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Beginning, terms, place and time
- Harappan civilization is also known as Indus valley civilization. It is the oldest civilization of India.
- Harappan culture was discovered between 2600 BCE and 1900 BCE. There were earlier and later cultures often called’ Early Harappan’ and ‘Late Harappan’ in the same area.
- The Harappan civilization is sometimes called the ‘Mature Harappan Culture’ to distinguish it from these cultures.
- Archaeologists use the term culture for a group of objects, distinctive in style within a specific geographical area and period of time like seals, beads, weights, stone blades, bake- bricks.
- Various scholars have given different dates about this period.
- The Indus valley civilization is also known as bronze age civilization.
- The main occupation was agriculture and domestication of animals.
- They ate fish ,meat, wheat ,maize ,millet pulses, rice and other edibles.
- Cattle ,sheep ,goat, buffalo and pig were domesticated.
- Trade was well developed.
- Representations on seals and Terracotta sculpture indicate that oxen were used for ploughing. Terracotta models of the plough have been found at sites in Cholistan and at Banawali [Haryana].
- The fields at two sets of furrows to grow two different crops together, found at Kalibangan.
- For harvesting, stone blades were used which were set in wooden handles.
- Canals were found in shortughai (Afghanistan) but not in Punjab and Sind. wells and reservoirs found in Dholavira [ Gujarat ].
Mohenjo Daro a planned urban centre
- The settlement is divided into two sections one is smaller but higher and the other much larger but lower. They were separated by a wall boundary.
- Laying out drains
- Harappan city was a carefully planned drainage system. The roads and streets were laid out along an approximately ‘grid pattern‘, intersecting at right angles.
- The lower town at Mohenjo-Daro provides examples of residential buildings.
- Many were centred on a courtyard with rooms on all sides. there are no windows in the walls along the ground level.
- The main entrance does not give a direct view of the interior or the courtyard. The domestic drains connected through the street drains. Many houses had wells.
* These include the warehouse and the Great bath tank. These were probably used for special public purposes
Tracking social differences
- At burials in Harappan sites the dead were generally laid in pits.
- Sometimes there were differences in the way the burial pit. For instance the hollowed out spaces were lined with bricks.
- Some graves contain pottery and ornaments. In some instances the dead were buried with copper mirrors. Harappan did not believe in burying precious things with the dead.
Looking for luxuries
- Another strategy to identify social differences is to study artefacts which archaeologists broadly classify as’ utilitarian’ and’ luxuries’.
- Utilitarian means daily use objects like pottery, needles, body scrubbers.
- Luxurious means costly objects like’ Faience’[ mixture of silica or sand colour and gum then fired] these miniature pots perhaps used as perfume bottles.
Finding out about craft production
- They knew arts and crafts, beautiful sculptures, toys, pottery, ornaments etc.
- People were prosperous.
- Chanhudaro was a tiny settlement exclusively devoted to craft production, including beat making, shell cutting, metalworking, seal making and weight making.
- Grinding, polishing and drilling were done for making beads.
- Nageshwar and balakot were specialised centres for making shells.
- Materials used to make beads like carnelian [ red colour] jasper, crystal, quartz, copper, bronze, gold, shell, faience.
- The shapes were numerous like cylindrical, spherical, barrel shape, decorated by incising or painting and designing.
Strategies for procuring materials
- Sometimes Harappans established settlements where raw materials were available.
- Another strategy for procuring raw material has been to send expeditions to areas where they were available for example Khetri region for copper[ Rajasthan] and South India for gold. Archaeologists called this region’ the Ganeshwar- Jodhpur culture’.
- The Harappan made contact with distant lands like Oman for procuring copper.
- The Harappan seals, weights, dice and beads were found in other countries like Oman, Bahrain and Mesopotamia.
Mesopotamian texts refer to Meluha as a land of seafarers.
Seal and Sealing
- Seals and sealing were used to facilitate a long distance communication. Seals also conveyed the Identity of the sender .
- Seals often contain animal motifs and signs from a script.
- The Harappan script remains undeciphered to date. The script was not alphabetical and had many signs between 375 and 400.
- It is apparent that the script was written from right to left.
- Exchanges were regulated by a precise system of weights, usually made of a Stone called ‘chert‘ with no marking.
- The lower denomination of weight was binary and the higher denomination followed the decimal system.
- Metal scale pans have also been found.
- The extraordinary uniformity of Harappan artefacts from Jammu to Gujarat are indicated to a higher authority.
- A large building found at Mohenjo-Daro was labelled as a palace by archaeologists.
- A stone statue was labelled and continues to be known as the ‘priest-king‘.
- Some archaeologists are of the opinion that Harappan society has no ruler, others feel there was no single ruler but several. Yet others argue that there was a single state because of the similarity in the artefacts.
The end of Harappan civilization
- By 1800 BCE most of the mature Harappan sites were abandoned.
- Around 1200 BCE this Civilization has completely vanished . After 1900 rural way of life what was known as late Harappan or’ successor cultures’ emerged .
- Epidemic, Aryan invasion, change in the course of the river Indus, earthquake, etc may be the main reason for the decline of this civilization. almost 1900BCE, there were explicit signs about the decline of this civilization.
Discovering the Harappan civilization
- The first Director -Genera of ASI [ Archaeological Survey of India] was Alexander Cunningham [1862 ].
- Cunningham’s main interest was in the archaeology of the early historic[ 6th century BCE -4th century BCE] and the later periods.
- He used the accounts left by Chinese Buddhist pilgrims who did not fit very neatly within his framework of Investigation.
- A Harappan seal was given to Cunningham by an Englishman. He noted the object but was unable to find the significance of Harappan Civilization and thought that Indian history began with the first cities in the Ganga valley.
A New old civilization
- John Marshall’s stint as director general of ASI marked a major change in Indian archaeology. He was the first professional archaeologist who had experience of working in Greece and Crete.
- He announced the discovery of a new Civilization in the Indus valley to the world which was also Contemporaneous with the Mesopotamian Civilization.
- Many Indian archaeologist like Dayaram Sahni SR Roy, RS Bisht, BK Thapar have played a great role in excavations of the Indus sites.
- Daya Ram Sahni discovered first Harappan civilization in 1921 and rakhaldas Banerjee discovered mohenjo Daro in 1924. the main centres in India are kalibangan ,sangol,Kali bangan ,dholavira ,Rakhigarhi, Banawali, lothal.
- As S.N Roy noted in ‘the story of Indian archaeology’ “Marshall left India 3000 years older than he had found her.”
Marshall tended to excavate along regular horizontal units not in stratigraphic layers.
New Technique and Question
- Director general of ASI in 1984, he was an ex-army Brigadier who brought with him a military precision to the practice of archaeology. He followed the stratigraphic excavation of the mound.
- Over the decades, new issues have assumed importance.
- Some archaeologists are often keen to obtain a cultural sequence, others try to understand the logic, location and function of the objects.
- Since, 1980’s specialists from the sub-continent and abroad have been jointly working at both Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. They are using modern scientific techniques and minutely analysing of every scrap.
Problems of piecing together the past
Nature of objects or artefacts
- Organic materials which decompose, like wood cloth, leather.
- Script -undeciphered.
- Recycled object, broken or useless objects
- One simple principle of classification is in term of material such as stone, clay, metal, bone ,ivory etc.
- The second in term of functions- for example an artefact is a tool or an ornament or both or something meant for ritual use.
- Resemblance with present- days things like beads ,stone- blade ,pots etc .
- Investigating place of artefacts like -Was it found in house, in a drain, in a grave or in kiln?
Problems of interpretation
- Most of artefact are usual or unfamiliar like figurines of women -these were regarded as mother goddess . Statuary of men -such as’ priest- king’ great bath and fire altars have been assigned ritual significance.
- Reconstruct religious belief and practices like plant and animal motifs like one horned’ unicorn’.
- ‘Proto-Shiva‘ -The major deities of Hinduism.
- Conical stone objects have been classified as ‘Lingas‘.
- Many reconstructions of Harappan religion are made on the assumptions that later traditions provide parallels with earlier ones.
- The earliest religious text, ‘The Rigveda ‘(1500 -1000 BCE) mentions a god named Rudra( Shiva), neither Pashupati nor Yogi. it possibly Shaman who claims a magical and healing powers, who communicates with other world.
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