Lost Civilization of Harappa

The Harappa citizen also known as the Harappan were literate, though no literature has survived and no one has yet been able to decipher the short inscriptions found mostly on their seals. They were also technologically advanced, with bathrooms and toilets in many houses, and citywide drainage systems. They were sailors and traders, whose crafts have since been found throughout Mesopotamia. Yet unlike the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, which lasted for millennia, the Harappa endured only about six hundred years. By 1900 BC, Harappa were abandoned. People continued to live in the surrounding areas, but there were no longer signs of luxury items or writing or urban life. The reasons for the civilization’s demise still debated among archaeologists. Harappa is an archaeological site in Punjab, northeast Pakistan, about 20 km (12 mi) west of Sahiwal. The site takes its name from a modern village located near the former course of the Ravi River, some 5 km (3 mi) southeast of the site.

The site contains the ruins of a Bronze Age fortified city, which was part of the Cemetery H culture and the Indus Valley Civilization, centered in Sindh and the Punjab. The city is believed to have had as many as 23,500 residents—considered large for its time. The two greatest cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, emerged circa 2600 BC along the Indus River valley in Punjab and Sindh.

At Harappa ruins, archaeologists found evidence of an unknown Bronze Age civilization.

Indus Valley civilization (also known as Harappan culture) was mainly an urban culture sustained by surplus agricultural production and commerce, the latter including trade with Sumer in southern Mesopotamia. Both Mohenjo-daro and Harappa are generally characterized as having "differentiated living quarters, flat-roofed brick houses, and fortified administrative or religious centers." Although such similarities have given rise to arguments for the existence of a standardized system of urban layout and planning, such similarities are largely due to the presence of a semi-orthogonal type of civic layout, and a comparison of the layouts of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa shows that they are in fact, arranged in a quite dissimilar fashion.

The chert weights and measures of the Indus Valley Civilization, on the other hand, were highly standardized, and conform to a set scale of gradations. Distinctive seals were used, among other applications, perhaps for identification of property and shipment of goods. Although copper and bronze were in use, iron was not yet employed.

Mortimer Wheeler, who excavated at both Mohenjo Daro and Harappa during the 1940s, believed the Harappan cities were destroyed by invaders from the north. At Mohenjo Daro, Wheeler found the skeletons of men, women, and children sprawled on the ground, some bearing the marks of axes or swords. These, Wheeler concluded, were the peace-loving victims of a more violent people. Maybe the same invaders also destroy Harappa cities.

Who were these invaders? Though there was no Indus text to tell of them, later Indian literature provided clues. Religious works known as the Vedas described the battles of people who called themselves Aryans. In the greatest of these, the Rig Veda, the Aryan war god Indra destroys ninety forts and “rends forts as age consumes a garment.”Among those conquered by the Aryans were the Dasas, a dark-skinned race that lived in fortified cities.

“It has in the past been supposed that [these forts] were mythical,” Wheeler wrote. “The recent excavation of Harappa may be thought to have changed the picture.Here we have a highly evolved civilization of essentially non-Aryan type . . . now known to have employed massive fortifications, and known also to have dominated the river system of northwestern India at a time not distant from the likely period of the earlier Aryan invasions of that region. . . . Its ultimate extinction is . . . likely to have been completed by deliberate and large-scale destruction. It may be no mere chance that at a Late Period of Mohenjo-daro men, women, and children appear to have been massacred there.” The evidence was, however, very circumstantial.

Other archaeologists, such as George Dales, noted that some of the apparent wounds on the Mohenjo Daro skeletons appeared to have been made weeks or months before the victims’ deaths. Moreover, the skeletons were not found together in the citadel, where you’d expect a last stand, but scattered about the city, and the positions in which they were found could just as easily have indicated a hasty burial as a massacre. It wasn’t even clear that they’d all died in the same time period.

The ‘massacre’ idea immediately ignited and has been used as a torch up to the present day by some historians, linguists, and archaeologists as visible, awful proof of the invasion of the subcontinent by Aryans. But what is the material evidence to substantiate the supposed invasion and massacre? Where are the burned fortresses, the arrowheads, weapons, pieces of armor, the smashed chariots and bodies of the invaders and defenders? Despite the extensive excavations at the largest Harappan sites, there is not a single bit of evidence that can be brought forth as unconditional proof of an armed conquest and destruction on the supposed scale of the Aryan invasion.

The Rig Veda evidence was also dubious. Nothing in the text could be tied to any particular location, and its descriptions of the forts don’t resemble Harappa or Mohenjo Daro. Many archaeologists believed that the purpose of the elevated areas of the cities was not defensive, as Wheeler assumed, but public or religious. At Mohenjo Daro, there was a Great Bath and a warehouse, neither of which had any military use. Nor were the walls of the city necessarily for defense; many believed they were used to buttress the elevated buildings. The forts described in the Rig Veda, if they existed at all, were as likely to have been in Iran or Central Asia as the Indus Valley.

Then there was the problem of dates. Most scholars think the Rig Veda was first written down sometime between 1500 BC and 1000 BC, hundreds of years after Harappa and Mohenjo Daro were abandoned. True, the Rig Veda first existed as an oral tradition, and it could have recalled events of a more distant past, but it was still a long stretch to tie its battles to the fall of the Indus cities.

If Aryan invaders didn’t destroy the Harappan cities, who—or what—was to blame? Some archaeologists thought disruption of the Harappan trade with Mesopotamia was a factor. After about 2000 BC, the number of Mesopotamian artifacts found in the Indus Valley declined, indicating a decline in trade. But none of these artifacts seemed essential to the cities’ survival, so the decline in trade was more likely to be an effect than a cause of the problem.

Another theory was that the Harappans wore out their environment, perhaps deforesting the region for the firewood that baked the bricks for their buildings. This, too, seemed unlikely: only a few hundred acres of forest would have been required to build Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. McIntosh speculated, the Harappans may also have been victims of their own extensive sanitation systems, if wastewater contaminated the drinking water and spread disease.

Many scientists blamed environmental changes beyond the Harappans’ control. H. J. Lambrick suggested that the Indus River shifted course, perhaps because of tectonic changes in the Himalayas, and Robert Raikes thought the river’s waters became dammed upstream from Mohenjo Daro. Gurdip Singh cited the changing salinity of the region’s lakes as evidence of declining rainfall. Others suggested the problem was too much water: deposits in and around Mohenjo Daro indicated the city experienced a number of substantial floods, though some archaeologists suspected the deposits might have been left by wind, not water.

Any of these factors would have caused stresses and strains, and some—such as a change in the course of the Indus River or a devastating flood—might very well have caused the Indus people to abandon even as important a city as Mohenjo Daro. But why didn’t they rebuild elsewhere? Why did they stop making painted pottery and stamp seals, why did they stop constructing drainage systems, why did they stop writing? Why did they give up on a civilization that had reached such heights? Until now, these questions still unanswered.

“The process of decline and collapse, as it appears in the archaeological record at key sites, unfolds in various ways,” wrote archaeologist Nayanjot Lahiri. “It is not one event but different kinds of events which are in need of elucidation here, and this may explain why various types of hypotheses have been offered as well as why one may consider more than one explanation to be plausible.”

Sources :
Mysteries in History : “From Prehistory to the Present” by Paul D. Aron;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harappa

Pics sources :
http://wondersofpakistan.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/indus-civilization-map.jpg;
http://www.incois.gov.in/Tutor/science+society/lectures/illustrations/lecture1/harappa.jpg
Lost Civilization of Harappa Lost Civilization of Harappa Reviewed by Tripzibit on 06:48 Rating: 5

3 comments:

  1. No so much mystery to this one - seems like it was just a civilization that died off for some reason.

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  2. Gave you a plug on my blog today (Saturday 1/23)- I enjoy this site - a daily stop for me.

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