Kulli Culture Slip-Painted Terracotta Jar

SKU LO.833

2500 BC to 1900 BC


12″ (30.5cm) high





Gallery Location



The Kulli culture was a prehistoric culture in southern Balochistan (Gedrosia) in Pakistan flourishing ca. 2500 – 2000 BCE., with pottery and other artefacts similar to those of the Indus Valley Civilization. It is not clear whether the Kulli culture is a local variation of the Indus Valley Civilization or an own culture complex. The culture was thus named after an archaeological site near the area of Kolwa, discovered by Sir Aurel Stein. Globular red earthenware jar, the upper part of the body decorated by a wide register of scenes with stylised caprids divided by vertical narrow lines.

Around 2600 BCE, most sites in northern and central Balochistan were abandoned, as a consequence of the expansion of the Indus Civilisation into their territory. Nevertheless, southern Baluchistan continued to be inhabited by a civilisation to be later labelled “Kulli. More than 100 settlement sites are presently located and known but very few of them have been excavated. Some of them have the size of small towns and are much similar to those of the Indus Valley Civilization. Houses are constructed of local stone along streets.The latter are sometimes paved. Many a times there are stairs on the street level which allow access to higher levels of the houses and to terraces. The settlements are often placed at important strategic positions on small hills overlooking the surrounding country side, on top of mountains or terrace hills, overlooking the valleys and controlling the plains and passes. Other sites are small hamlets built in the open plain. Although they have no defenses, they are of a very compact appearance. Agriculture was mainly the economical base of this culture. Close to numerous Kulli culture sites dams were found, providing evidence for a highly developed water management system. Murda Sang is one town, about 35 ha big. The latest occupation level belongs to the Kulli culture. Several other sites have become known in the later years from Makran to southern Kalat and Nindowari, to Nausharo in the Kachhi plain, and to the eastern foot of the Kirthar Range in southwestern Sindh. Certain motifs and vessel shapes which are found in southeastern Iran and on the Arabian Peninsula, are sometimes also linked to the Kulli culture and are seen as indications for long- distance contacts. The lay-out of some sites resemble the plan of Harappan sites. Building materials were large ashlars or boulders, and the houses are often preserved to a considerable height. Ceramic vessels from the Kulli phase have been unearthed at Nindowari, Nausharo and other small sites in Baluchistan. Their surface often painted with reddish-brown slip designs, one of the most common being the ensemble of vertical strokes depicted on the neck, as in the case of a small fragment unearthed at Bakkar Buthi, a small Harappan site located in the Kanrach Valley, a remote area bordered by the Mor and Pab Ranges, and as in the globular jar here illustrated.

While this vessel would have been most probably used to carry water, it is also the creation of an artist with a trained eye. The form of the work, built up from coiled clay, is elegant and refined. The pronounced globular form of the vessel tapers into the shoulder, where it juts inwards into the short rim. The upper half of the vessel has been decorated with painted motifs, including a number of ibexes with long curving horns. These patterns would seem to confirm its appurtenance to the Kulli culture of southern Baluchistan, possibly dated to the late 3rd Millennium BCE.

Comparable works are to be found in: G. Possehl, Kulli: An Exploration of an Ancient Civilization in South Asia, Durham, 1986.

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