.

Indian bronze mirrors were found in the graves of Scythians, Sarmatians
and other nomadic tribes of Central Asia and the Urals dating back to
the sixth century BCE, suggesting that the Indus civilisation had a
rather large and enduring cultural footprint.

Many such mirrors were found in Taxila too, with the innovation that
they were provided with long ivory or wooden handles, giving them the
appearance of rattles.

Today, this technology survives in very few places in India, such as
Aranmula in Kerala. Till recently, high-tin bronze mirrors like the
famed Aranmula Kannadi were used exclusively in the traditional
Ṣoḍaśopacāra Pūjā, and are preferred over glass mirrors by many even
today for ritual purposes.

What is interesting is how — and how early — the copper and bronze
technology of the Harappans reached Peninsular and South India. The
received wisdom is that the Harappans — or at least some of them — moved
to the south after the “collapse” of their civilisation, and the
immigrating Aryans from the Steppe turfed them out. The truth, as we
shall find out, is more complex.

When The Peninsular Chalcolithic Sprang A Surprise

In 1954, when B.K. Thapar excavated the site of Maski in Karnataka, he
had provisionally dated the Chalcolithic levels at this site to 1000-400

However, a couple of years later, at Piklihal in Raichur district, F.R.
Allchin found a copper chisel very similar to those in Indus Valley
sites. Some ceramic “offering stands” found here too seemed unique for
the region, with the exception of one such stand from Maski, and
strikingly similar to Indus ones.

When the radiocarbon dates for Maski were eventually reported, they
confirmed Allchin’s hunch — the dates were in the range 3000-1200 BCE,
much earlier than those originally proposed by Thapar.

Then came the discovery that the signature Indus crops, barley and
wheat, were also briefly grown in Karnataka in 1900-1800 BCE, which is
practically the closing years of the urban phase of the Indus
civilisation, although the unsuitable warmer climate in the south put a
stop to this very quickly. Around this time, the Harappans also
introduced cotton to the Deccan.

The North And The South

Clearly, deep ties existed between the Indus region and South India from
at least the third millennium BCE, if not much earlier. It is possible
that the Indus people may have been obtaining some of their gold from

Karnataka also has deposits of copper, including in Raichur district.
The precondition for exploiting copper deposits is that they should be
identified, and the ore smelted. The Indus people had ample reserves of
copper ore in Balochistan, Rajasthan and Gujarat and were familiar with
copper technology.

They may have been responsible for the advent of the Chalcolithic age in
Peninsular India — they would have known how to identify copper
orebodies, from characteristics such as a visible encrustation of green
malachite produced by the oxidation of the copper ore on the surface,
and they would have had the know-how to dress and roast the ore, and
smelt copper from it.

It is in this way that the Harappan bronze technology, including
knowledge of high-tin bronzes, arrived on the Peninsula and in the
South. Vessels of β-bronze from the very early first millennium BCE are
known from megalithic sites in Vidarbha, the Nilgiri Cairns and the site
of Adichanallur in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu.

In the late nineteenth century, Breeks had reported that many tribal
communities of the Nilgiris like the Todas had fine high-tin bronze
vessels for ritual use in their possession, that were handed down
generations, and supplemented by fresh purchases from markets in the

As early as 1941, Paramasivan had analysed the microstructure of the
bronze bowl from Adichanallur, and found it to be of β-bronze, although
it was not clear at the time how this technology had come to be there.

But if you are inclined to think this flow of knowledge was one-way,
think again: The South played a major role in the development of iron
and steel technology, where the Indus region was at a natural
disadvantage in not having conspicuous reserves of iron ore.

For very long, it has been assumed that India’s Iron Age was begun by
Aryan immigrants from outside the subcontinent, who progressed to the
use of iron after settling down in the north after around 1300 BCE.

However, we now know that iron smelting was widespread not just in the
Ganga plain but also many places in the South by the earliest second
millennium BCE.

But the smelting of iron itself would not have been very helpful, as the
iron would have been not much harder than the copper the Indians were
already familiar with.

It was not until the carburization of iron was mastered that it was
possible to make hard iron that could be put to widespread use and
supersede bronze for some applications at least.

Ancient blacksmiths would carburize thin sheets of iron, and join them
together at the edges by hammering. This practice of piling carburized
sheets of iron to make large objects is known as lamination, and
represented a huge technological breakthrough.

The earliest evidence of lamination in the world is from around 1200 BCE
from the megalithic site of Tadakanhalli in Karnataka. By this time, the
blacksmiths of Tadakanhalli were masters at making large objects like
spears, axes and knives by lamination, implying that they had been
experimenting with the technique for many centuries by then.

This technique quickly spread all over the subcontinent, with many
examples of objects produced by lamination from the Ganga plain by the
early first millennium BCE.

Till the discovery of tempering and quenching, and the production of
steels, the technique of lamination was the mainstay for making iron

Unity From Four Thousand Years Ago?

The extensive interaction between the Indus region, the Ganga plain and
the South highlights a striking fact: the remarkable sense of unity
between the various regions of the subcontinent from over 4,000 years ago.

The Indus people were involved in extensive trade for millennia with
adjacent Iran, Central Asia and Mesopotamia, but for exchange of
knowledge and technology they preferred to look to other regions of the

To give just one example, the know-how for making high-tin bronzes does
not appear to have been shared with these regions: analysis of bronze
objects from these cultures shows that they were limited to simple

Similarly, the Indus people, who may have been the first to make brass
by alloying copper with zinc, and the later cultures of the subcontinent
which perfected this technology, preferred not to disclose the knowledge
of this highly useful alloy to others.

Even our neighbours, the ancient Persians, were astounded by this exotic
alloy, which looked like gold but was suitable for mundane use. Till
William Champion reverse-engineered the traditional Indian process for
the production of metallic zinc in the eighteenth century, Europe was
largely dependent on costly zinc ingots imported from India for making

This was even as brass was being used extensively all over the
subcontinent for making everything from inexpensive household pots and
pans to gigantic statues and even Buddhist Viharas, despite zinc
deposits in India being overwhelmingly confined to present-day Rajasthan.

It is hard to miss this strong cultural unity that has pervaded the
subcontinent for millennia.

As an aside, the tight-lipped approach of the Indians to foreigners was
not without a sense of humour. Darius of Persia had wanted to know from
the Indians where they had obtained such a large amount of gold.

He was told that it had been dug up by ants in the desert on the other
side of the Indus (Native or placer gold is often in the form of small
nuggets or even dust). The Greeks, who heard this from the Persians, had
promptly embarked on an exploration of the western Thar as soon as they
were able to, and were mighty disappointed when they found nothing but
sand there.

They concluded, without realising the irony, that the Indians had no
knowledge of gold-mining. Native gold dust was historically referred to
as pipīlikā (“ant-gold”) including in the Mahabharata (2.54.4), and
Indians obtained good quantities of it from the alluvial deposits in the
Amu Darya region and Tibet.

The joke and subterfuge were very successful, for as late as 1838,
Alexander von Humboldt wrote in his Essay on the Fluctuations in the
Supplies of Gold, “The old Indian mythologists make the ruler of the
north (Kuwera) the god of riches also; and it is remarkable enough that
the residence of this deity (Alakā) must be sought for, not on the
Himalaya itself, but on the Kailāsa, beyond the Himalaya, in Thibet.
…the great golden sand deserts, visited by the Indians bordering on
Kaschmir; and containing ‘ants less than dogs, but larger than foxes.’”

Nevertheless, starting from the historic period, and especially from the
sixth century CE onwards, when Indian cultural influences in South-East
Asia began, some of this knowledge made its way there and probably as
far as Japan.

South Indians, Descendants Of The Harappans?

In the last month, there have been some articles reporting that
archaeological excavations at the site of Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu have
provided evidence that South Indian cultures were descended from the
Harappan, which therefore, proves that the Harappans were

Such simplistic, even silly, theories adopt an ostrich-like approach to
the obvious and voluminous evidence of continuity in the Indus region

As described above, the high-tin bronze technology of the Harappans
thrived through the second and first millennia BCE, and continues in the
region to this day, even as it spread to other parts of the subcontinent.

Similarly, the early experiments of the Harappans in brass-making
underwent refinement, with the metallurgists of the northwest eventually
isolating metallic zinc, which enabled the production of brasses of
precisely controlled compositions and properties.

At the same time, the Indus region, the Ganga plain, the Vindhyas, the
Peninsula and South India, and even the Chalcolithic cultures of Bengal
and Odisha were involved in an exchange of innovation and knowledge,
which completely transformed the subcontinent, laying the ground for the
historic period.

Ignoring facts or twisting them to fit preconceived theories is the
preferred method for those with doctrinal axes to grind to trot out
their theories. Such half-baked theories also fail to do justice to the
distinct role and remarkable contributions of each region.

If the Harappans were pushed south, who were the people who were able to
seamlessly continue the bronze and brass technology in the region, which
would have required an intimate knowledge of the ores available there
and their processing?

If the descendants of the evicted Harappans were the authors of sites
like Keezhadi, then who were the people of the South, who were smelting
iron by the early second millennium BCE and had mastered carburization
by 1200 BCE, a technology the contemporary Indus region itself does not
appear to have much knowledge of?

And if a bunch of foreign immigrants who entered the subcontinent after
1300 BCE had started India’s Iron Age in the Punjab-Haryana region, who
were the people of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and the Vindhya region
who had become adept at smelting large amounts of iron by 1,800 BCE?

The metallurgical tradition of the Indian subcontinent is not only the
result of unbroken continuity from the earliest developments in the
Indus Valley region but also exemplifies a strong, unmistakable thread
of unity between the various regions of the subcontinent for at least
the last four millennia.

In that sense, the traditional bronze- and brass-making workshops in
many parts of the country are the direct inheritors of the legacy of the
Indus civilisation.

However, the Ganga Plain, Central, Peninsular and South India also had
their own distinct contributions to this tradition, especially in
ferrous metallurgy.

I have previously pointed out that the telling of India’s history has
been hijacked by the ideologically prejudiced, who, with great
sophistication, put forth entirely baseless speculation as respectable
scholarship, which then, by force of repetition, acquires the status of
established fact.

A prime example of this is the alleged Aryan-Dravidian divide.

Fortunately, however, reconstructing the past is becoming an
increasingly interdisciplinary exercise, with scientific analyses coming
to the forefront. Although the old order — which has shown neither the
capacity nor inclination for acquiring the necessary interdisciplinary
skills — continues to have a stranglehold on India’s historical
narrative, hopefully the scientific evidence from multiple disciplines
will soon call their bluff.

Anil Kumar is a materials scientist.
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