Collection Description

Tradition Name


Tradition Description

The Vedic Tradition is as much a historical reconstruction from analysis of contemporary literature—principally the Rigveda—as it is an archaeologically defined culture. The core area of the Rigveda is the Punjab in India and Pakistan, but the tradition extends from the Swat Valley through north-central India and south to Gujarat, from 3900-2500 BP. Following the fall of the state-level society of the preceding Mature Indus Tradition, the Vedic Tradition became a rural agricultural society of regional subtraditions, with no archaeological evidence of social stratification and few luxury goods. Trade became largely local, with goods produced by only part-time specialists. While copper metallurgy persisted, iron tools gradually became more prominent after 3000 BP. A two-tiered settlement hierarchy appeared toward the end of the tradition, signifying a chiefdom-level society.


Select the Tradition Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --South Asia




OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF Archaeology collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

The Vedic Tradition is located in northern India and northern Pakistan, occurring from 3900-2500 BP. The documents in the Vedic collection discuss what is known of the Indo-Aryans as seen from literature such as the Rigveda; only two discuss on-the-ground archaeology. The reader can gain further insights into the Vedic tradition from various documents in the eHRAF collections for the Mature Indus (AQ45), Ganges Neolithic (AQ50), Central Indian Neolithic (AQ63), Iranian Iron Age (MA55), and Iranian Bronze Age (MA50) traditions.

No single document provides an overview of the archaeology of the Vedic tradition; most instead take an ethnohistorical approach. Bryant (2001) explores competing hypotheses about whether people associated with the Indo-Aryan language migrated into or out of India. Siṃha (1995) discusses the Vedic as a continuation of the Indus tradition. Kochhar (1997) examines many older documents in an effort to characterize the people who wrote the Rigveda.

Several documents (Allen 1998, Chakrabarti 2001, Lahiri and Bacus 2004, McEvilley 1981) discuss the origins of yoga and of the Hindu religion, incorporating evidence from the Indus and Vedic periods.

Studies of skeletal materials are found in Walimbe (2007), who explores subsistence changes and genetic continuity. Fuller (2007) examines the genetics of the flora and fauna for clues to domestication and population movements.

For further information on individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Sarah Berry

Agni – god of fire, prominent in the Vedas – use SPIRITS AND GODS (776)

Avesta – primary sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, with similarities to the Rigveda – use VERBAL ARTS (5310)

Biological adaptation, human – use FUNCTIONAL AND ADAPTATIONAL INTERPRETATIONS (182)

Bronze (artifacts, manufacture) – use NONFERROUS METAL INDUSTRIES (328)

City walls – for construction, description – use PUBLIC STRUCTURES (344) – for brick types – use MASONRY (333) – for presence, distribution – use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361) – for control of access to a city – use REGULATION OF TRAVEL (486)

Doab – land between converging or confluent rivers (literally, "tongue"); interfluve – use TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY (133)

Ethnicity – for basis in biological diversity – use RACIAL IDENTIFICATION (144) – for style markers – use CULTURAL PARTICIPATION (184) – for interactions – use MULTI-ETHNIC COMMUNITY RELATIONS (629)

Ganas – attendants of Shiva – use SPIRITS AND GODS (776)

Hinduism – use GENERAL CHARACTER OF RELIGION (771) – for discussion of practices with general beliefs – use THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS (779) – for practices – use RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE (781)

Iron Age – use IRON AND STEEL INDUSTRY (327)

Iron tools – use IRON AND STEEL INDUSTRY (327) with GENERAL TOOLS (412)

Kutch (Kacch, Kachchh, Katch, Kuchchh, Rann of Kutch, Great Rann of Kutch, Little Rann of Kutch) – seasonal salt marsh – for geographic position for geographic position – use LOCATION (131) – for environmental characteristics – use TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY (133)

Maritime activity – use ROUTES (487)


Meditation – use REVELATION AND DIVINATION (787)

Ringstone – large stone ring, possible base for a wooden column – use CONSTRUCTION (331)

Rishis – composers of Rigveda hymns – use VERBAL ARTS (5310)

Ṛṡis – see Rishis

Skeletal measurements – use ANTHROPOMETRY (141) – for diachronic changes in – use FUNCTIONAL AND ADAPTATIONAL INTERPRETATIONS (182)

Soma – plant or substance in the Rigveda – for interpretation as plant – use FLORA (137) – for interpretation as sugar cane – use CONDIMENTS (263) – for interpretation as an alcoholic beverage – use ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES (273) – for interpretation as ephedra – use RECREATIONAL AND NON - THERAPEUTIC DRUGS (276) – for use in ritual – use PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES 782

Ulṭā-sādhana – yogico-tantric practices of reversal – use THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS (779)

Varna – Hindu social orders: Brahmin (priests and teachers), Kshatriya (ruling and military elite), Vaishya (cattle herders, farmers, businessmen, artisans), Shudras (laborers) – use CLASSES (565)

Vaiśya – see Varna


Yoga positions – use ASCETICISM (785)


Indexing Notes by

Sarah Berry

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