Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

A New Mystery -Ancient Terracotta Blocks 

Seen in one of the important trading hubs of the old Silk Route – and retrieved with difficulty from the back of  a dealer’s dusty shelf, lying in a plastic packet as a neglected group, these little ancient blocks from the Indus Valley Civilisation were originally intended for a museum but life events came in the way and were relegated to a forgotten corner. 

Each end of the double-sided block has a unique motif representing a leaf or flower. 

They size of the imprint varies from a few mm to 4 cm. What could such tiny blocks be used for?

Further, unlike a wood block used for printing, in which the design to be imprinted is raised and the rest of the space is carved out, in the case of these terracotta blocks, the design has been carved out and the imprint that this will be created will be a raised embossing type of art. What medium could this have been intended for? 

Ancient indus valley terracotta

My uneducated guesses? 

1) Blocks for Textile Prints. 

The size and the negative-space make me doubt this …

2) Dies for Gold Foil Jewelry

This looks more plausible considering that jewelry of this type has been found in this region. 

I’ve reached out to my friends – a very-learned very well read 88 yr old jeweller, a ceramic-artist from NID and an Indian museologist specialist – for their inputs. 

Any other ideas? 
Jaina Mishra


One comment on “A New Mystery -Ancient Terracotta Blocks 

  1. Helen
    May 24, 2018

    Hi sometimes this type of tool is used in baking! making an embossed motif on special cakes or biscuits. Especially in Central Europe

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