J. Mark Kenoyer

The Role of Marine Shell in Ornament, Art, and Ritual of the Indus Civilization: An Ethnoarchaeological Perspective

This lecture will present an overview of the role of the marine shell, specifically Turbinella pyrum, which has been called the Sacred Conch shell, by some scholars. The shell was used extensively during the Indus civilization circa 2600-1900 BC, to make ornaments, inlay and various ritual objects. It continued to be used for the production of various types of ornaments in later historical times and is still used in modern Bengal. The unique feature of this shell is that it is found only in the waters of the Indian
subcontinent and this allows the study of the distribution of finished objects throughout South Asia and beyond. The talk will highlight recent discoveries of this shell in the Indus region and present a brief discussion of the ethnographic studies carried out by the author in Bengal and most recently in Bangladesh.