First International Workshop on Relations Between the Indus and the Aegean in the Bronze Age, 3-4 December 2022

The Workshop

Convened by Professor Robert Arnott (Green Templeton College) and Dr Marie Nicole Pareja (University of Pennsylvania), on 3-4 December 2022, the First International Workshop on Relations between the Indus and the Aegean in the Bronze Age was held at the University of Oxford. It was supported by the Aegean Bronze Age Studies Initiative, the India-Oxford Initiative (IndOx), and Green Templeton College, Oxford. It was attended by twenty-five participants from ten countries and where eleven papers were read.

The first contacts between India and the Aegean were thought to have occurred at the beginning of the sixth century BC. There is now, however, growing evidence of much earlier but indirect exchange, reaching back through prehistory. Such connections grew from ties between the Indus Civilisation (Meluḫḫa) and the Near East, and then expanded to the societies of the Early and Middle Bronze Age Aegean, including the shores of Western Anatolia, with their slowly emerging palace-based economies and complex social structures.

Starting in the early third millennium BC but diminishing after approximately 1800 BC, these connections point to a form of indirect or ‘trickle down’ contact. Objects and commodities that formed this contact were likely transported overland through Northern Iran, but after some time, the Indus Civilisation will have taken control and we now see a structured trade using the sea route through the Gulf, by way of Magan and Dilmun.

The Workshop evaluated the evidence for such contacts, particularly for commodities such as tin and lapis lazuli, recently discovered objects and current research on iconography. It is emphasised that this does not testify to direct cultural and trade links and geographical knowledge between the Indus Civilisation and the prehistoric Aegean, rather it was the natural extension of trade between the Near East and the Indus. In the Early to Late Bronze Age, the Indus region and lands hundreds of miles to the north, were an important resource for valuable and indispensable commodities destined for the elites and developing technologies of the Old World.

Whilst much has been published about Indus Civilisation relations with the Near East, the idea of connections father westwards and involvement in a pre-industrial world system, part of an interregional pattern of third millennium BC proto-urbanisation is something that has largely been ignored by scholars working in the Aegean, the Near East, India and Pakistan. This Workshop and the resulting publication is aimed at changing that perspective.

Indus-Aegean Bronze Age Research Initiative (IABARN)

Arising out of the Workshop, all the participants agreed to establish the Indus-Aegean Bronze Age Research Initiative to continue the dialogue and to promote collaborative research. Led by Professor Arnott and Dr Pareja, IABARN has established an e-mail based information distribution (, and will shortly establish a website and a virtual seminar series. It is anticipated that the Second Workshop will again be held at the University of Oxford in the autumn of 2024, which will also commemorate the centenary of the announcement of the discovery of the Indus Civilisation by Sir John Marshall, at the time Director-General of Archaeology in India, based on the work of his Indian colleagues, R. B. Daya Ram Sahni at Harappa and Rakhal Das Banerjee and Madhu Sarup Vats at Mohenjo-daro.

Summary provided by Professor Robert Arnott, Green Templeton College. Further details of the Workshop and the Indus-Aegean Bronze Age Research Network that was established can be obtained from Professor Arnott at