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? 22
our pasts –i The story of Harappa
Very often, old buildings have a story to tell. Nearly 
a hundred and fifty years ago, when railway lines 
were being laid down for the first time in Punjab, 
engineers stumbled upon the site of Harappa in 
present-day Pakistan. To them, it seemed like a 
mound that was a rich source of ready made, high 
quality bricks. So they carried off thousands of 
bricks from the walls of the old buildings of the 
city to build railway lines. Many buildings were 
completely destroyed. 
Then, about eighty years ago, archaeologists 
found the site, and realised that this was one of 
the oldest cities in the subcontinent. As this was 
the first city to be discovered, all other sites from 
where similar buildings (and other things) were 
found were described as Harappan. These cities 
developed about 4700 years ago. 
Very often, old buildings are pulled down to 
make way for new construction. Do you think it is 
important to preserve old buildings?
CHAPTER 3 
IN THE EARLIEST CITIES
Saving an old building 
Jaspal and Harpreet were playing cricket in the lane 
outside their home when they noticed the people who 
were admiring the dilapidated old building that the 
children called the haunted house. 
“Look at the architecture!” said one of the men.
“Have you seen the fine wood carving?” asked one of 
the women. 
“We must write to the Minister so that she makes 
arrangements to repair and preserve this beautiful 
house.” Why, they wondered, would anybody be 
interested in the old, run down house?
Chapter 3-4.indd   22 22 April 2022   03:21:57
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


? 22
our pasts –i The story of Harappa
Very often, old buildings have a story to tell. Nearly 
a hundred and fifty years ago, when railway lines 
were being laid down for the first time in Punjab, 
engineers stumbled upon the site of Harappa in 
present-day Pakistan. To them, it seemed like a 
mound that was a rich source of ready made, high 
quality bricks. So they carried off thousands of 
bricks from the walls of the old buildings of the 
city to build railway lines. Many buildings were 
completely destroyed. 
Then, about eighty years ago, archaeologists 
found the site, and realised that this was one of 
the oldest cities in the subcontinent. As this was 
the first city to be discovered, all other sites from 
where similar buildings (and other things) were 
found were described as Harappan. These cities 
developed about 4700 years ago. 
Very often, old buildings are pulled down to 
make way for new construction. Do you think it is 
important to preserve old buildings?
CHAPTER 3 
IN THE EARLIEST CITIES
Saving an old building 
Jaspal and Harpreet were playing cricket in the lane 
outside their home when they noticed the people who 
were admiring the dilapidated old building that the 
children called the haunted house. 
“Look at the architecture!” said one of the men.
“Have you seen the fine wood carving?” asked one of 
the women. 
“We must write to the Minister so that she makes 
arrangements to repair and preserve this beautiful 
house.” Why, they wondered, would anybody be 
interested in the old, run down house?
Chapter 3-4.indd   22 22 April 2022   03:21:57
Rationalised 2023-24
MAP : 3  
The Earliest Cities 
in the Subcontinent 
What was special about these cities? 
Many of these cities were divided into two or more 
parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller 
but higher. Archaeologists describe this as the 
citadel. Generally, the part to the east was larger 
but lower. This is called the lower town. Very 
often walls of baked brick were built around each 
part. The bricks were so well baked that they have 
lasted for thousands of years. The bricks were 
laid in an interlocking pattern and that made the  
walls strong. 
These cities were found 
in Punjab and Sind in 
Pakistan, and in Gujarat, 
Rajasthan, Haryana 
and Punjab in India. 
Archaeologists have found 
a set of unique objects 
in almost all these cities: 
red pottery painted with 
designs in black, stone 
weights, seals, special 
beads, copper tools, and 
paralleled sided long stone 
blades. 
In some cities, special 
buildings were constructed 
on the citadel. For example, in 
Mohenjodaro, a very special 
tank, which archaeologists 
call the Great Bath, was built 
in this area. This was lined 
with bricks, coated with 
plaster, and made water-
tight with a layer of natural 
tar. There were steps leading 
down to it from two sides, 
while there were rooms on 
all sides. Water was probably 
brought in from a well, 
and drained out after use. 
Perhaps important people 
took a dip in this tank on 
special occasions. 
Other cities, such as 
Kalibangan and Lothal 
had  fire altars, where 
sacrifices may have been 
performed. And some cities 
like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, 
and Lothal had elaborate 
storehouses. 
Chapter 3-4.indd   23 22 April 2022   03:21:58
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


? 22
our pasts –i The story of Harappa
Very often, old buildings have a story to tell. Nearly 
a hundred and fifty years ago, when railway lines 
were being laid down for the first time in Punjab, 
engineers stumbled upon the site of Harappa in 
present-day Pakistan. To them, it seemed like a 
mound that was a rich source of ready made, high 
quality bricks. So they carried off thousands of 
bricks from the walls of the old buildings of the 
city to build railway lines. Many buildings were 
completely destroyed. 
Then, about eighty years ago, archaeologists 
found the site, and realised that this was one of 
the oldest cities in the subcontinent. As this was 
the first city to be discovered, all other sites from 
where similar buildings (and other things) were 
found were described as Harappan. These cities 
developed about 4700 years ago. 
Very often, old buildings are pulled down to 
make way for new construction. Do you think it is 
important to preserve old buildings?
CHAPTER 3 
IN THE EARLIEST CITIES
Saving an old building 
Jaspal and Harpreet were playing cricket in the lane 
outside their home when they noticed the people who 
were admiring the dilapidated old building that the 
children called the haunted house. 
“Look at the architecture!” said one of the men.
“Have you seen the fine wood carving?” asked one of 
the women. 
“We must write to the Minister so that she makes 
arrangements to repair and preserve this beautiful 
house.” Why, they wondered, would anybody be 
interested in the old, run down house?
Chapter 3-4.indd   22 22 April 2022   03:21:57
Rationalised 2023-24
MAP : 3  
The Earliest Cities 
in the Subcontinent 
What was special about these cities? 
Many of these cities were divided into two or more 
parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller 
but higher. Archaeologists describe this as the 
citadel. Generally, the part to the east was larger 
but lower. This is called the lower town. Very 
often walls of baked brick were built around each 
part. The bricks were so well baked that they have 
lasted for thousands of years. The bricks were 
laid in an interlocking pattern and that made the  
walls strong. 
These cities were found 
in Punjab and Sind in 
Pakistan, and in Gujarat, 
Rajasthan, Haryana 
and Punjab in India. 
Archaeologists have found 
a set of unique objects 
in almost all these cities: 
red pottery painted with 
designs in black, stone 
weights, seals, special 
beads, copper tools, and 
paralleled sided long stone 
blades. 
In some cities, special 
buildings were constructed 
on the citadel. For example, in 
Mohenjodaro, a very special 
tank, which archaeologists 
call the Great Bath, was built 
in this area. This was lined 
with bricks, coated with 
plaster, and made water-
tight with a layer of natural 
tar. There were steps leading 
down to it from two sides, 
while there were rooms on 
all sides. Water was probably 
brought in from a well, 
and drained out after use. 
Perhaps important people 
took a dip in this tank on 
special occasions. 
Other cities, such as 
Kalibangan and Lothal 
had  fire altars, where 
sacrifices may have been 
performed. And some cities 
like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, 
and Lothal had elaborate 
storehouses. 
Chapter 3-4.indd   23 22 April 2022   03:21:58
Rationalised 2023-24
Houses, drains and streets
Generally, houses were either one or two storeys 
high, with rooms built around a courtyard. Most 
houses had a separate bathing area, and some had 
wells to supply water.
Many of these cities had covered 
drains. Notice how carefully these 
were laid out, in straight lines. 
Although you cannot see it, each 
drain had a gentle slope so that water 
could flow through it. Very often, 
drains in houses were connected 
to those on the streets and smaller 
drains led into bigger ones. As the 
drains were covered, inspection 
holes were provided at intervals to 
clean them. All three — houses, 
drains and streets — were probably 
planned and built at the same time. 
List at least two differences 
between the houses described here 
and those that you studied about in 
Chapter 2. 
How bricks were 
arranged to build walls 
in Harappan cities
The Great Bath 
Chapter 3-4.indd   24 22 April 2022   03:22:00
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


? 22
our pasts –i The story of Harappa
Very often, old buildings have a story to tell. Nearly 
a hundred and fifty years ago, when railway lines 
were being laid down for the first time in Punjab, 
engineers stumbled upon the site of Harappa in 
present-day Pakistan. To them, it seemed like a 
mound that was a rich source of ready made, high 
quality bricks. So they carried off thousands of 
bricks from the walls of the old buildings of the 
city to build railway lines. Many buildings were 
completely destroyed. 
Then, about eighty years ago, archaeologists 
found the site, and realised that this was one of 
the oldest cities in the subcontinent. As this was 
the first city to be discovered, all other sites from 
where similar buildings (and other things) were 
found were described as Harappan. These cities 
developed about 4700 years ago. 
Very often, old buildings are pulled down to 
make way for new construction. Do you think it is 
important to preserve old buildings?
CHAPTER 3 
IN THE EARLIEST CITIES
Saving an old building 
Jaspal and Harpreet were playing cricket in the lane 
outside their home when they noticed the people who 
were admiring the dilapidated old building that the 
children called the haunted house. 
“Look at the architecture!” said one of the men.
“Have you seen the fine wood carving?” asked one of 
the women. 
“We must write to the Minister so that she makes 
arrangements to repair and preserve this beautiful 
house.” Why, they wondered, would anybody be 
interested in the old, run down house?
Chapter 3-4.indd   22 22 April 2022   03:21:57
Rationalised 2023-24
MAP : 3  
The Earliest Cities 
in the Subcontinent 
What was special about these cities? 
Many of these cities were divided into two or more 
parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller 
but higher. Archaeologists describe this as the 
citadel. Generally, the part to the east was larger 
but lower. This is called the lower town. Very 
often walls of baked brick were built around each 
part. The bricks were so well baked that they have 
lasted for thousands of years. The bricks were 
laid in an interlocking pattern and that made the  
walls strong. 
These cities were found 
in Punjab and Sind in 
Pakistan, and in Gujarat, 
Rajasthan, Haryana 
and Punjab in India. 
Archaeologists have found 
a set of unique objects 
in almost all these cities: 
red pottery painted with 
designs in black, stone 
weights, seals, special 
beads, copper tools, and 
paralleled sided long stone 
blades. 
In some cities, special 
buildings were constructed 
on the citadel. For example, in 
Mohenjodaro, a very special 
tank, which archaeologists 
call the Great Bath, was built 
in this area. This was lined 
with bricks, coated with 
plaster, and made water-
tight with a layer of natural 
tar. There were steps leading 
down to it from two sides, 
while there were rooms on 
all sides. Water was probably 
brought in from a well, 
and drained out after use. 
Perhaps important people 
took a dip in this tank on 
special occasions. 
Other cities, such as 
Kalibangan and Lothal 
had  fire altars, where 
sacrifices may have been 
performed. And some cities 
like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, 
and Lothal had elaborate 
storehouses. 
Chapter 3-4.indd   23 22 April 2022   03:21:58
Rationalised 2023-24
Houses, drains and streets
Generally, houses were either one or two storeys 
high, with rooms built around a courtyard. Most 
houses had a separate bathing area, and some had 
wells to supply water.
Many of these cities had covered 
drains. Notice how carefully these 
were laid out, in straight lines. 
Although you cannot see it, each 
drain had a gentle slope so that water 
could flow through it. Very often, 
drains in houses were connected 
to those on the streets and smaller 
drains led into bigger ones. As the 
drains were covered, inspection 
holes were provided at intervals to 
clean them. All three — houses, 
drains and streets — were probably 
planned and built at the same time. 
List at least two differences 
between the houses described here 
and those that you studied about in 
Chapter 2. 
How bricks were 
arranged to build walls 
in Harappan cities
The Great Bath 
Chapter 3-4.indd   24 22 April 2022   03:22:00
Rationalised 2023-24
25 ?
in the earliest  
cities Life in the city
A Harappan city was a very busy place. 
There were people who planned the 
construction of special buildings in the 
city. These were probably the rulers. It 
is likely that the rulers sent people to 
distant lands to get metal, precious stones, 
and other things that they wanted. They 
may have kept the most valuable objects, 
such as ornaments of gold and silver, or 
beautiful beads, for themselves. And there 
were scribes, people who knew how to 
write, who helped prepare the seals, and 
perhaps wrote on other materials that have 
not survived. 
Besides, there were men and women, 
craftspersons, making all kinds of things 
— either in their own homes, or in special 
workshops. People were travelling to distant 
lands or returning with raw materials and, 
perhaps, stories. Many terracotta toys have 
been found and children must have played 
with these. 
Make a list of the people who lived in the city.
Were any of these people listed as living in 
villages such as Mehrgarh?
T op : A street in 
Mohenjodaro with a drain.
Above : A well.
Far Left : A Harappan seal. 
The signs on the top of the 
seal are part of a script. 
This is the earliest form 
of writing known in the 
subcontinent. Scholars have 
tried to read these signs 
but we still do not know 
exactly what they mean.  
Left : T erracotta toys.
Chapter 3-4.indd   25 22 April 2022   03:22:03
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


? 22
our pasts –i The story of Harappa
Very often, old buildings have a story to tell. Nearly 
a hundred and fifty years ago, when railway lines 
were being laid down for the first time in Punjab, 
engineers stumbled upon the site of Harappa in 
present-day Pakistan. To them, it seemed like a 
mound that was a rich source of ready made, high 
quality bricks. So they carried off thousands of 
bricks from the walls of the old buildings of the 
city to build railway lines. Many buildings were 
completely destroyed. 
Then, about eighty years ago, archaeologists 
found the site, and realised that this was one of 
the oldest cities in the subcontinent. As this was 
the first city to be discovered, all other sites from 
where similar buildings (and other things) were 
found were described as Harappan. These cities 
developed about 4700 years ago. 
Very often, old buildings are pulled down to 
make way for new construction. Do you think it is 
important to preserve old buildings?
CHAPTER 3 
IN THE EARLIEST CITIES
Saving an old building 
Jaspal and Harpreet were playing cricket in the lane 
outside their home when they noticed the people who 
were admiring the dilapidated old building that the 
children called the haunted house. 
“Look at the architecture!” said one of the men.
“Have you seen the fine wood carving?” asked one of 
the women. 
“We must write to the Minister so that she makes 
arrangements to repair and preserve this beautiful 
house.” Why, they wondered, would anybody be 
interested in the old, run down house?
Chapter 3-4.indd   22 22 April 2022   03:21:57
Rationalised 2023-24
MAP : 3  
The Earliest Cities 
in the Subcontinent 
What was special about these cities? 
Many of these cities were divided into two or more 
parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller 
but higher. Archaeologists describe this as the 
citadel. Generally, the part to the east was larger 
but lower. This is called the lower town. Very 
often walls of baked brick were built around each 
part. The bricks were so well baked that they have 
lasted for thousands of years. The bricks were 
laid in an interlocking pattern and that made the  
walls strong. 
These cities were found 
in Punjab and Sind in 
Pakistan, and in Gujarat, 
Rajasthan, Haryana 
and Punjab in India. 
Archaeologists have found 
a set of unique objects 
in almost all these cities: 
red pottery painted with 
designs in black, stone 
weights, seals, special 
beads, copper tools, and 
paralleled sided long stone 
blades. 
In some cities, special 
buildings were constructed 
on the citadel. For example, in 
Mohenjodaro, a very special 
tank, which archaeologists 
call the Great Bath, was built 
in this area. This was lined 
with bricks, coated with 
plaster, and made water-
tight with a layer of natural 
tar. There were steps leading 
down to it from two sides, 
while there were rooms on 
all sides. Water was probably 
brought in from a well, 
and drained out after use. 
Perhaps important people 
took a dip in this tank on 
special occasions. 
Other cities, such as 
Kalibangan and Lothal 
had  fire altars, where 
sacrifices may have been 
performed. And some cities 
like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, 
and Lothal had elaborate 
storehouses. 
Chapter 3-4.indd   23 22 April 2022   03:21:58
Rationalised 2023-24
Houses, drains and streets
Generally, houses were either one or two storeys 
high, with rooms built around a courtyard. Most 
houses had a separate bathing area, and some had 
wells to supply water.
Many of these cities had covered 
drains. Notice how carefully these 
were laid out, in straight lines. 
Although you cannot see it, each 
drain had a gentle slope so that water 
could flow through it. Very often, 
drains in houses were connected 
to those on the streets and smaller 
drains led into bigger ones. As the 
drains were covered, inspection 
holes were provided at intervals to 
clean them. All three — houses, 
drains and streets — were probably 
planned and built at the same time. 
List at least two differences 
between the houses described here 
and those that you studied about in 
Chapter 2. 
How bricks were 
arranged to build walls 
in Harappan cities
The Great Bath 
Chapter 3-4.indd   24 22 April 2022   03:22:00
Rationalised 2023-24
25 ?
in the earliest  
cities Life in the city
A Harappan city was a very busy place. 
There were people who planned the 
construction of special buildings in the 
city. These were probably the rulers. It 
is likely that the rulers sent people to 
distant lands to get metal, precious stones, 
and other things that they wanted. They 
may have kept the most valuable objects, 
such as ornaments of gold and silver, or 
beautiful beads, for themselves. And there 
were scribes, people who knew how to 
write, who helped prepare the seals, and 
perhaps wrote on other materials that have 
not survived. 
Besides, there were men and women, 
craftspersons, making all kinds of things 
— either in their own homes, or in special 
workshops. People were travelling to distant 
lands or returning with raw materials and, 
perhaps, stories. Many terracotta toys have 
been found and children must have played 
with these. 
Make a list of the people who lived in the city.
Were any of these people listed as living in 
villages such as Mehrgarh?
T op : A street in 
Mohenjodaro with a drain.
Above : A well.
Far Left : A Harappan seal. 
The signs on the top of the 
seal are part of a script. 
This is the earliest form 
of writing known in the 
subcontinent. Scholars have 
tried to read these signs 
but we still do not know 
exactly what they mean.  
Left : T erracotta toys.
Chapter 3-4.indd   25 22 April 2022   03:22:03
Rationalised 2023-24
? 26
our pasts –i New crafts in the city
Let us look at some of the objects that were made 
and found in Harappan cities. Most of the things 
that have been found by archaeologists are made 
of stone, shell and metal, including copper, bronze, 
gold and silver. Copper and bronze were used to 
make tools, weapons, ornaments and vessels. 
Gold and silver were used to make ornaments and 
vessels.
Perhaps the most striking finds are those of 
beads, weights, and blades. 
T op : Stone weights. 
Notice how carefully and 
precisely these weights are 
shaped. These were made 
of chert, a kind of stone. 
These were probably used 
to weigh precious stones 
or metals.
Right : Beads.             
Many of these were 
made out of carnelian, a 
beautiful red stone. The 
stone was cut, shaped, 
polished and finally a hole 
was bored through the 
centre so that a string 
could be passed through it. 
Far right : Stone blades.
Bottom Right : 
Embroidered cloth.         
A stone statue of an 
important man found from 
Mohenjodaro shows him 
wearing an embroidered 
garment.
The Harappans also made seals out of stone. 
These are generally rectangular (See illustration 
on page 25) and usually have an animal carved 
on them.
The Harappans also made pots with beautiful 
black designs, such as the one 
shown on page 6.
Was metal used in the villages 
you learnt about in Chapter 2?
Was stone used to make 
weights?
Cotton was probably grown 
at Mehrgarh from about 7000 
years ago. Actual pieces of 
cloth were found attached 
to the lid of a silver vase 
and some copper objects at 
Mohenjodaro. Archaeologists 
have also found spindle whorls, 
Chapter 3-4.indd   26 22 April 2022   03:22:05
Rationalised 2023-24
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook: In the Earliest Cities - Old & New NCERTs for IAS Preparation (Must Read) - UPSC

1. What were the characteristics of the earliest cities?
Ans. The earliest cities had several characteristics. They were usually located near a river or a place with fertile soil. They had walls around them to protect the city from invaders. The cities were divided into different areas for different purposes like residential, commercial, and religious. They had well-planned streets and drainage systems. The cities were also centers of trade and commerce.
2. What were the major crafts in the earliest cities?
Ans. The earliest cities had a variety of crafts. The major crafts were related to pottery, metalworking, carpentry, and weaving. Pottery was used for storage, cooking, and serving food. Metalworking was used to make tools, weapons, and jewelry. Carpentry was used for building houses, furniture, and boats. Weaving was used for making clothes and textiles.
3. What was the role of religion in the earliest cities?
Ans. Religion played an important role in the earliest cities. The cities had temples and other religious buildings that were centers of worship and community life. The priests and other religious leaders had important roles in society and were often involved in decision-making. Many of the earliest cities had polytheistic religions, where people worshipped multiple gods and goddesses.
4. What was the social hierarchy in the earliest cities?
Ans. The earliest cities had a social hierarchy where people were divided into different classes based on their occupation, wealth, and social status. At the top of the hierarchy were rulers, priests, and other elites. They had the most power and wealth. The middle class consisted of merchants, traders, and craftsmen. The lower class consisted of farmers, laborers, and slaves.
5. What were the economic activities in the earliest cities?
Ans. The earliest cities were centers of trade and commerce. They had markets where people bought and sold goods. The cities also had workshops and factories where goods were produced. The major economic activities were related to agriculture, manufacturing, and trade. Agriculture was the primary source of food and raw materials. Manufacturing involved the production of goods like pottery, metalwork, and textiles. Trade involved the exchange of goods between different cities and regions.
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