Lost Civilization: The Discovery of Harappa
In the 19th century, an Englishman named Charles Masson visited the village of Harappa in Western Punjab, where he noticed the high walls and towers of an ancient settlement. He believed that the city belonged to the times of Alexander the Great. Later, in 1872, the famous archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham visited the same place and was told by the people of the surrounding areas that the high mounds of Harappa were parts of a thousand-year-old city, which had been ruined due to the wickedness of its king. Masson concurred with their opinion that the city was about a thousand years old.
However, in 1924, another archaeologist named John Marshall reported on the discovery of a long-forgotten civilization at Harappa. Marshall found that the seals, sealings, written script, and works of art found in Harappa were totally different from those with which scholars were already familiar, and which belonged to a much later period. Similar finds were also reported in another place called Mohenjodaro in Sind. In Mohenjodaro, the settlement lay underneath a Buddhist monastery belonging to the Kushan period.
It was discovered that the people living in these settlements did not know the use of iron, which meant that these cities were part of an age when iron was unknown. Iron came into use in the beginning of the second millennium B.C. If anything Harappan was discovered in the ancient cities of Mesopotamia, it would indicate that the people of Harappa lived at the same time. Marshall’s chronology of Harappa has been further supported by new methods of dating, such as Radio carbon dating.
The pre-Harappan cultures of the region dates from 5500 BC to 3500 BC which is the Neolithic period in the region.
Harappan Civilization, also known as the Indus Valley Civilization, is believed to have existed from around 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. This period is divided into three phases: the Early Harappan Phase (3500 BCE-2500 BCE), the Mature Harappan Phase (2500 BCE-1900 BCE), and the Late Harappan Phase (1900 BCE-1300 BCE). The Mature Harappan Phase is considered the peak of the civilization’s development, characterized by well-planned cities, sophisticated drainage systems, and advanced craftsmanship.
What should the civilisation be called?
The Harappan Civilization is also known as the Indus Valley Civilization, but scholars and archaeologists prefer to use different names for it. Initially, the settlements were discovered in the plains of the river Indus and its tributaries, leading to the name ‘Indus Valley Civilization’. However, archaeologists prefer to call it the ‘Harappan Civilization’ based on a convention in the field of archaeology.
In archaeology, it is customary to name an ancient culture after the modern name of the site which first revealed the existence of this culture. Therefore, the Harappan Civilization is named after the site of Harappa, which was one of the first sites to reveal the existence of this civilization. Despite the two names, both terms refer to the same ancient civilization that flourished in the Indus Valley region.
As for the antecedents of the Harappan Civilization, its origins and influences are still debated among scholars. Some suggest that the civilization developed independently, while others propose that it was influenced by earlier cultures in the region, such as the Mehrgarh culture. The Harappan Civilization was a complex society with advanced urban planning, writing systems, and sophisticated art and architecture, leaving behind a rich legacy that still fascinates and intrigues people today.
The Geography and Scope of the Harappan Civilization
The Harappan Civilization is a term used to refer to a vast network of cities, towns, and villages that thrived during the 3rd millennium B.C. The civilization covered a large geographic area, including modern-day Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Pakistan, and surrounding regions. This civilization represented the culmination of a long period of evolution of agricultural and semi-nomadic communities.
The core region of the Harappan Civilization was located in present-day Pakistan and Northwestern India. The area is characterized by dry weather and scanty rainfall, but there were some notable differences among regions. The regions of Punjab and Sind are dominated by the alluvial plains of the Indus River system, while the regions of Baluchistan are characterized by steep, craggy hills. In northeastern Baluchistan, valley floors provided some opportunities for agriculture, although this area was also inhabited by pastoral nomads.
Despite the geographical variations, the Harappan Civilization was a highly interconnected society. The cities and towns were linked by trade routes, allowing for the exchange of goods and ideas. The civilization’s sophisticated urban planning, drainage systems, and craftsmanship attest to a highly organized society with a complex social structure. The legacy of the Harappan Civilization continues to fascinate and intrigue scholars and enthusiasts alike, shedding light on the rich history of the Indian subcontinent.
The borderlands of the Harappan Civilization cut into the Indus plains and are a continuation of the eastern Iranian Plateau. These hilly regions are characterized by many passes, such as Khyber, Gomal, and Bolan. The interaction among the population of the uplands of Baluchistan and the plains of the Indus, on the one hand, and the communities of Iran, on the other, seems to be related to this geographical feature.
The climate and landscape of the Harappan Civilization were similar to those of the Iran-Iraq borderlands, leading scholars to hypothesize that agricultural communities emerged in these areas around the same period. The rugged terrain of the borderlands, with its many passes and fractured landscape, likely contributed to the development of distinct cultures and communities.
The Gomal Pass, located between the Khyber and Bolan passes, takes its name from the Gomal River. This pass, along with others in the region, played a significant role in shaping the historical and cultural interactions between the peoples of the borderlands and the plains. The legacy of these interactions can still be seen in the archaeological remains of the Harappan Civilization, offering a glimpse into the rich history of the region.