Mehrgarh was an ancient settlement in Pakistan and is one of the most important sites in archaeology for the study of the earliest Neolithic settlements in that region. The remains are located in Balochistan, Pakistan, on the Kachi plain near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River valley and between the present-day cities of Quetta, Kalat and Sibi.
Mehrgarh is sometimes cited as the earliest known farming settlement in South Asia, based on archaeological excavations from 1974 (Jarrige et al). The earliest evidence of settlement dates from 7000 BCE. It is also cited for the earliest evidence of pottery in South Asia. Archaeologists divide the occupation at the site into several periods.
The chalcolithic people of Mehrgarh also had contacts with northern Afghanistan, northeastern Iran and even with the southern part of central Asia (B.B. Lal 1997: 287).
Mehrgarh Period I 7000 – 5500 BCE, was Neolithic and aceramic (i.e., without the use of pottery). The earliest farming in the area was developed by semi-nomadic people using plants such as wheat and barley and animals such as sheep, goats and cattle. The settlement was established with simple mud buildings with four internal subdivisions. Numerous burials have been found, many with elaborate goods such as baskets, stone and bone tools, beads, bangles, pendants and occasionally animal sacrifices, with more goods left with burials of males. Ornaments of sea shell, limestone, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sandstone and polished copper have been found, along with simple figurines of women and animals. A single ground stone axe was discovered in a burial, and several more were obtained from the surface. These ground stone axes are the earliest to come from a stratified context in the South Asia.
Mehrgarh Period II 5500 – 4800 BC and Merhgarh Period III 4800 – 3500 BC were ceramic Neolithic (i.e., pottery was now in use) and later chalcolithic. Much evidence of manufacturing activity has been found and more advanced techniques were used. Glazed faience beads were produced and terracotta figurines became more detailed. Figurines of females were decorated with paint and had diverse hairstyles and ornaments. Two flexed burials were found in period II with a covering of red ochre on the body. The amount of burial goods decreased over time, becoming limited to ornaments and with more goods left with burials of females. The first button seals were produced from terracotta and bone and had geometric designs. Technologies included stone and copper drills, updraft kilns, large pit kilns and copper melting crucibles. There is further evidence of long-distance trade in period II: important as an indication of this is the discovery of several beads of lapis lazuli – originally from Badakshan.
Somewhere between 2600 and 2000 BC, the city seems to have been largely abandoned, which is when the Indus Valley Civilisation was in its middle stages of development. It has been surmised that the inhabitants of Mehrgarh migrated to the fertile Indus valley as the Balochistan became more arid due to climatic changes.