Social History of Indian metalcrafts: Some archaeometallurgical and ethnoarchaeological insights

Publication Type:

Book Chapters


A Social History of Early India, Pearson and Longman, Volume II Part 5, New Delhi, p.251–268 (2009)



This essay attempts to throw light on the social history of ancient Indian metal crafts broadly spanning the period from protohistory to the early medieval period by exploring ethnoarchaeological, archaeometallurgical and technological perspectives juxtaposed with inscriptional or epigraphical evidence, concentrating mainly on copper alloys. A rich repertoire of traditional Indian metal crafts survive today which can be seen to show continuity with techniques followed over a millennia. Most Indian craft traditions were practised anonymously with few instances of records being maintained about their activities and rather few examples of any signatures or inscriptions left behind by the craftsmen on the artefacts themselves. There is hence less by way of epigraphic or inscriptional evidence to gain fuller insights into the social history of these crafts and artisans. Within this context, ethnoarchaeological perspectives obtained from surviving craft traditions can become important windows into gaining a better understanding of the organization and milieu of some of these craft traditions.


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