Copper was the first metal to be used by man for making tools. Harappan civilization was discovered in 1920–22 when two of its most important sites were excavated.
These were Harappa on the banks of the river Ravi and Mohenjodaro on the banks of the Indus.
The first was excavated by D. R. Sahani and the second by R.D. Bannerji.
On the basis of the archaeological findings, the Harappan civilization has been dated between 2600 B.C–1900 BC and is one of the oldest civilizations of the world.
It is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Indus valley civilization’.
But today it is termed as the Harappan civilization because Harappa was the first site, which brought to light the presence of this civilization.
It is the first urban culture of India and is contemporaneous with other ancient civilizations of the world such as those of Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The whole period of Harappan civilization is divided into three phases:
(1) Early Harappan phase (3500 BC–2600 BC) – it was marked by some town-planning in the form of mud structures, elementary trade, arts, and crafts, etc.,
(2) Mature Harappan phase (2600 BC–1900 BC) – it was the period in which we notice well-developed towns with burnt brick structures, inland, and foreign trade, crafts of various types, etc.,
(3) Late Harappan phase (1900 BC–1400 BC) – it was the phase of decline during which many cities were abandoned and the trade disappeared leading to the gradual decay of the significant urban traits.
Some important sites of this civilization are:
Manda [Jammu and Kashmir]
Harappa [Western Punjab (Pakistan)]
Mohenjodaro and Chanhudaro [Sind]
Lothal and Dholavira [Gujarat]
Banawali and Rakhigarhi [Haryana]
Sutkagendor on the Makran Coast (near Pakistan-Iran border) is the westernmost site of the Harappan civilization
Alamgirpur in western Uttar Pradesh marks its easternmost limit
The location of settlements suggests that the Harappa, Kalibangan, Mohenjodaro axis was the heartland of this civilization and most of the settlements are located in this region.
Agriculture in the Harappan Civilization
The availability of fertile Indus alluvium contributed to the surplus in agricultural production.
Agriculture along with pastoralism (cattle-rearing) was the base of the Harappan economy.
The granaries discovered at sites like Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Lothal served as the storehouses for grains.
Tools like furrows or plough-marks have been observed in a field at Kalibangan.
These indicate plough cultivation.
A terracotta plough has also been reported from Banawali in Hissar district of Haryana.
The irrigation was carried on a small scale by drawing water from wells or by diverting river water into channels.
The chief food crops included wheat, barley, sesamum, mustard, peas, jejube, etc.
The evidence for rice has come from Lothal and Rangpur in the form of husks embedded in pottery.
Cotton was another important crop.
Apart from cereals, fish and animal meat also formed a part of the Harappan diet.
Trade in the Harappan Civilization
The trading network, both internal (within the country) and external (foreign), was a significant feature of the urban economy of the Harappans.
Various kinds of metals and precious stones were needed by craftsmen to make goods, but as these were not available locally they had to be brought from outside.
Thus Rajasthan region is rich in copper deposits and the Harappans acquired copper mainly from the Khetri mines located here.
Kolar gold fields of Karnataka and the river-beds of the Himalayan rivers might have supplied the gold.
The source of silver may have been Jwar mines of Rajasthan. It is believed that it must have also come from Mesopotamia in exchange for the Harappan goods.
The Harappans were engaged in external trade with Mesopotamia. It was largely through Oman and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. It is confirmed by the presence of Harappan art facts such as beads, seals, dice, etc. in these regions.
The export from Mesopotamia to Harappans included items such as garments, wool, perfumes, leather products, and sliver.
Society of the Harappan Civilization
The Harappan society was matriarchal in nature.
This view is based on the popularity of the mother goddess as indicated by the finding of a large number of terracotta female figurines in the Punjab and Sind region.
The Harappan religion is normally termed as animism i.e., worship of trees, stones, etc.
In some cases, the female is shown with an infant while there is one that shows a plant growing out of the uterus of a woman.
The Harappans living in different areas followed different religious practices as there is no evidence of fire-pits at Harappa or Mohanjodaro.
The scripts of the Harappan
The Harappans were literate people.
Recent studies suggest that the Harappan script consists of about 400 signs and that it was written from right to left.
However, the script has not been deciphered as yet.
It is believed that they used ideograms i.e., a graphic symbol or character to convey the idea directly.
We do not know the language they spoke, though scholars believe that they spoke “Brahui”, a dialect used by Baluchi people in Pakistan today.
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