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The Harappan Civilization
The Harappan Civilization was one of the oldest civilization in the Indian sub-continent known for its modern structures. It was a Bronze Age Civilization in the northwestern region of South Asia. It is called Harappan because the remnants of the civilization was discovered first at the modern site of Harappa located in the province of Punjab, Pakistan. Archeological evidences suggest that the civilization flourished in the Indus valley, hence it is also known as the Indus Valley Civilization. The entire history of the Harappan Culture can be sub-divided into three phases– the Early Harappan Phase(3300 BC – 2600 BC), the Mature Harappan Phase (2600BC – 1900 BC) and the Late Harappan Phase(1900 BC – 1300BC).
The Decline of the Harappan Civilization
The city of Harappa was divided into two parts- The Citadel, which was home to the great public bath, as well as large residential buildings that housed around 5000 people. It also had two large assembly halls, but there is no evidence of the presence of any kings, priests, armies, palaces or temples. So the purpose of the Citadel is still unclear. The Lower City was laid out in a grid like pattern. Most of people lived here and seemed to have been traders or artisans.
They resided with others who were in the same profession as theirs. Potters’ kilns, dyers’ vats, metal working, bead making, shell making suggest that the people of Harappa had a wide range of occupations. Materials were procured from far-away places to make a wide range of things such as seals, beads and other artifacts.
Seals which were discovered during excavations had pictures of Gods, animals and other inscriptions. Some of these seals were used to stamp clay on trade goods. Goods made in the Indus valley traveled as far as Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), Afghanistan and other parts of India. Jewelery that was discovered in the area suggests that the people of the Indus Valley had access to gold, copper and semi-precious stones.
The city had good flood control measures and irrigation systems in place.
In spite of this, evidence suggests that Mohenjo-daro was destroyed and rebuilt seven times. This was because of the damage caused by severe floods and the river changing its course. The entire city was wiped out. The repeated rebuilding process proves that their architects were dedicated workers and always dealt with nature’s forces. Extensive agricultural production and trade with Sumer (one of the oldest civilizations) in Southern Mesopotamia supported life at Harappa.
Weapons and tools were made from copper and bronze but not iron. Wheat, rice and a variety of vegetables and fruits were cultivated. A number of animals were domesticated and cotton was woven and dyed for clothing.
The people of Harappa seemed to have lived peaceful lives, with little fear of invasion. According to one theory, When the Aryans arrived from the Northwest, they hardly encountered any resistance from the Harappans. The Harappan people were overpowered by their superior military skills. All the cities fell one by one, weakened already by constant floods and rebuilding. Harappans, who were termed ‘Dasyus’ by the Aryans, either joined the lower sections of the Aryan community or fled south. This theory is no longer popular.
Drought and a slowdown in trade with Mesopotamia and Egypt are now thought to be more likely causes of the decline of the Indus Valley civilization.
The fall of Mohenjo-daro is a typical example of the decay of this great culture. It took another thousand years before a city as well-planned was built again.
Excavations reveal that the people of Harappa were technologically advanced and had an efficient system of governance in place.
Some artifacts that were excavated from the area include soapstone seals like the humped Brahmani bull and Pashupati. Other carved figures that were discovered include the bronze dancing girl and the statue of a priest and a man’s torso.
Stone implements and cave paintings from this period have been found in many parts of Asia. There is also evidence suggesting the domestication of animals, village settlements and wheel-turned pottery dating from the middle of the 6th century BC, which were discovered on the foothills of Singh and Baluchistan, both in Pakistan.
Archelogists, R.D. Bannerjee and Sir John Marshall rediscovered this historic site in the 1920s, giving the world a peek into ancient cultures and civilizations.
For more such interesting history articles and videos, visit History for Kids category.
Mature Harappan society had three classes, including a religious elite, a trading class class and the poor workers. Art of the Harappan includes bronze figures of men, women, animals, birds and toys cast with the lost was method. Terracotta figurines are rarer, but are known from some sites, as is shell, bone, semiprecious and clay jewelry.
Seals carved from steatite squares contain the earliest forms of writing. Almost 6000 inscriptions have been found to date, although they have yet to be deciphered. Scholars are divided about whether the language is likely a form of Proto-Dravidian, Proto-Brahmi or Sanskrit. Early burials were primarily extended with grave goods later burials were varied.
Harappa - History
Named after Harappa the first site where the unique urban culture was discovered, a civilization existed that is dated between 2600 - 1900 BC.
There were earlier and later cultures known as Early Harappa and Late Harappa in the same region.
The Harappan phase characterised by the distinctive objects such as seals, beads, weights, stone blades and baked bricks is called Mature Harappan culture.
The transition from Early harappan to Mature harappan is best seen at Amri where at the beginning of the 3rd Millenium BC a distinctive culture complex to the south east of baluchistan appeared. Here people lived in stone houses or mud brick houses. They had constructed some kind of granary too. They painted such animal motifs such as humped bulls on thin pottery.
Extent of the Civilization
The civilization was spread over Baluchistan, Jammu, Sind, Punjab, North rajasthan and gujarat. The climate of these regions was moist and humid and not like the desert areas these have become today.
Although the Kalibangan Mohenjodaro axis is where the majority of the houses were present. The spread of the civilization is vast due to the wide trade network and the economic independence of each region.
Harappan civilization [since Harappa was the first place to be discovered] or Indus valley civilization [it is located on the banks of Indus River] is 5000 year old civilization. 80% of the settlements were on the banks of the now lost Saraswati River. The civilization was first discovered in 1920 while laying of the Lahore Multan railway line.
The capital cities: Harappa [banks of Ravi River] and Mohenjo-Daro [banks of Indus River].
Harappa was discovered by Dayaram Sahni and Mohenjo-Daro by Rakal das banerjee.
John Marshall the head of Archaeological survey of India played an important role.
Alexander Cunningham, the father of Indian archaeology was the first director of Archaeological survey of India.
Carbon dating uses C-14 isotope to find human bones age. Inventor is Libby.
Findings at the cities:
No cluster of settlements around Harappa.
A substantial section of the population was involved in activities other than food production.
The isolation of Harappa can be explained by the fact that it was located in the midst of some important trade routes which are still in use.
Harappas pre-eminent position was therefore linked to its ability to procure exotic items from faraway lands.
2. Mohenjo-Daro – Largest city of the civilization spread over 200 hectares.
Excavations show that people lived here for a very long time and went on building and rebuilding houses in the same location.
As a result the height of the remains of the buildings and debris is about 75 feet.
Ever since its occupation there are regular foods here which causes deposition of soil.
At the time of its decline, garbage was seen piled upon its streets, the drainage system broken down and new less impressive houses built even over the streets.
In Gujarat, settlements such as Rangapur, Surkotada and Lothal have been discovered.
Lothal located in the coastal flats of the Gulf of Cambay stood beside a tributary of sabarmati.
It was an important center for making objects out of stones, shells and metals.
This place seems to have been an outpost for sea trade with contemporary west Asian societies like Oman.
4. Kalibangan – elaborate town planning and urban features
Kalibangan located on the dried up bed of river Ghaggar was excavated in 1960 under the guidance of B K Thapar.
This area had the largest concentration of harappan settlement. It has yielded evidence of early harappan period.
· Water and drainage system
Located on khadir beyt in Rann of Kutchh was divided unlike other cities in three parts and each part was surrounded with massive stone walls with entrances through gateways.
There was also a large open area in the settlement where public ceremonies can be held.
Another important find is a sort of a public inscription comprising ten large sized signs of the Harappan scripts besides water reservoir.
It is located near the Makran coast which is close to the Pakistan Iran border.
At present, the settlement is landlocked and is located in dry inhospitable plains.
The towns had a citadel surrounded by a stone wall built for defence.
It probably to fill the need for a sea port for trading purpose.
System of Harappan civilisation:
- Progress in agriculture, industry, crafts and trade.
- System of grid shaped roads – streets and lanes cut at right angles, citadels – political authority was present, walled cities, burned bricks – absence of stone bricks.
- Houses with no windows Made of stone and wood, every house had a bathroom.
- Citadel areas for upper classes and non citadel areas for lower classes.
- Drains adjacent to the house covered with stone slabs or bricks.
- Seals, script [not yet been deciphered] written from right to left and left to right in alternate lines, standard weights and measures.
- Wheel based pottery, practice of burying the dead in north south direction.
- Cotton and woolen clothes.
- Male and female goddesses. Tree worship. Snake worship. No temples found, religion and castes did not exist in this civilization hence it was predominantly secular civilization.
- Vegetarian and non Vegetarian eaters.
- Cosmetics and weapons were used.
- Horses were not known but domesticated animals were cows, bulls, dogs, elephants.
- Iron was not known but bronze was used.
- Knowledge of tides and medicines.
- No currency so barter based exchange. Trade with other civilizations both internal and foreign.
- Agriculture based on wheat and barley.
- Fishing, hunting and bull fighting, music were common pass times.
- Bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures.
- Granaries show organized collection and distribution. Great bath show importance to ritualistic bathing, cleanliness.
Causes of decline:
Climate change led to change in river course.
By 1500 BC the civilization began to decline. The Sanskrit speaking Indo – Aryans entered the subcontinent in this period.
The most remarkable feature of the Harappan civilisation was its urbanisation. The harappan settlements which were small towns show a remarkable unity of conception and an advanced sense of planning and organization.
Each city was divided into a cidatel area where the essential institutions of civil and religious life were located and the lower residential area where the urban population lived.
In Mohenjodaro and harappa the citadel was surrounded by a brick wall. At kalibangan, both the citadel and the lower city are surrounded by a brick wall. Usually towns and cities are laid out in parallelogramic fashion. Bricks of both baked and unbaked category were used of standard size showing the presence of a large scale industry for the harappans.
Lower towns were divided into wards like a chess board by north south, east west roads and smaller lanes cutting each other at right angles as in a grid system.
Houses of varying sizes were an indication of economic groups in the settlement. The parallel rows of two rooms cottages unearthed at mohenjodaro and harappa were used by the poorer sections of the society. Houses were equipped with priate toilets and wells. The bathrooms were connected to a drains under sewers under the main street. The drainage system was one of the main impressive features of the harappan civilization. It is also an indicator of a presence of a municipal authority.
Wheat and barley were cultivated. Sesame and mustard were used for oil.
There are indications of the use of a wooden plough and toothed barrow.
Lothal people cultivated rice and harappans also grew cotton.
Though canal irrigation was absent but irrigation depended on the irregular flooding of the rivers of Punjab or Sind.
Sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo, pigs and elephants were domesticated. Camels were rare and horses were unknown.
Wild animals were hunted for food and game.
Trade routes were through land and sea both. Inland as well as foreign trade was carried out. This is proved by the occurrence of small terracotta boats and by a vast brick dock built at Lothal.
Barter system was the medium of exchange.
Well created system of weights and measures was present. The eights were in order of 2 as 1,2,4,8,16,32,64 till 160. The lengths were measured using strip of shells which were unshrinkable in heat and cold.
Harappan seals and small objects used by traders to stamp their goods were found in Mesopotamia.
People were involved in pottery making, bead making, seal making, spinning and weaving both cotton and wool. Terracotta toys were made, handicrafts were glazed and carved with beautiful motifs of animals and birds.
Metal working were highly skilled. They made fine jewellery in gold, bronze,copper, saws, chisels and knives.
Stone sculptures were rare and undeveloped.
Harappans knew mining, metal working, art of constructing well planned buildings.
they were adept at manufacturing gypsum cement which was used to join stones and even metals.
Scripts, Political organization and Religion :
The evidence of political organization isnt found and hence it cant be concluded which kind of political organization was followed in harappa.
However uniformity in tools, weapons, bricks, seals show a presence of a political authority.
There could have been a class of merchant ruling the civilization unlike in Egypt and Mesopotamia which were ruled by the priestly class.
This conclusion stems from the absence of temples in Harappa.
Script has too many symbols and is written from right to left and left to right in alternate lines.
The harappan worshipped both male and female deities. Worship of female sex organs, trees and bull is also seen at sites. The harappan belived in life after death as their dead were buried along with household items and jewellery. The head of the dead body was pointed north. The evidence of urn burial is also seen at sites.
The Discovery of Harappan Civilization
The Harappan Civilization is a path-breaking discovery that relates us to the Ancient India’s way of living and lifestyle. The discovery is not a result of a particular day but it is a conglomeration of various archaeological findings that has been discovered continuously since 19th century. In 1853, a British engineer, Sir Alexander Cunningham discovered a seal. The seal was a smooth black stone without polish. A bull without a hump was engraved on the seal. There were two stars under the neck of the bull and it was looking to the right. Above the bull there was an inscription of six characters. Cunningham thought that the seal cannot be Indian. However, the seal stimulated the discovery of the Harappan Civilization.
In 1921, an Indian archaeologist, Ray Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni, started excavating the Harappan site. In 1922, another archaeologist Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay (R.D Banerji) discovered Mohenjo-daro in Sindh and started excavation. Large scale excavation were carried out at Mohenjo-daro under the supervision of Marshall in 1931. The same site was excavated by Mackey in 1938. In 1948 Vats excavated Harappa. Mortimer Wheeler also excavated Harappa in 1946. This were all done in the pre-Independence period.
After the Independence, Suraj Bhan, M.k Dhavalikar, B.K Thapar, B.B lal among many others continued excavation works in areas of Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan. In Pakistan F.A khan, A.H Dani, M.R Mughal and many others excavated many areas.
Keeladi Civilization Location
Keeladi is the 2nd century BCE settlement near Silaiman in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The small village is also spelled as Keezhadi and located on the border between Sivagangai and Madurai districts. It is 12 km southeast of Madurai city and found on the shores of Vaigai river.
From excavation it is learned Keeladi existed in the Sangam period, the period in which the ancient Tamil Nadu and Kerala spanned between 5th century BCE and 3rd century CE. It is believed to be as big as Mohenjodaro and Harappa. It was an advanced civilization having international trade links like with Rome, Egypt and China.
Beyond Harappa: The ‘Other’ Cultures (3000 BCE – 900 BCE)
In the midst of a patchwork of small farms growing wheat, mustard and sugarcane, in turns, you will find one of the most talked-about excavation sites of the subcontinent in recent times. In 2018, archaeologists excavating at Sanauli, about 70 km from Delhi, in Western Uttar Pradesh, dug up a necropolis or cemetery with burials of what seemed to be a clan of warriors – sword-wielding men and women, who were buried with their weapons, wore helmets, ornate armour and even rode chariots.
Nothing like this had been found before, and what was really astonishing was the time period in which this clan lived. According to Carbon-14 dating, this necropolis went back to around 2200 BCE, making the warriors of Sanauli contemporaries of the Harappans, who were residing further west.
This was significant because it was unprecedented.
This discovery set the proverbial cat among the pigeons as it questioned many earlier points of view. It also raised a storm, with some sections equating this evidence of warriors with the period of the epic Mahabharata. That aside, what was significant was the fact that Sanauli opened up another chapter in the tantalising tale of the many settlements (or ‘cultures’, as described by archaeologists) that co-existed with the Harappan world across the Indian subcontinent.
But before we discuss that, it is important to know that there were many settlements that even predated Harappa. For instance, the earliest-known remnants of the first farmers in South Asia come from the 8000 BCE site of Mehrgarh in present-day Pakistan. This precedes Harappan civilisation by at least 5,000 years, and Mehrgarh isn’t the only one. There were many other Neolithic sites that demonstrate the shift from food gathering to food cultivation and animal domestication, like that of Lahuradewa (6500 BCE) in Uttar Pradesh and Sothi (4600 BCE) in Rajasthan.
While the Harappan Civilisation, which rose and fell between 3000 BCE and 1700 BCE, dominates any conversation about the beginnings of ancient history, what rarely finds mention is that our land was populated by a whole range of other communities or cultures, each of which had their own unique and independent identity. Some of them even endured till much after the Harappans had moved on.
Most of these ‘other’ cultures, categorised as ‘Chalcolithic’ cultures (marked by the use of copper for the first time by man), were concentrated in the areas of present-day Rajasthan, Central India and the Deccan. And they had strong trade links with each other.
It was a diverse and well-networked world.
AHAR-BANAS CULTURE (3000 – 1900 BCE), South-Eastern Rajasthan
This is among the earliest Chalcolithic cultures of India, with more than 100 sites, mostly along the Banas River valley that flows in Rajasthan and is a tributary of the Chambal River further east. This culture, like the general norm, was named after the site of ‘Ahar’, where it was first discovered.
Ahar, in Udaipur district, was excavated in 1961-62 by archaeologist H D Sankalia and his team, who found evidence of a fully developed agro-pastoral culture. There were signs of rice cultivation and domestication of animals through the bones of cattle, sheep, goats and dogs, among others.
Other important sites of this culture are Gilund in Rajsamand district and Balathal in Udaipur district. Gilund was excavated by B B Lal (ex-DG, ASI) and Balathal by V N Misra (ex-Director, Deccan College, Pune). Excavations here reveal that there were mud-brick dwellings and also multi-room stone dwellings with hearths in some.
The material culture of Ahar-Banas is characterised by an astoundingly prolific, i.e. at least eight types of different wares or pottery. This included White-Painted Black and Red Ware, Grey Ware, Buff Ware, Imitation Buff-Slipped Ware and Reserved Slip Ware.
For the White-Painted Black and Red Ware, a signature ware of the Ahar-Banas culture, the potters used the inverted technique. At the time of firing, the pots were placed in an inverted manner so that the parts that did not get any oxygen became black, while the portion that had access to oxygen turned red. Later, they painted the pottery in fugitive white, applique designs.
Balathal is also noteworthy for the profuse use of copper. This includes choppers, knives, razors, chisels and barbed and tanged arrowheads. This region is rich in mineral deposits, and semi-precious stone beads like carnelian and lapis lazuli have been unearthed here. Interestingly, carnelian beads are typical of the Gujarat Harappans, suggesting trade between the two while lapis lazuli would have had to have come via long-distance trade from Badakhshan in Afghanistan, across the entire Harappan domain. Balathal has also produced the remains of woven cloth, indicating that the people here had developed the art of textile making.
All this indicates a mixed economy, and industrial activities were marked by the mass production of ceramics, metal works, and the development of the bead industries. Archaeologists even postulate from the available evidence that this region supplied copper to Harappan sites.
GANESHWAR – JODHPURA CULTURE (2500 BCE)
Developing not very far from the Ahar culture was the Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture in North-Eastern Rajasthan, the richest Chalcolithic culture vis-a-vis copper. What helped was its location near copper mines. Sadly, it doesn’t find much of mention along with other Chalcolithic cultures because of limited excavation and scanty published material.
Excavations headed by archaeologist R C Agrawal at Jodhpura near Kotputli and Ganeshwar near Nim-ka-Thana in 1978-79, revealed over 1,000 copper objects, including 400 arrowheads, 50 fishhooks, 60 flat celts and numerous other objects in one season alone. Such a large number of arrowheads clearly points towards a special craft industry on-site. Metallurgical analyses of two specimens from the site of Ganeshwar reveal objects manufactured with a high percentage of pure copper content, with traces of lead and arsenic alloying. All this material, along with findings of vitrified clay lumps, charred wood and metallurgical slags indicate an advanced metal-processing activity area.
Dr Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor of Deccan College of Archaeology, writes that “this culture is defined by its interactions, particularly its proximity to the Harappan Civilisation and the Ahar-Banas complex. By occupying the space between two major cultural forces of the time, this culture emerges as a resource specialised community that has connections with both”.
The copper samples derived from Harappa have been compared with several regional copper sources, and the analysis shows that perhaps a lot of Harappan copper ore was acquired from Ganeshwar-Jodhpura.
KAYATHA CULTURE (2500 – 2000 BCE)
Here, the site of Kayatha in present-day Ujjain district of Madhya Pradesh, after which the culture has been named, is popular for having one of the earliest horse remains from the Chalcolithic age in India. Also found here was a cache of copper axes cast in moulds. Besides featuring advanced copper metallurgy, there was also a specialised stone blade industry as seen from evidence of mass production of chalcedony blades using the crested guiding ridge technique.
The Kayatha culture is known from 40 other sites located on the tributaries of the Chambal River in Madhya Pradesh, although the Kayatha site is the only one excavated.
People of this culture lived in small huts with well-rammed floors with wattle and daub walls supporting a thatched roof. A mixed economy was practiced as seen from evidence of subsistence farming, livestock raising and hunting-fishing. Barley and wheat were grown. Also found were exquisite necklaces made of semi-precious stones and beads, one made of 40,000 micro steatite beads strung in threads, lying in a pot. Also, remnants suggest that the Kayatha people seemed to eat tortoises.
Interestingly, the site was abandoned in about 1800 BCE but it resurfaced as a centre of a subsequent Ahar culture. The sudden end of this culture is ascribed to an earthquake. The presence of a sterile layer between the levels of the Kayatha and the succeeding Ahar culture points to a hiatus between the two.
MALWA CULTURE (1900-1400 BCE)
The settlements of this culture are mostly located on the Narmada River and its tributaries, and the best-known sites are Navdatoli (near Maheshwar), Eran (in Sagar district), and Nagda (in Jhansi district), all three in Madhya Pradesh. They are known for their fortification-like walls. Navdatoli is enclosed by a fortified wall, Nagda had a bastion of mud bricks and Eran had a rampart with a moat.
At Navdatoli, round huts were found in clusters of two, three or four. Archaeologist M K Dhavalikar suggests that each cluster represented a household, of which one had a hearth while the others served different functions. Their pottery was red or orange slipped, and painted in black with geometric, floral, animal and human designs in black. They also used buff-colored pottery with brown/black painted motifs. The repertoire included more than 600 motifs!
JORWE CULTURE (1500 BCE – 900 BCE)
This is probably the most characteristic of all the Chalcolithic cultures, and more than 200 sites have been located across Maharashtra except for the Konkan coast. The high concentration of sites in the Tapi valley has been ascribed to the occurrence of tracts of highly fertile black cotton soil in the region. The sparse settlement pattern of the Bhima valley, on the other hand, is explained by the fact that the whole basin is practically a dry area.
The most important sites of this period are Inamgaon in Pune District and Daimabad in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Each larger than 20 hectares, Dhavalikar has suggested that they were permanent village settlements. A noteworthy feature of the Jorwe culture is the mode of disposal of the dead, using pit and urn burials. The most unique is the burial of a 35-year-old male in a seated position in an urn from Inamgaon near Pune. There are no parallels to this in India. The urn-shaped like a stout human body with a bulging belly had four legs and was buried in the courtyard of a five-room house.
There was also a plethora of twin-urn burials, mostly belonging to children below the age of six. The head and shoulders of the dead were inserted into one urn while the legs were inserted into the other. The urns were then sealed, mouth-to-mouth. Often, in the case of adults, the portion below the ankles was severed, a feature noted in the burials in Sanauli in the north as well. Archaeologists and anthropologists are still flummoxed by this practice.
The burials in Inamgaon give us some great insights into the life and beliefs of the people who lived in this area over 3,000 years ago. The grains found in the vessels along with the burials also give us a sense of what they ate. The diet included barley, wheat, lentils, grass peas and rice.
From the site of Daimabad, a local while digging out roots of a tree for firewood, came across four bronze sculptures which led to the excavation. One of these was of a man riding a chariot drawn by bulls. Some say it seems to be an early depiction of Pashupati Shiva.
From these sites, there is also evidence that these people were very resourceful and went beyond their local boundaries to collect raw materials like conch/chank shells from the shores of Gujarat and gold and ivory from Karnataka.
BURZAHOM (3000 BCE and 1000 BCE)
While Kashmir falls out of the purview of Chalcolithic cultures discussed here, mention has to be made of the site of Burzahom, which was also contemporary to the Harappans. Here, settlers lived in underground pit dwellings (possibly due to the extremely cold climate) and erected massive stone megaliths as commemorative markers for the dead. Other interesting finds here have been the use of fine fishbone tools including harpoons and needles and the burial of humans along with animals – both wild and domestic.
Some of the finds at the Burzahom site indicate how well-connected the people here were with other communities. Close ties have been established with contemporary Harappan communities and settlements in Central Asia and China.
Interestingly, there are many cultural similarities between the people here and the Harappans. For instance, one of the human skulls found at Burzahom had seven holes, a feature commonly seen in some of the burials in the Harappan site of Kalibangan in Rajasthan. Excavations at Burzahom have also unearthed pottery with paintings of a horned deity closely associated with early Harappan sites such as Kot Diji (3,300-2,600 BCE) in Pakistan’s Sindh.
SANAULI (2000 BCE)
Returning to the site of Sanauli, this settlement coincides with the Late Harappan period. Sanauli yielded evidence of a ‘royal’ burial site and chariots that may have been pulled by horses, in May 2018. The reason this find was sensational is that it went against all that is known of this time period – that there was neither evidence of a royal or martial class in the Harappan excavations, nor chariots, nor clear evidence of horses. A plethora of ceramic pots was also arranged in the burial pits with ample care, suggesting that rituals were performed here before the pots were placed in the pits. There were also what seemed like personal belongings of the deceased, such as copper daggers, antenna swords, shields, etc.
The archaeologists at Sanauli were Sanjay Manjul and Arvin Manjul. A husband-wife duo, Sanjay Manjul is Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, while Arvin Manjul is Superintending Archaeologist with the ASI). The analysis of all the artefacts found here made it clear to the excavators that there was little to connect Sanauli to the Late Harappan phase of Harappan Civilisation. This was a lone example of a necropolis of probable OCP/Copper Hoard Culture. The Sanauli site is indeed unique, with no parallel. No other site in the Indian subcontinent, even in the broad Chalcolithic context, has a necropolis of this nature and certainly nowhere else have we found life-size chariots like the three found here.
What these cultures tell us is that the Indian subcontinent was not a monolith society but had a great deal of diversity. There was also a lot of give and take of influences between these cultures and with the Harappans. Sometimes, these cultures grew in the shadows of Harappans and often acted as feeders to the Harappan Civilisation, providing them with raw materials. Dr Shinde says that since the Harappans had advanced technology, they processed these raw materials and ultimately sold the final goods back to the people of other cultures. This was a major reason for their prosperity.
The material culture of the Chalcolithic society of the subcontinent was varied and rich, with developed craft specialisation. Excavations have found specialised areas designated for workshops and storage. And one exemplary skill across all these cultures was pottery. There was a well-developed ceramic industry, including fine painted, plain and coarse pottery for a variety of purposes. This was also the first time that agriculture was the mainstay of the people. Food processing equipment like querns and grinding stones have been found at all sites.
Decline of Chalcolithic Cultures
While the Indian subcontinent provided all the favourable ecological conditions necessary to give birth to early farming communities and evolved Chalcolithic cultures, climatic changes were also the reason for their decline.
During the course of these Chalcolithic cultures, when the Harappans managed to move out of their huts and into organized, sprawling cities, the Ahar/Kayatha/Malwa/Jorwe, people did not manage to even reach the level of urbanisation. The reason was that the Harappans were blessed by the fertile Indus-Saraswati Valley and could produce in surplus, unlike the other cultures.
The Deccan and Central India were highly dependent on rainfall, and the chemical analysis of the soil profile from Nevasa (Jorwe culture site in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra) indicated a decline in the rainfall pattern and consequent drought periods. As a result, severe aridity led to either increased poverty or desertion of the settlements. At Inamgaon, they shifted to a more pastoral, sheep-goat herding and adapted to the drier climate. So instead of growing, these cultures took a step back in time and resorted to a semi-nomadic existence.
Another reason cited for their decline besides ecological degradation is pressure on land. With the advancement in material culture, people could exploit natural resources more adequately. This facilitated the escalation of the population too. But since the settlements had to remain confined to a limited area of riverine tracks, the bearing capacity of the land depleted.
While this was a period that played a crucial role in the development of civilisation in India, the big question is: Did any of these cultures progress and merge with other cultures in the later period or did they just disappear completely? We are yet to find answers to this.
This article is part of our ‘The History of India’ series, where we focus on bringing alive the many interesting events, ideas, people and pivots that shaped us and the Indian subcontinent. Dipping into a vast array of material – archaeological data, historical research and contemporary literary records, we seek to understand the many layers that make us.
This series is brought to you with the support of Mr K K Nohria, former Chairman of Crompton Greaves, who shares our passion for history and joins us on our quest to understand India and how the subcontinent evolved, in the context of a changing world.
Find all the stories from this serieshere.
Harappa: Raising a Civilisation
In 1829, one of the most spectacular discoveries of all time was made in the unlikeliest of ways. Charles Masson, a British soldier with a dodgy reputation (he had deserted his army camp in Agra in 1827) had run off again, leaving his colleagues who were en route to Afghanistan.
While on the road, Masson found himself near the small town of Sahiwal in Punjab, now in Pakistan, and was astonished by what he saw. He was looking at large, exposed brick structures, which he believed were the remains of a great city left behind by Alexander 2,000 years earlier. Only, they weren’t. What Masson had found was Harappa!
Masson marvelled at the large brick structures and sketched many of them. Over the years, he went on to find many more historic gems and, what do you know? The army deserter came to be feted as an explorer!
Oddly, despite the dramatic nature of Masson’s discovery, it was another 25 years before an archaeologist actually returned to that mound in Sahiwal, and almost a century before the significance of what they had found dawned on the archaeological community!
Phase I – The Lost Years
After Masson, the second individual of significance to visit the mound of Harappa in Sahiwal was Sir Alexander Cunningham (the first Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India), who made his way there in 1853. While Cunningham too did not realise the importance of the site – he thought it was a lost Buddhist site – he revisited it a few years later, only to find it plundered for its bricks. Sadly, its upper portions had all but been demolished as contractors hired by the British to build the Multan Railway line had used bricks from the mound to lay the railway bed.
Believe it or not but this quirk of history turned out to be a double-edged sword, for it was the kind of brick and debris that the contractors had been bringing to the railway line, and the artefacts that were surfacing, that had brought Cunningham here. He even found a seal, which he attempted to decipher in 1875. Sadly, there was no local memory of the Harappan Civilisation, which wasn’t even a part of the mythical or folk traditions of the region. So much for being one of the world’s largest Bronze Age Civilisations!
Alexander Cunningham: Digging Deep
The secrets of this amazing and unique civilisation would, quite literally, remain buried for the next 45 years.
So why did it take so long? Unaware of what he was passing up, Cunningham was more interested in the Buddhist trail and following the travels of the 7th-century Buddhist monk, scholar and traveller, Hiuen Tsang. Cunningham’s successor, James Burgess, was almost totally devoted to Brahmanical and Buddhist art history, architecture and epigraphy, and his key area of interest was the Deccan and Central India.
Then, from 1888, the ‘Buck Crisis’, named after Edward Buck, put a major crimp on the budget of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and, in 1892, Buck announced the imminent closure of the ASI to generate savings for the government’s budget. Luckily, some great discoveries by the ASI, of Ashokan Edicts at Nigali Sagar (birthplace of Kanakamuni, a former Buddha) and at Lumbini (birthplace of Gautama Buddha), both in Nepal, saved the day. These discoveries were proof that the place of the Buddha’s birth had been found and they kept the ASI’s sights firmly focused on the Buddhist trail. The newly appointed Director-General, Sir John Marshall, followed this tradition and carried out a huge excavation at Taxila.
But, in the early 20th century, Harappa was destined to be rediscovered. In 1912, John Fleet of the ASI discovered a number of seals and brought the Sahiwal site to the notice of Marshall, who sent Hiranand Shastri to survey Harappa and asked his protege Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni to conduct systematic archaeological excavations in 1921-22 along with M S Vats. This finally led to the true discovery of the Harappan Culture.
Simultaneously, archaeologists D R Bhandarkar and Rakhaldas Banerji were dispatched by Marshall to Mohenjodaro, a mound until then considered Buddhist due to the Kushana-period Buddhist stupa and vihara that crowned it. In 1924, Marshall brought together Sahni and Vats, and the data from the excavations at Mohenjodaro and Harappa. He instantly realised he was looking at something that could rewrite the history of the subcontinent. And thus started an altogether new fascination in Indian archaeology.
Phase II – The Many Discoveries
There was a flurry of activity between 1924 and 1947, a period during which a large number of Harappan sites were discovered and excavated.
Marshall took over the excavations at Mohenjodaro for a year (1924-25) in the midst of his 20-year-long excavations at Taxila. M S Vats completed the excavations at Harappa. N G Majumdar, who had worked at Mohenjodaro in 1923, was appointed Superintending Archaeologist in 1927, and carried out extensive explorations in the Sind. He discovered 69 Harappan sites and excavated at Chanhudaro in 1930. Sadly, he was shot dead during fieldwork at Rohel ji Kund by Pathan bandits in 1938.
Excavations were also carried out at Nal by Harold Hargreaves in 1924, and Amri by Majumdar in 1929. These two sites later became incredibly important as they both revealed a pre-Harappan cultural sequence. The polychrome ceramics from Nal and the Buff painted pottery of Amri have become ceramic markers used to this day by Harappan archaeologists. In 1935, F A Khan excavated the site of Kot Diji, perhaps the most important site to understand the transition from the pre-Harappan to the Mature Harappan phase.
After Majumdar, Ernest Mackay took up further excavations at Chanhudaro in 1935. This site turned out to be very rich in artefacts, with evidence of large-scale production of items such as shell ladles copper knives razors and spears beads of shell and carnelian seals and many other objects. There were so many copper tools recovered that the site was nicknamed the ‘Sheffield of the Harappans’. The long-barrel carnelian beads found here along with evidence for their manufacture were also found at Mesopotamian burials, thus making this the first confirmed evidence of trade between the Harappans and the Mesopotamians.
Due to World War II, almost no new research was carried out at these sites from 1939 to 1944 and then, in 1944, the ASI got a new Director-General in Brigadier Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler, who was deputed from the British Army. Among the four excavations he conducted during his four-year stint, one was at Harappa. Wheeler’s excavations, especially at Cut XXX (a technical name for an archaeological trench) along the fortification walls, yielded very early pre-Harappan ceramics for the first time at Harappa. One of the questions Wheeler was most interested in answering was: what had happened between the Harappans and the Ganga Valley Early Historic cultures? Although he didn’t find the answer during his stay in India, the question lingered in the minds of the ASI’s archaeologists.
Phase III – The Indian Chapter
The ‘loss’ of Harappa and Mohenjodaro after Partition in 1947 provided an impetus to search for new sites in India, and led to the excavations at Ropar in Punjab, Kalibangan in Northern Rajasthan and Lothal in Gujarat. Explorations in Gujarat had revealed a possible Harappan site at Rangpur and this was excavated by S R Rao from 1953-56. What was most interesting was the decline and subsequent post-Harappan culture at the site. Finally, an answer to what had happened after the decline of the Harappans.
Y D Sharma began excavations at Ropar in 1953. The excavations revealed, for the first time, a sequence that went from the Mature Harappans to the Late Harappans. This was followed by the Painted Grey Ware Culture and then the Northern Black Polished Ware, Mauryan levels, Sunga-Kushana levels and Gupta levels. For the first time, there was a hint at a possible continuous history from the Mature Harappan Period to the Gupta Era.
Amalanada Ghosh surveyed the dry river bed of the Ghaggar River and realised that there were a number of Harappan sites along the river. He excavated at Sothi and conducted preliminary excavations at Kalibangan in 1953. His preliminary work revealed the fascinating possibility of an undisturbed Harappan site and Kalibangan was taken up for large-scale horizontal excavations from 1960-1969 under the directorship of archaeologists B K Thapar and B B Lal of the ASI.
Their work revealed a fascinating two-tier city with intact roads, houses, tandoors, ceramics and ritual platforms. The city appeared to have been deserted due to the drying up of the Ghaggar. This raised tantalising questions – was this then one of the reasons for the decline of the Harappans? Was the Ghaggar the legendary Saraswati of the Rig Veda, which had disappeared below the sands of the desert?
In 1957, S R Rao began excavations at the site of Lothal in Gujarat. His discoveries were startling. There was a Harappan walled city in southern Saurashtra and it had all the trappings of a classical, Mature Harappan city from the Indus system! There was also a huge, rectangular, water-proofed tank, which he felt was a dock used by the Harappans in their trade with Mesopotamia.
By the end of the ’70s, the Harappan Era was well documented in India. Archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi of the ASI excavated the site of Surkotada (1964) in the Kutch and discovered the site of Dholavira (1967), among many others. The focus now shifted to Gujarat, with excavations by the State Archaeology Department of Gujarat at Shikharpur and by M S University, Baroda at Nagwada, Nageshwar, Loteshwar and Bagasra.
In 1975, French archaeologists working at the Bactrian Greek capital city of Ai Khanum discovered a Mature Harappan site on the Amu Darya river in Northern Afghanistan, 500 km from the nearest Harappan site and 1,100 km from Mohenjodaro. This site, the northernmost outpost of the Harappans, was excavated by Henri-Paul Francfort, whose work clearly establishes that the settlement was an outpost to protect the source of Harappan lapis lazuli in the Badakhshan mines.
Pune’s Deccan College of Archaeology also jumped onto the Harappan bandwagon. In the early ’90s, M K Dhavalikar excavated Kuntasi, near the city of Morbi in Gujarat, and in the mid-’90s, Vasant Shinde excavated Padri, near Talaja in Bhavnagar District of Gujarat.
Kuntasi turned out to be a port site with strong evidence of exporting lapis lazuli to Mesopotamia. Padri was a small rural outpost, which the excavator believes was a salt manufacturing site. The most unique thing about Padri, though, was the discovery of a chronologically pre-Harappan yet non-Harappan Chalcolithic culture at the site, and the discovery in these layers of the most specific ‘type ceramic’ of the later Gujarat Harappans called the ‘stud-handled bowl’.
R S Bisht of the ASI excavated the site of Banawali, not far from Agroha in Haryana, from 1974-1977. He discovered a unique ‘D-shaped’ city with evidence of the earliest-known plough (a toy terracotta plough was found here) and the earliest-known recipe for detergent/shampoo (a mix of awla, shikakai and reetha found in a charred lump from the roof of a burnt house where the fruits were drying).
This competitive exploration and excavation programme by the ASI, alongside many student explorations from other institutes, resulted in the discovery of hundreds of new sites in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. These discoveries widened the scope of research, added quantitative data, increased our understanding of local, regional cultures prior to the arrival of the Harappans, and even after their departure. The work on understanding the lost Saraswati River revealed one of the major reasons for shifts in the Mature Harappan population and for the beginnings of the decline phase.
Excavations at sites like Daimabad in Dhule District in Maharashtra, and Bhagwanpur near Thaneshwar in Haryana, made the sequence very clear in different regions. Daimabad has very clearly shown that the Late Harappan levels were succeeded by a local culture called the Daimabad Culture, which subsequently became the Malwa (Chalcolithic) Culture of the Deccan. At Bhagwanpur, Jagat Pati Joshi is adamant that after Period 1A, which is Late Harappan, period 1B is a clear transition from there to the subsequent PGW period 2 at the site. This points out that the PGW was a very clear successor to the Late Harappans.
B B Lal, working in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab, had already seen the PGW below NBP levels at his excavations. He believed that the OCP (Ochre Coloured Pottery) people were remnants of the Harappans moving eastward and that it was they who introduced the agro-pastoral culture to the Ganga Valley. Excavations at Sanauli (Baghpat District, Uttar Pradesh) by the ASI have yielded a huge cemetery with hundreds of burials including antenna swords, carnelian beads, bronze studded chariots and legged-coffins.
The site is dated between 2200 and 1800 BCE, and this has put paid to the theory that the OCP people were Harappans. They were a contemporary Bronze Age culture and their story is only just being told. Alongside the OCP, there have also been very interesting developments on the Ahar Culture in Southern Rajasthan. The ancient Aharians were contemporaries of the Harappans, and excavations in the ’90s by V N Misra of Deccan College, at Balathal (Udaipur District, Rajasthan) and then at Gilund (Udaipur District, Rajasthan) by Vasant Shinde and Gregory Possehl have revealed close links between them.
Questions about the disappearance of the Harappans are now steadily being answered as are questions about who their contemporaries were in India.
Excavations at smaller, fortified sites like Kanmer (Rajasthan), and Bagasra and Kotada Bhadli (both in Gujarat) have been filling in blanks on trade routes, specialised manufacturing sites and exploitation of local resources.
The most recent Harappan excavations have concentrated on Haryana and Northern Rajasthan, which includes the sites of Bhirrana, Farmana and Rakhigarhi in Haryana and Binjor/4MSR in Rajasthan. The excavations by Sanjay Manjul of the ASI at Binjor in 2014-17 have yielded the remains of multiple furnaces and a manufacturing site for copper objects.
In 2004-06, L S Rao of the ASI excavated the site of Bhirrana in Fatehabad District in Haryana. Excavations here yielded remains of pre-Harappan Hakra ware and were dateable to 4000 BCE, and a potsherd with an engraving of a dancing girl that was eerily reminiscent of the bronze statuette from Mohenjodaro. The site has also yielded two copper celts with Harappan letters engraved on them.
In 2006-09, Vasant Shinde excavated over 70 burials at the Harappan necropolis of Farmana. These excavations also revealed a large number of burial goods and helped archaeologists recreate food habits. Palaeobotanists and archaeologists Arunima Kashyap and Steve Weber painstakingly analysed sherds of broken cooking vessels unearthed at the site and revealed that a curry made of brinjal with turmeric, ginger, garlic and mustard oil was once placed in one of the burials at the site. This 4,500-year-old recipe is the oldest known recipe in the Indian subcontinent.
Rakhigarhi, one of the largest Harappan sites in the subcontinent, was first excavated by Amrendra Nath of the ASI, from 1997-2000 and subsequently by Vasant Shinde of Deccan College in 2014-16. The discovery of a number of burials at Rakhigarhi led to scientific exposure with minimum contamination to try and recover Harappan DNA. The team actually managed to recover the DNA of one individual and this has electrified the field of Harappan research.
The Way Forward
As of the year 2019, a whopping 925 of the over 1,500 known Harappan sites were found in India. What we can say with certainty is that the discovery of the Harappan Civilisation has enriched the Indian subcontinent by adding 8,000 years to its history. When Cunningham left the ASI, the history of India stretched back to the 6th century BCE when Marshall left the ASI, he had taken it back to the 3rd millennium BCE Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler added to this and then Amlananda Ghosh, Rafique Mughal and Katy Dalal (nee Frenchman) pushed back the pre-Harappan to the 5th millennium BCE by the 1970s.
Jean-Francois and Catherine Jarrige took the antecedents of the Harappans to 8500 BCE at Mehrgarh in Balochistan, Pakistan. The period from the ’70s to the ’90s saw a huge leap in Harappan studies and opened up new vistas in our understanding of the day-to-day lives of these people and their trade with each other and distant lands.
Closer to today, we have spectacular culinary residue analysis and DNA information from Rakhigarhi, the first of what we hope are many such instances. The large necropolises being excavated are also telling us much about the health of the people buried there.
In the 100 years since Sir John Marshall realised that archaeology was on the cusp of great discovery and pursued the study of the mound at Sahiwal, leading to the ‘discovery of Harappa’ in 1921, we have come a very long way. Here’s looking forward to the next 100 years of Harappan research!
Indus Valley Civilization & Culture Harappan Arts, Crafts, Architecture ( 3,300-1300 BCE)
For the development of Eastern arts and crafts,
please see: Chinese Art Timeline (from 18,000 BCE).
For the chronology and development of more ancient works, see:
Prehistoric Art Timeline (2.5 Million - 500 BCE).
Dating to the era of late Neolithic art, the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) - also known as the Harappan Civilization - lasted from 3300 to 1300 BCE and included parts of Afghanistan, most of Pakistan and north-west India as far south as Rajkot. The most significant early civilization of the Indian sub-continent, the IVC ranks alongside Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, as source of ancient art, notably sculpture, seal carving and ancient pottery, as well as decorative crafts. It is also noted for its urban planning, baked brick buildings and water supply systems, although archeologists have yet to find evidence of any monumental architecture, such as palaces or temples. IVC flourished in particular along the Indus River and its tributaries, extending to more than 1,056 cities and settlements with a total population of over five million. Among the key centres of Indus Valley culture were the settlements of Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Kot Diji and Mehrgarh. Excavations have revealed an extensive caravan trade with Central Asia to the north and Persia to the west, as well as links with both Egyptian art and Mesopotamian art, and possibly even with Minoan culture on Crete.
Note: India is home to the earliest art of the Stone Age, in the form of ancient cupules - dating back to between 290,000-700,000 BCE - which were found in the Madhya Pradesh region of central India. For details, please see: Bhimbetka Petroglyphs at the Auditorium Cave and Daraki-Chattan Rock Shelter.
More About Art on the Indian Subcontinent
- Indian Sculpture (3300 BCE - 1850)
- Classical Indian Painting (Up to 1150 CE)
- Post-Classical Indian Painting (14th-16th Century)
- Mughal Painting (16th-19th Century)
- Rajput Painting (16th-19th Century)
Location and Discovery
One of the earliest sources of Asian art, the Indus Valley Civilization extended from Jalalabad (Afghanistan) in the north, to Maharashtra to the south from Pakistani Balochistan in the west, to Uttar Pradesh in the east. Far flung IVC colonies have been discovered on the Oxus River at Shortughai, and beyond the Hindu Kush as far north as Dushanbe. It flourished most significantly along the Indus River and its tributaries including the Jhelum, Chenhab, Ravi, Sutlej and Ghaggar Hakra rivers.
Following early efforts by General Alexander Cunningham, director general of the Archeological Survey of Northern India, the first major archeological discoveries of Indus Valley civilization were made at Harappa, in the present-day Punjab province of Pakistan, followed by Mohenjo-Daro in the Pakistani province of Sindh. Archeologists involved included Sir John Marshall, Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni, Madho Sarup Vats, Rakhal Das Banerjee, E. J. H. MacKay, Ahmad Hasan Dani, Brij Basi Lal, Nani Gopal Majumdar, Sir Marc Aurel Stein, and Sir Mortimer Wheeler. The most recent excavations have been made at Mehrgarh - a site discovered in 1974 by French archeologists Jean-Francois Jarrige and Catherine Jarrige - on the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, Pakistan, where some 32,000 artifacts have been collected. According to Ahmad Hasan Dani, Professor of Archeology at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, the discoveries at Mehrgarh have proved invaluable to our understanding of the Indus Valley culture.
In simple terms, Indus Valley Civilization can be divided into three main periods: (1) Early Harappan: 3300 BCE (2) Mature Harappan: 2600 BCE and (3) Late Harappan: 1900 BCE.
The Early Harappan Period included the Ravi Phase (3,300-2,800 BCE), the Hakra Phase (2,800-2,600 BCE), and the Kot Diji Phase (2800 BCE). It is characterized by intensive agriculture, animal husbandry and the emergence of large urban centres, as well as extensive trading practices with the surrounding regions. The Mature Harappan Period featured urban settlements such as Harappa, Ganeriwala and Mohenjo-Daro in today's Pakistan, and Kalibangan, Dholavira, Rakhigarhi, Rupar and Lothal in present-day India. However, some time around 1800 BCE, the civilization began to decline, and by about 1700 BCE, the majority of the cities were abandoned. Scholars believe that the collapse of the IVC was triggered by a major drought, or some combination of climatic conditions. But Harappan civilisation did not disappear completely, and many of its elements can be found in later cultures. Indeed, recent archeological data collected at the Harappan settlement of Pirak, suggests that Late Harappan culture may have endured until at least 900 BCE, to the era of Painted Grey Ware culture, if not later.
Archeological investigations have revealed a technologically advanced urban culture in many Indus Valley centres, with clear signs of sophisticated municipal town planning, including the world's first known urban sanitation systems (Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Rakhigarhi). Other features of its advanced architecture include an array of impressive dockyards, warehouses, granaries, public baths, and defensive walls. These huge walls - found in most Indus Valley cities acted as flood-barriers as well as military fortifications. However, no large palaces or temples appear to have been constructed.
Harappan craftsmen developed numerous techniques in metalwork (copper, bronze) and jewellery. These are most evident in their goldsmithing and their bronze sculpture (see below).
Indus Valley Civilization is probably best-known in the West for its bronze figurative sculpture - notably the famous slender-limbed statue known as the "Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro" (2500 BCE) - the extraordinary quality of which is comparable with Late Classical Greek Sculpture (c.400-323 BCE) and Hellenistic Greek Sculpture (c.323-27 BCE). No one has yet established how Indus sculptors managed to anticipate forms associated with Greek sculpture of classical antiquity.
In addition to bronzes, Indus culture produced a variety of stone sculpture and also red coloured terracotta sculpture, featuring images of dancing girls as well as animals like cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs, plus a number of unidentified hybrid animals and anthropomorphic figures, seen mostly on Harappan steatite seals.
Harappan Arts and Crafts
Indus Valley culture is also known for its decorative crafts, especially its jewellery art, featuring a range of beautiful glazed faience beads, necklaces, bangles, combs (kakai), and other ornaments and toiletry items.
Not unlike the early writing of Egyptian and Sumerian culture (c.4500-2270 BCE), Indus Valley culture also produced its own writing system, with a range of about 600 distinct symbols (typically no more than four or five characters in length), which have been found on seals, small stone or clay tablets and ceramic pots. However, debate still continues as to whether these symbols are evidence of literacy, or whether they belong to the tradition of non-linguistic sign systems used extensively in the Middle East. Unfortunately the messages on the seals are too short and there are too few examples to permit computer analysis of their meaning.
More Articles about Asian Art
For more information about arts and crafts on the continent of Asia, please see the following articles:
Xianrendong Cave Pottery (c.18,000 BCE)
World's oldest known ceramic pots.
Japanese Art (14,500 BCE - 1900)
Guide to the arts & crafts of Japan.
Korean Art (c.3,000 BCE onwards)
Characteristics, history, development of arts and crafts in Korea.
Angkor Wat (c.1115-1145)
Architecture and sculpture of Khmer Temple in Cambodia.
Traditional Chinese Art
Jade carvings, pottery, sculpture, painting, calligraphy.
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple
Hindu architecture and sculpture at Khajuraho, India.