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Discovery of the Harappan

Updated on February 21, 2016

Seal -12, Harappan Civilization, C- 2700-2000 BC


harappa civilization


harappa civilization


Indus Valley Civilization

The latest calibrated radiocarbon dates for the mature (urban) phase of the Harappan Civilization place it between 2800 and 1900 BC. The pre – Harappan (pre – urban) phase had its beginnings before 6000 BC., and lasted till 2800 BC., when full – fledged cities came into existence. The late Harappan or declining phase lasted from about 1900 BC to 1100 BC.

Indus Valley Civilization

RD Banerjee an archaeologist, discovered definite evidence of the existence of such an ancient civilization in India while he was excavating the remains of Buddhist stupa on the top of a mound known as Mohenjo – daro in the Larkana district of Sindh (now in Pakistan) in 1922. a year earlier, Dayaram Sahni, another archaeologist, had discovered some ancient inscribed seals at Harappa in the Montgomery district (now known as Sahiwal district) of Punjab (also now in Pakistan). Systematic excavations at the two sites revealed that both were large cities of the same civilization. The uniformity of designs, shapes, sizes and decorations of the artefacts found in these far flung towns clearly proves it. This similarity is seen in objects of daily use such as earthen pottery, baked bricks, metal objects like knives, needles, pots and pans as well as in jewellery, ornaments and designs.

The naming of the civilization and its extent

As most of the early discovers of the centres of this civilization, like Harappa, Mohenjo – daro, Chanhu – daro, Jude – jo – daro and others, were found to be located along the Indus and its tributary rivers, archaeologists called it the Indus Valley Civilization. However, later explorations and excavations brought to light many other towns and cities situated in areas far beyond the Indus system. Prominent among these discoveries have been those of Manda in Jammu, Ropar in Punjab, Banawali in Haryana, Kalibangan in Rajasthan, Alamgirpur in western Uttar Pradesh, Lothal, Surkotada & dholavira in Gujarat and Daimabad in Maharashtra in India.

The name `Harappan' or `Indus Valley Civilization' was found to be inappropriate and so the archaeologists decided to rename it after Harappa, one of its most important and earliest discovered centres. About 1500 cities, towns and villages of the civilization have been found spread over. Covering an area about 1,300,000 square kilometres – an area far more extensive than that of any other contemporary civilization.

Decline of Indus civilization


Decline of Harappan civilization


Decline of the Harappan civilization

Earlier, archaeologists were of the opinion that the Harappan Civilization was brought to an abrupt end by the Aryan invasions. Recently, this view has been completely revised. It is now believed that this civilization gradually declined because of the degradation of the environment. Frequent flooding of the towns, overgrazing of grasslands, destruction of forests are among the various causes suggest by different archaeologists. It is know that a very large number of Harappan settlements were situated on the banks of the ancient Saraswati river (now it a dead river), some archaeologists hold the view that as the river dried up around 1900 BC., the towns were abandoned and the civilization declined. It is now generally agreed that there was no single cause for the decline of the Harappan Civilization.

The Harappan or the Indus Valley Civilization was great landmark in man's long journey towards a higher and higher civilization. It provides evidence of the continuity of aspects of Indian Civilization from the pre – historic times to the present day.

The decline of the Harappan Civilization did not mean the disappearance of the numerous settled farming communities spread over the entire region and others beyond it. With the decline of the Harappan Civilization, major centres of economic activity like Harappa, Mohenjo – daro, Kalibangan and others were abandoned. The urban way of life suffered a severe setback. Long distance trade declined. But it did create a cultural vacuum as many of the Harappan towns continued to flourish became centres of regional cultures. Though the regional cultures had their special characteristics, they did not exist in complete isolation from each other. They had frequent trade contacts with their neighbours and were also influenced by each other's cultural traits.

Iron objects have also been found in association with copper implements of a number of characteristic cultures from their early stages onwards. But the role of iron in the proto – historic and historic periods does not show the replacement of the kind of culture by another but a continuity of development. The most remarkable aspect of the history of that period ( from Harappan times to the Iron age) is the predominance of a culture described by historians as Indo – Aryan.


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