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 ?
Thapar suggests that while lions were possibly unknown to the Harappan civilization, they were abundant and well known to civilizations that flourished in ancient North Africa and West Asia.
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.
Then around 3,800 years ago, the Harappan civilization began to crumble.
In the already dry Indus basin, the urban Harappan civilization failed to adapt to even harsher conditions and slowly collapsed.
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.
Ewald (chapter 4) suggests that cholera was responsible for the decentralization and migration of the Harappan civilization.
Harappan civilization in western India with special reference to Gujarat.
We want people to know that it is a city based on Harappan civilization.
Forty years ago when we were students we had little idea of the expansion of the Indus or Harappan civilization in the heartland of the subcontinent, or of the much earlier Mehrgarh (Baluchistan) and Quetta cultures, or the Gandhara Grave and the Copper Hoard cultures.
With the exception of the Harappan civilization, which is discussed in volume 2, the archaeological sequence is systematically presented in three chapters dedicated to the Palaeolithic, one to the Mesolithic, three to the Neolithic, three to the Chalcolithic and two to the Iron Age.
In the December 1999 issue of ANTIQUITY, Weber (1999: 813-26) presents a synthetic and interpretative article on agricultural change during the Harappan civilization drawing on his archaeobotanical work from Harappa, as well as his earlier work at the site of Rojdi (Weber 1991; 1993).