Last night, 1 March 2011, I attended a lecture by Cambridge (UK) archaeologist Cameron Petrie on the state of the art in Harappan excavations and the emerging picture of the "Indus" civilization. Interesting, but no real news.
Just a few highlights in this modest blog report. Petrie showed a map of excavation sites used by Michel Danino in "a popular book" on the Indus-Saraswati civilization, next to his own map. Danino's map shows a high concentration of sites along the Ghaggar river, i.e. the remains of the once-mighty Saraswati; but Petrie's map shows a paucity of sites in the same region. That looks serious. But the very next item in his talk reversed this impression. He reported on a survey of Haryana by a Ph.D. candidate from Rohtak who during 2008-10 identified hundreds of as yet unexcavated Harappan sites. His map showed a concentration of "new" sites precisely in the "empty" Ghaggar region... So, this seems to confirm that the Saraswati was an important centre of Harappan civilization after all.
Incidentally, for the most common chronology proposed by the non-invasionist school, a non-urbanized Saraswati basin would not be such a problem. People like K.D. Sethna and Nicholas Kazanas date the Rg-Vedic age to the early Harappan and even pre-Harappan age, in conformity with the lack of an urban setting in the Rg-Veda. But the latter information could also be matched to a Harappan date but in a non-urbanised border region of the Harappan area, as Shrikant Talageri opines. The latter also points out that the Asuras, a term apparently referring in that context to the Iranians, the Vedic Indians' westerly neighbours, are often described as more advanced in material culture. So, locating the Vedic tribes outside the metropolitan area could make sense. And the impression of a west-to-east gradient in Harappan development, confirmed once more by Petrie, would therefore not be a problem for Talageri's position. But many scenarios remain possible.
Petrie purposely avoided the topic of the alleged Aryan invasion. His survey of Harappan history at no point necessitated such a hypothesis, for the story could apparently be told with reference only to purely internal developments. He only agreed to discuss it when asked by the chairman in question time, but remained non-committal. He said the question was so complicated that it would perhaps never be decided.
At that point I proposed to narrow the question down to a degree of simplicity where a field archaeologist would definitely be able to answer. He agreed that Prof. B.B. Lal had made his name in the 1950s and 60s by detailing our knowledge of the Painted Grey Ware and identifying it as characteristic of the invading Aryans moving eastwards, deeper into India; and that Lal had later repudiated any claims of an Aryan invasion and is now a leading light of the non-invasionist school. Lal now says that no archaeological trace of an Aryan invasion has ever been found or identified. Petrie also conceded that Harvard Sanskritist Prof. Michael Witzel had likewise admitted that "as yet" no such arcaheological evidence of an Aryan invasion has been discovered. So, a very simple question would be: did Cameron Petrie, as a field archaeologist fresh from the recentmost excavation, ever come across actual pieces of evidence for an Aryan invasion. He smiled and agreed that he too had no such sensational discovery to announce. So: as of 2011, after many decades of being the official and much-funded hypothesis, the Aryan Invasion Theory has still not been confirmed by even a single piece of archaeological evidence.