The Harappan Civilisation
- Indus valley civilization is also known as Harappan civilization.
- It started flourishing along River Indus (now in Pakistan) at around 2600 B.C.
- Harappan civilization was the largest Bronze age civilization in the world.
- Harappa was the first site of this civilization discovered by archaeologists.
- It was an urban civilization. Its writing is not deciphered.
- After 1900 B.C., most of the sites were abandoned due to some reasons. By 1900 B.C. major part of the civilization ended.
Pots of Harappan Civilisation
Ornaments of Harappan Civilisation
The Harappan seal
- One of the most distinctive artifacts of the Harappan civilization is the Harappan Seal.
- The seals are made of a stone called steatite; seals often contain animal motifs and signs from a script.
- Believed to be used for commercial purposes. A standard Harappan Seal was square shaped with a 2 by 2 dimensions.
- Pictures of animals were there on all the seals with something written in a pictographic script.
Time Period of Harappan Civilisation:
Early Harappan culture
Before 2600 BCE
Mature Harappan culture
2600BCE to 1900 BCE
Late Harappan culture
After 1900 BCE - 1500 AD
Extent of Harappan Civilisation:
Important mature Harappan sites and their location:
Punjab Province, Pakistan
Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat
Rann of Kutch,Gujarat, India
Baluchistan Province, Pakistan
Jammu Kashmir India
Harappan Sites on Map
- The term “culture” is used by Archaeologists for a group of objects which are distinctive in style and are usually found together within a specific geographical area and period.
- These distinctive objects include seals, beads, weights, stone blades, and even baked bricks in Harappan Culture.
- These distinctive objects were found in areas as far apart as Afghanistan, Jammu, Baluchistan (Pakistan), and Gujarat.
Early Harappan Culture Features
- Started in Period before 2600 BCE
- Some crafts.
- Distinctive pottery
- Small settlements
- No cities
- No large buildings.
Mature Harappan Culture features
- Developed in the period between 2600-1900BCE
- Civilized life
- Arts and Crafts
- Large cities like Harappa and Mohenjodaro
- Urban culture/city life
- belongs to the bronze period
- known metals: Copper, Bronze, Gold, Silver
- Town Planning
- The citadel
- The warehouse
- The Great bath
- Drainage system
- Mature Harappan Culture sites and importance:
Warehouse, great bath, the priest-king, dancing girl
Terracotta models of the plow
a plowed field, fire altars
Traces of canals
craft production (bead-making, shell-cutting, metal-working, seal-making, and weight-making.)
Dockyard, a port city
Map showing some Mature Harappan Culture sites
Harappa was destroyed by brick robbers. Alexander Cunningham noted that the amount of brick taken from the ancient site was enough to lay bricks for “about 100 miles” of the railway line between Lahore and Multan.
Subsistence Strategies of Harappan people
Wheat, barley, lentil, chickpea and sesame, Millets:(Gujarat) rice (Lothal, Rangpur)
Domestication of animals
cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo
Hunting or scavenging
boar, deer, and gharial
Food habits of Harappan people
- They ate plant and animal products, including fish.
- Archaeologists found shreds of evidence from charred grains and seeds.
- Bones of Wild species found
- Bones of fish and fowl are found.
Agricultural technologies of Harappa
- Oxen were used for plowing (Representations on seals and terracotta sculpture)
- Terracotta models of the plow have been found at sites in Cholistan(Pakistan) and at Banawali (Haryana).
- Evidence of a plowed field at Kalibangan (Rajasthan)
- The plowed field at Kalibangan had two sets of furrows suggesting that two different crops were grown
- Traces of canals have been found at Shortughai in Afghanistan
- Water reservoirs located in Dholavira (Gujarat)
Food processing technologies of Harappa
- Processing of food required grinding equipment, vessels for mixing, blending, and cooking.
- These were made of stone, metal, and terracotta.
- Saddle quern was used for grinding cereals.
Mohenjodaro means 'mound of dead.’
- It was a planned Urban Centre
- Cities were divided into two parts:
1. The Citadel
2. The Lower Town
- A citadel or upper town is the core fortified area of a town or city.
- It was built on the raised platform.
- It was situated in the Western part of the city.
- It consisted of large structures which functioned as administrative buildings.
- Massive buildings, for example, a warehouse, great bath, granaries.
- Small in size as compared to the lower town.
- Citadel was walled in most of the cities
- It was located on the lower part of the town
- It situated in the eastern part of the city
- This part of the town was much more significant than the citadel.
- This part of the town had residential housing.
- The main activities of the people like trade, craft making, etc., were done here.
- The lower city also walled
The Warehouse (The Great Granary)
- Found in Mohenjodaro
- A massive structure found in the citadel
- Lower part made of brick remain
- Upper portions made of wood decayed long ago
- Used to preserve grains
The Great Bath
- The "great bath" is the earliest public water tank in the ancient world.
- It was found in Mohenjodaro
- It was a large rectangular tank in a courtyard
- Surrounded by a corridor on all four sides.
- Two flights of steps (north and south)
- The tank was made watertight by setting bricks on edge and using a mortar of gypsum.
- There were rooms on three sides
- Large well in one room(water source)
- Water from the tank flowed into a huge drain.
- Across a lane to the north lay a smaller building with eight bathrooms.
- Drains from each bathroom connecting to a drain that ran along the corridor.
- Scholars suggest that the Great bath was meant for a unique ritual bath.
Digitally Recreated Image of The Great Bath
- Harappan cities had a well-planned drainage system.
- Roads and streets were laid out along an approximate “grid.” pattern, intersecting at right angles.
- Streets with drains were laid out first, and then houses were built along with them.
- The drains were made of mortar, lime, and gypsum.
- ERNEST MACKAY noted: “It is the complete ancient system as yet discovered.”
- Every house was connected to the street drains.
- The main channels were made of bricks set in mortar
- Channels were covered with loose bricks that could be removed for cleaning.
- In some cases, limestone was used for the covers.
- House drains first emptied into a sump or cesspit into which solid matter settled.
- Drainage channels had sumps for cleaning.
- At Lothal, while houses were built of mud bricks, drains were made of burnt bricks.
Drainage System at Lothal
Domestic architecture/residential buildings in Mohenjodaro
- Houses had a courtyard, with rooms on all sides.
- Cooking and weaving done in the courtyard
- No windows in the walls along with the ground level (privacy concerned).
- The main entrance did not give a direct view of the interior or the courtyard. (privacy concerned).
- Every house had its bathroom paved with bricks
- The bathroom was connected with drains, and through the wall, it to the street drains.
- Some houses have remains of staircases to reach a second story or the roof.
- Many houses had wells, often in a room
- Passers-by could use wells.
- The total number of estimated wells in Mohenjodaro was about 700.
Contact with distant lands
- Harappans had trade relations with Mesopotamia, Oman, Bahrain
- Shreds of evidence include Harappan seals, weights, dice, and beads, depictions of ships and boats on seals.
- Copper was also probably brought from Oman.
- A distinctive type of vessel, a sizeable Harappan jar coated with a thick layer of black clay has been found at Omani sites.
- Harappans exchanged the contents of these vessels for Omani copper.
- Mesopotamian texts that are datable to the third millennium BCE refer to copper from a region called Magan.
- The round “Persian Gulf” seal found in Bahrain sometimes carries Harappan motifs.
- Mesopotamian texts mention the products from Meluhha: carnelian, lapis lazuli, copper, gold, and varieties of wood.
- Contact with Oman, Bahrain, or Mesopotamia was by sea.
- Seals and Sealing:-
- They were used to facilitate long-distance communication.
- Mouth of the bag was tied on the knot was affixed some wet clay on which one or more seals were pressed.
- The sealing also conveyed the identity of the sender.
Features of Harappan Script
- The Harappan script has not deciphered yet (An enigmatic script)
- Scripts are depicted on seals copper tools, rims of jars, copper and terracotta tablets, jewelry, bone rods, and an ancient signboard.
- The animal motif is used in the objects for those who could not read.
- The script contains signs between 375 and 400.
- The most extended script contains about 26 signs.
- The Harappan script was pictographic, not alphabetic
- Written from right to left
- Images of some explored signs of Indus Script are given below.
Pieces of evidence for religious belief
- Mother goddesses (terracotta figurines of women, heavily jeweled, some with elaborate head-dresses)
- Rare stone statuary of men like Priest-king (stone statuary of men in an almost standardized posture, seated with one hand on the knee).
- The Great Bath (ritual bath).
- The fire altars were found at Kalibangan and Lothal.
- Ritual scenes in the seals.
- Unicorn (the one-horned animal) depicted on seals.
- Plant motifs on seal(nature worship)
- Proto-Shiva/Pashupati (a figure shown in seal seated cross-legged in a “yogic” posture, surrounded by animals).
- Conical stone objects- linga worship
- Linga- A Linga is a polished stone worshiped as a symbol of Shiva.
- Shamans- Shamans are men or women who claim magical and healing powers as well as the ability to communicate with the other world
Weight for Exchanges
- Exchanges were regulated by a system of weights.
- Weights were made of a stone called chert.
- Shape generally cubical with no markings.
- The lower denominations of weights were binary (1, 2, 4,8, 16, 32, etc. up to 12,800)
- The higher denominations followed the decimal system.
- Some think there was a single ruler in Harappa.
- Some feel there was no single ruler but several rulers.
- Some archaeologists believe that Harappan society had no rulers.
Indirect Evidence of the presence of an Administration.
- The similarity in artifacts
- Labour was mobilized to make bricks and construct massive walls and platforms.
- The evidence for planned settlements
- The standardized ratio of brick size
- The establishment of settlements near sources of raw material.
- A large building found at Mohenjodaro was labeled as a palace by archaeologists.
- A stone statue from Mohenjodaro was labeled as the “priest-king.”
End of Harappan civilization
Evidence for the End of Harappan Civilisation
- By c. 1800 BCE, most of the Mature Harappan sites were abandoned.
- Expansion of population into new settlements in Gujarat, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh.
- Few Harappan sites after 1900 BCE show the disappearance of the distinctive artifacts of the civilization – weights, seals, unique beads.
- Writing, long-distance trade, and craft specialization also disappeared.
- House construction techniques deteriorated, and large public structures were no longer produced.
- Overall, artifacts and settlements indicate a rural way of life called “Late Harappan” or “successor cultures.”
Possible causes for the end of Harappan Civilization
- Climatic change
- Excessive floods
- The shifting of rivers
- The Drying up of rivers
- Invasion of Aryans
Aryan Invasion Theory
- R.E.M. Wheeler, then Director-General of the ASI, believes the Aryan invasion destroyed Harappans.
- There was evidence of a Massacre at Deadman Lane in Mohenjodaro.
- Indra, the Aryan war-god, is called Puramdara, the fort-destroyer in Rigveda, the earliest known text in the subcontinent.
- In the 1960s, an archaeologist named George Dales questioned the evidence of a massacre in Mohenjodaro.
- Skulls found in Mohenjodaro do not belong same period
- There was no evidence for war between Aryans and Harappans(only 26 dead bodies found there)
- Aryans reached India around 1500 BCE.