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Indus Valley Civilization / Harappan Civilization - 2300-1700 BC

The modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947, but the region it encompasses has an extensive history that overlaps with the histories of Ancient India, Iran and Afghanistan. The region was a crossroads of historic trade routes, including the Silk Road, and was settled over thousands of years by many groups, including Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Parthians Kushans, White Huns, Afghans, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols; the region is often referred to as "a museum of races."

Modern Pakistanis are a blend of their Harappan, Indo-Aryan, Indo-Iranian, Saka, Parthian, Kushan, White Hun, Afghan, Arab, Turkic, and Mughal heritage. Waves of invaders and migrants settled down in Pakistan through out the centuries, influencing the locals and being absorbed among them. Thus the region encompassed by modern-day Pakistan is home to the oldest Asian civlization (and one of the oldest in the world after Mesopotamia and Egypt), Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC - 1500 BC).

Historian and geographer de Blij Muller characterized the historical embodiment of the land when he said, "If, as is so often said, Egypt is the gift of the Nile, then Pakistan is the gift of the Indus." The earliest evidence of humans are pebble tools from the Soan Culture in the province of Punjab, dated from 100,000 to 500,000 years ago. The Indus region was the site of several ancient cultures including Mehrgarh, one of the world's earliest known towns, and the Indus Valley Civilisation at Harrappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

The Indus Valley (Harappan) Civilization, which emerged in the mid-3rd millennium BC from this Neolithic base, encompassed a larger area than either Mesopotamia or Egypt - roughly 750 miles NS and EW, encompassing the Indus drainage and that of the original Ghaggar-Hakra River (now dry - captured by Ganges) and areas around these drainages.

Thakran notes that "Because of partition, the Harappan Gandhara and Taxila sites where the Indian archaeology had concentrated its major efforts, were passed on to Pakistan. The early heritage gathered for decades to authenticate the antiquity of Indian society and culture, was suddenly lost. This created a great vacuum and necessitated intense archaeological pursuits to discover similar cultural remains from contiguous territories to re-establish Indian cultural antiquity. This was, of course, a big challenge to Indian archaeologists."

Akinori Uesugi et al note3 that "The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 was a boon in disguise for the Harappan studies in India. As almost all the known Harappan sites entered into Pakistan, the Indian archaeologists, particularly from the Archaeological Survey of India, a few from various State Departments of Archaeology and selected universities accepted the challenge to successfully find the spatial and temporal extent of the Harappan culture in the Indian territory. Because of the attempts of numerous organizations and individual scholars, approximately 1000 sites have been reported from the Indian side, which are twice the number of sites reported from Pakistan."

The earliest known cities in India and Pakistan were in the Valley of the river Indus. In the Indus River region, dense farming populations and urban centers developed a few centuries later than in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The earliest urban civilization, known as Harappan civilization after one of its cities, was centered in the Indus River valley, though its cultural style spread widely from present-day Afghanistan to west central India. Around the middle of the third millennium BC, the Indus Valley witnessed a momentous change as a majority of Early Harappan (3200-2600 BC) settlements were abandoned and replaced by a network of larger and more numerous Mature Harappan (2500-1900 BC) occupations, including the urban centers of Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, and Ganweriwala. The excavations done and the places which is given above in the Jalandhar District have revealed the imprints of Harrapa culture in east Punjab the earlier two important sites i.e. (Harappa and Mohanjodaro) being in Pakistan. Rare and unique archaeological objects have been found in Nagar (Tehsil Phillaur) in Jalandhar District.

Harappan civilization attained its zenith between about 2600 and 1900 BCE. The pre-Harappan or Early Harappan is variously dated from 3200 to 25/2300, or 3200-2600 BC, the Mature Harappan to 2500/2300-1800 BC or 2600-2000 BC, and the Decline/Collapse or Late Harappan to 1800-1600. The civilization experienced rapid decline after 1800 with and disappearing last in NW India east of the Indus by 17/600. Radiocarbon dates suggested in 1964 a total time spread of 550 years, from about 2300 to 1750 BC, for the Harappa culture. For understanding Harappa, a chronology based on synchronisms with Mesopotamia is important.

The area within this extensive land area is much more environmentally diverse than either Egypt or Mesopotamia. The physical environment encompassed the full range of ecological zones extending from arid deserts to well-watered wooded highlands, from high mountains to arid lowland river plains. This diverse region incorporated a large number of raw resource deposits. This again contrasts with the resource-scarce Mesopotamian and Egyptian river valleys and permitted the Indus to be an exporter rather than primarily an importer like these other centers of civilization.

Harappan urban settlements were distinguished from that of the other civilizations by their uniformity of architecture, town planning, and crafts. There was little differentiation in the form or social context of art, wealth or architecture to indicate the existence of an internally stratified population of the Mesopotamian/Egyptian type.

The Mature Harappan polities quickly expanded into the Kutch and Gujarat regions some 400 km southeast of Mohenjo-daro; moreover, there was an early involvement in distant colonial outposts such as Dabar Kot, Periano Ghundai, Manda, Rupar, and Lothal, directly linked to the needs of growing bureaucracies in the Harappan urban centers. Although a number of research questions about the Indus Valley remain unresolved, there is mounting evidence that the transition from the Early Harappan to Mature Harappan witnessed not only the rise of a primary state but also the rapid political-economic expansion of the Mature Harappan state to territories far from the core.

The civilization that laid the bricks, one of the world's oldest, originated in the south and moved north, building complex, mathematically-planned cities. Some of these towns were almost three miles in diameter and contained as many as 30,000 residents. These ancient municipalities had granaries, citadels, and even household toilets. In Mohenjodaro, a mile-long canal connected the city to the sea, and trading ships sailed as far as Mesopotamia. At its height, the Indus civilization extended over half a million square miles across the Indus river valley, and though it existed at the same time as the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Sumer, it did not outlast them.

The Indus River and its tributaries flow from the Himalaya mountains. It then travels southward across the plain called the Punjab and finally fans out to form the alluvial delta of Sind before emptying into the Arabian Sea. The spring flow of the Indus was fairly predictable, but excessive summer floods could still drown whole cities. On the other hand, the valley soil was not only rich but extended over about 250,000 square miles, twice the arable land area of Mesopotamia or the Nile Valley.

From the excavated archaeological sites of Indus valley, it has been found that kiln burnt bricks were lavishly used by the Harapan culture (Indus Civilization) and evidently unlimited timber must have been available for use in the third Millennium BC. Harrapan are therefore blamed to have cruelly used the forests. With no replantation by the community, the wholesale logging created deforestation and desertification in the Indus Valley. This deterioration of the environment had far reaching effects on the population. In other words, as the Harrapan paid no respect to the nature they had to face the consequences.

Forests serve a harmonious link between the human community and its physical environment. The first effect of wholesale logging was the destruction of the forest ecosystem. Animals depending on forests for food disappeared. Small plants, which depended on large trees for humus, vanished. Soil was exposed to erosion. Fast erosion caused silting of rivers resulting in frequent and devastative floods. Loss of top soil reduced the water retaining capacity of the region, depriving human community of fresh water supply. Transpiration, extremely important for optimum weather, ceased, causing arid conditions with unbearable temperatures.

Gradually the entire climate, which was once usefully moderate to sustain luxurious forests and fertile soil, changed to greater extreme and turned the area to a mere dust heap. Consequentlydroughts, famines, floods and pestilence brought apocalyptic doom for the community. Ultimately, the civilization perished and bricked houses; roads and city walls were left to tell the woeful story of the extermination of the great Indus Civilization.

No one knew of the existence of this urban society until the 1920s, when archaeological work started. Digs have revealed that several Indus cities, including Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, had streets laid out in grids, large brick platforms, well-engineered sewers, and a written script (which has not been deciphered). Archaeologists have also turned up evidence of active commercial exchange between the Indus River region and Mesopotamia by way of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf.

The ancient Indus Valley cities, such as Harappa, obtained their copper from western Baluchistan, probably as smelted but unrefined copper, to judge by the small accumulations of slag at that city. A remarkable range of merchandise, luxuries and ordinary goods were transported over long distances. Evidence suggests that both cities carried on extensive trading with other communities in the Near East and beyond. Harrapan seals have been found on pottery fragments as far west as the Persian Gulf.

Page last modified: 28-11-2016 19:41:53 ZULU