Harappan Civilization

Harappan Civilization


(also Indus Valley civilization), an archaeological culture that flourished from the middle of the third millennium B.C. to the 17th or 16th century B.C. in the northwestern part of the Hindustan Peninsula, in what is now Ipdia and Pakistan. It was named after the site of Harappa.

Archaeological excavations, which were begun in the 1920’s and were conducted by R. Sahni, R. Banerji, J. Marshall, E. Mackay, and B. B. Lai, among others, uncovered about 500 monuments, including the ruins of several capital cities (Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Kalibhangan), seaports, and border fortresses and the remains of settlements. The principal building material was mud brick; stone was used for the fortress foundations. The cities were laid out on a grid plan of rectilinear streets, with water supply and sewage systems. One- and two-storied houses, each house consisting of four to six rooms and a bathroom, were grouped around a central court and well. The city’s citadel was fortified by a wall with towers. The economy was based on stock raising (buffalo, swine, and possibly elephants) and irrigated farming (wheat, millet, barley, peas, and, in the later stages, rice).

The remains of a 2.5 km long irrigation canal were discovered in Lothal (Gujarat, India). Finds of copper and bronze tools, such as knives, sickles, chisels, and saws, weapons, such as arrowheads, spearheads, and short swords, and varied pottery attest to the development of handicrafts. The discovery of weights and objects from the countries of Northwest Asia in Harappan towns and the discovery of Harappan seals in the cities of Mesopotamia (Ur, Kish, Tell Asmar) indicate the existence of trade between the two regions, carried on by caravan and possibly by sea. The remains of a dock, with an area of 7,740 sq m, were discovered in Lothal, and clay models of sailing ships were found; depictions of ships were also found in Mohenjo-Daro. Works of applied art are represented by seals of steatite (soapstone), with depictions of animals and pictographic symbols (not yet deciphered), and by women’s ornaments, such as necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets, made of ivory, precious stones, and various metals. Sculpture gives us an idea of the physical appearance of the bearers of the Harappan civilization.

The Harappan burial ritual has been deduced from the burial grounds at Harappa and Lothal. It is characterized by single and double burials, with the dead lying in a supine position in flat graves; the grave goods consisted primarily of pottery. The people of the Harappan civilization worshipped a mother goddess and a god regarded as a prototype of Shiva, as well as fire, trees, and animals.

The lack of written sources has made the study of the social and political systems of the Harappan civilization difficult. By analogy with the material culture and economy of the civilizations of Northwest Asia, the Harappan civilization was an early class society with a slaveholding system. The principal producing population, united in communes, was subjected to exploitation. The political system was probably a despotism. It is conjectured that several factors were responsible for the decline of the Harappan civilization, including tectonic displacement, flooding, the depletion and bogging up of the soil, epidemics, and wars. The post-Harappan civilization is considered to be genetically connected with the Harappan civilization.

The Harappan civilization has left its mark on the cultures of the modern peoples of India and Pakistan.


Mackay, E. Drevneishaia kul’tura doliny Inda. Moscow, 1951. (Translated from English.)
Shchetenko, A. Ia. Drevneishie zemlevladel’cheskie kul’tury Dekana. Leningrad, 1968.
Wheeler, M. The Indus Civilization, 3rd ed. Supplementary volume to the Cambridge History of India. London, 1968.
Fairservis, W. A. The Roots of Ancient India. New York, 1971.


References in periodicals archive ?
1) The evidence of a sophisticated knowledge of clay processing is apparent at the excavation sites of the Harappan civilization (c.
The show not only highlighted the archaeological sites of Harappa, but it represented the entire Harappan civilization which is also called the Indus Valley civilization that dates back to 2600 BC - the third millenium BC and is one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
After describing the physical setting of India, McLeod begins his history with the Harappan civilization along the Indus River.
TEHRAN (FNA)- A new study on the human skeletal remains from the ancient Indus city of Harappa provides evidence that inter-personal violence and infectious diseases played a role in the demise of the Indus, or Harappan Civilization around 4,000 years ago.
A new study combining the latest archaeological evidence with state-of-the-art geosciences technologies provides evidence that climate change was a key ingredient in the collapse of the great Indus or Harappan Civilization almost 4000 years ago," said a press release of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which had funded a geological study on Pakistan along with the National Science Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, the University of Aberdeen, and Louisiana State University, on May 28, 2012.
Eschewing the Harappan civilization of the Indus valley for lack of decipherable textual sources, the authors begin with the Aryan society of the Vedic period (1500 BCE-500 BCE), in which they maintain that contrary to notions of the totalizing power of sacral authority in Indian society, Aryan kings remained dominant in their partnership with Brahman priests (Chapter 2).
Then around 3,800 years ago, the Harappan civilization began to crumble.
Neither the beginning nor the end of the Harappan civilization is clearly understood.
In the already dry Indus basin, the urban Harappan civilization failed to adapt to even harsher conditions and slowly collapsed.
It started to dry up 4,000 years ago, arguably, triggering the collapse of Harappan civilization - ruins of Mohen-jo-daro survived the recent floods.
3) Harappan civilization was the product in particular of farmers and herders who spread out from the western margins of the plains in the late 3000s bc e, displacing very few, if any, of the earlier inhabitants.
Mohenjo-Daro and the other centers of Harappan civilization in the Indus River watershed are another story.