May 31, 2023
Indus Valley Arts and Crafts

Indus Valley Arts and Crafts

The Harappan Civilization, also known as the Indus Valley Civilization, was one of the most significant ancient civilizations in the world. It was situated in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent and flourished between 2600 and 1900 BCE. The civilization was characterized by the presence of large cities, specialized craftsmen, long-distance trade, the existence of rich and poor people, and the presence of kings. However, what makes the Harappan Civilization unique is its material characteristics.

In this blog post, we will delve into the material characteristics of the Harappan Civilization, its geographical spread, and some important centers. We will also examine the continuity of population and material traditions between Early Harappan and Harappan Civilization and highlight the uniformities in the material characteristics of the Harappan sites.

Geographical Spread and Material Characteristics

The Harappan Civilization arose on the foundation of pastoral and agricultural communities and small townships. Its geographical spread extended from the Balochistan region in the west to the Ganga-Yamuna Doab in the east and from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south. The civilization’s most significant centers were located in Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Dholavira, Lothal, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, and Ganeriwala.

The Harappan Civilization’s material characteristics were uniform across the entire geographical space covered by the cities. For instance, the communities used the same written script, and the sets of weights and measures were the same regardless of the region. The copper-bronze tools used by them were also uniform in design, shape, and size, and the bricks they used had a proportion of 4:2:1. Additionally, some of their towns were also characterized by uniformities in the planning of the buildings, citadels, etc.

The seals, shell (shankh) bangles, carnelian beads, and the disc beads of steatite were also uniformly designed in the entire geographical space covered by the cities of the Harappan Civilization. Furthermore, the pottery used by the Harappan Civilization had standard representations of trees, animals, birds, and geometric motifs in black. These uniformities in the material features of the Harappan sites were the characteristic traits of the Harappan Civilization.

Continuity of Population and Material Traditions One of the intriguing aspects of the Harappan Civilization was the continuity of population and material traditions between Early Harappan and Harappan Civilization. The Early Harappan period was characterized by the existence of small villages, the use of mud-brick houses, and the absence of writing. In contrast, the Harappan Civilization was characterized by the presence of large cities, the use of standardized weights and measures, and a writing system.

Despite these differences, there was continuity in some material traditions. For instance, the Harappan Civilization continued to use mud-brick houses, but they were more substantial and more uniformly built. The use of stone tools and pottery also continued, although they were now standardized across the entire civilization.

Sources of Information about the Harappan Civilization

The information about the Harappan Civilization comes from the reports of excavations at places like Harappa and Mohenjodaro. However, some sites like Ganweriwala in the Hakra Valley and Furukslan in Punjab, which are reported to be nearly as large as Mohenjodaro, have not even been touched by excavators. This is because excavation involves a massive investment of money and manpower.

Therefore, when we make generalizations about the Harappan Civilization, we must be extremely cautious.

Geographical Spread

The Harappan Civilization, also known as the Indus Valley Civilization, is considered one of the world’s earliest urban civilizations. It emerged around 2600 BCE in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent and lasted until about 1900 BCE. Scholars have identified various regions that comprise the heartland of this ancient civilization.

The Harappa, Ghaggar, Mohenjodaro axis is believed to represent the core area of the Harappan Civilization. This region is characterized by certain uniformities, such as a flat stretch of land with a similar subsistence pattern. The flooding pattern is defined by snowmelt from the Himalayas and the monsoon rains.

The Kachhi plains to the west of the Indus system are in the transitional zone of the Iranian borderlands. It is an inhospitable country and except for its periphery is completely dry. Settlements like Nowsharo, Judeirjodaro, and Ali-Murad have been reported from this area. The settlements of Sutka-koh and Sutkagen-Dor on the Makran coast represent the driest part of the hilly Baluchisthan region. They are the known western boundaries of the Harappans.

The eastern borderlands of the Harappan Civilization are represented by such settlements as Bargaon, Manpur, and Alamgirpur in Uttar Pradesh. The subsistence system of these sites located in the Ganga-Yamuna doab was in conformity to their geographical location. This area had higher rainfall and denser forests. It falls outside the zone of pastoral nomadism and falls in the wheat producing area. Therefore, it would pose different kinds of problems of settlement.

Manda in Jammu and Ropar in Punjab represent the northern extremities of the Harappans in India. The settlements of Daimabad in Maharashtra and Bhagatrav in Gujarat might have formed the southern frontier of the Harappans. Harappans in Gujarat were familiar with rice and millet.

The Harappan Civilization covered a larger area than those of the contemporary civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. However, except in the Ghaggar-Hakra region, the Harappan settlements were very thinly spread out. Sites in Rajasthan and Gujarat could be divided by hundreds of kilometers of deserts and marshes.

Scholars believe that the largest Harappan city, Mohenjodaro, had a population of about 35,000. The smallest towns of modern India would have a larger population than the biggest towns of the Harappans. This fact reveals that the Harappan Civilization was not densely populated and was spread out over a vast area.

The Harappan Civilization was a remarkable ancient civilization that flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. The civilization’s heartland comprised various regions that were geographically distinct from one another. The Harappan Civilization’s settlements were thinly spread out, covering a vast area, and had a relatively low population density. Understanding the geography and settlement patterns of this civilization provides us with valuable insights into the ancient past.

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