The story of Harappa
- When railway lines were being laid down for the first time in the Punjab, engineers stumbled upon the site of
Harappa in present-day Pakistan.
- To them, it seemed like a mound that was a rich source of ready made, high quality bricks.
- They carried off thousands of bricks from the walls of the old buildings of the city to build railway lines.
- Many buildings were completely destroyed.
- This was the first city to be discovered, all other sites from where similar buildings (and other things) were found were described as Harappan.
- These cities developed about 4700 years ago.
What was special about these cities?
- Many of these cities were divided into two or more parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller but higher.
- Archaeologists describe this as the citadel.
- The part to the east was larger but lower.
- This is called the lower town.
- Very often walls of baked brick were built around each part.
- The bricks were so well made that they have lasted for thousands of years.
- The bricks were laid in an interlocking pattern and that made the walls strong.
- In some cities, special buildings were constructed on the citadel.
- In Mohenjodaro, a very special tank, which archaeologists call the Great Bath, was built in this area.
- This was lined with bricks, coated with plaster, and made water -tight with a layer of natural tar.
- There were steps leading down to it from two sides, while there were rooms on all sides.
- Water was probably brought in from a well, and drained out after use.
- Kalibangan and Lothal had fire altars, where sacrifices may have been performed.
Houses, drains and streets
- Houses were either one or two storeys high, with rooms built around a courtyard.
- Most houses had a separate bathing area, and some had wells to supply water.
- Many of these cities had covered drains.
- Each drain had a gentle slope so that water could flow through it.
- Drains in houses were connected to those on the streets and smaller drains led into bigger ones.
- The drains were covered, inspection holes were provided at intervals to clean them.
- All three — houses, drains and streets — were probably planned and built at the same time.
Life in the city
- A Harappan city was a very busy place.
- There were people who planned the construction of special buildings in the city.
- These were probably the rulers.
- It is likely that the rulers sent people to distant lands to get metal, precious stones, and other things that they wanted.
- They may have kept the most valuable objects, such as ornaments of gold and silver, or beautiful beads, for themselves.
- There were scribes, people who knew how to write, who helped prepare the seals, and perhaps wrote on other materials that have not survived.
- There were men and women, crafts persons, making all kinds of things — either in their own homes, or in special workshops.
- People travel to distant lands or returning with raw materials and, perhaps, stories.
- Terracotta toys have been found and a long time ago children must have played with these.
New crafts in the city
- Things that have been found by archaeologists are made of stone, shell and metal, including copper, bronze,
gold and silver.
- Copper and bronze were used to make tools, weapons, ornaments and vessels.
- Gold and silver were used to make ornaments and vessels.
- Perhaps the most striking finds are those of beads, weights, and blades.
- The Harappans also made seals out of stone.
- These are generally rectangular and usually have an animal carved on them.
- The Harappans also made pots with beautiful black designs.
- Cotton was probably grown at Mehrgarh from about 7000 years ago.
- Actual pieces of cloth were found attached to the lid of a silver vase and some copper objects at Mohenjodaro.
- Archaeologists have also found spindle whorls, made of terracotta and faience.
- These were used to spin thread.
- Many of the things that were produced were probably the work of specialists.
- A specialist is a person who is trained to do only one kind of work, for example, cutting stone, or polishing beads, or carving seals.
- Unlike stone or shell, that are found naturally, faience is a material that is artificially produced.
- A gum was used to shape sand or powdered quartz into an object.
- The objects were then glazed, resulting in a shiny, glassy surface.
- The colours of the glaze were usually blue or sea green.
- Faience was used to make beads, bangles, earrings, and tiny vessels.
In search of raw materials
- Raw materials are substances that are either found naturally (such as wood, or ores of metals) or produced by farmers or herders.
- These are then processed to produce finished goods.
- Some of the raw materials that the Harappans used were available locally, many items such as copper, tin,
gold, silver and precious stones had to be brought from distant places.
- The Harappans probably got copper from present-day Rajasthan, and even from Oman in West Asia.
- Tin, which was mixed with copper to produce bronze, may have been brought from present-day Afghanistan and Iran.
- Gold could have come all the way from present-day Karnataka, and precious stones from present-day Gujarat, Iran and Afghanistan.
Food for people in the cities
- Many people lived in the cities, others living in the countryside grew crops and reared animals.
- These farmers and herders supplied food to crafts persons, scribes and rulers in the cities.
- Harappans grew wheat, barley, pulses, peas, rice, sesame, linseed and mustard.
- A new tool, the plough, was used to dig the earth for turning the soil and planting seeds.
- Real ploughs, which were probably made of wood, have not survived, toy models have been found.
- This region does not receive heavy rainfall, some form of irrigation may have been used.
- This means that water was stored and supplied to the fields when the plants were growing.
- The Harappans reared cattle, sheep, goat and buffalo. Water and pastures were available around settlements.
- In the dry summer months large herds of animals were probably taken to greater distances in search of
grass and water.
- They also collected fruits like ber, caught fish and hunted wild animals like the antelope.
A closer look — Harappan towns in Gujarat
- The city of Dholavira was located on Khadir Beyt in the Rann of Kutch, where there was fresh water and fertile soil.
- Dholavira was divided into 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 could be held.
- Large letters of the Harappan script that were carved out of white stone and perhaps inlaid in wood.
- This is a unique find as generally Harappan writing hasbeen found on small objects such as seals.
- The city of Lothal stood beside a tributary of the Sabarmati, in Gujarat, close to the Gulf of Khambat.
- It was situated near areas where raw materials such as semi-precious stones were easily available.
- This was an important centre for making objects out of stone, shell and metal.
- There was also a store house in the city.
- Many seals and sealings (the impression of seals on clay) were found in this storehouse.
- A building that was found here was probably a workshop for making beads: pieces of stone, half made beads, tools for bead making, and finished beads have all been found here.
Seals and sealings
- Seals may have been used to stamp bags or packets containing goods that were sent from one place to another.
- After a bag was closed or tied, a layer of wet clay was applied on the knot, and the seal was pressed on it.
- The impression of the seal is known as a sealing.
- If the sealing was intact, one could be sure that the goods had arrived safely.
The mystery of the end
- Around 3900 years ago we find the beginning of a major change. People stopped living in many of the cities.
- Writing, seals and weights were no longer used.
- Raw materials brought from long distances became rare.
- In Mohenjodaro, we find that garbage piled up on the streets, the drainage system broke down, and new, less impressive houses were built, even over the streets.
Why did all this happen?
- Some scholars suggest that the rivers dried up.
- Others suggest that there was deforestation.
- This could have happened because fuel was required for baking bricks, and for smelting copper ores.
- Besides, grazing by large herds of cattle, sheep and goat may have destroyed the green cover.
- In some areas there were floods.
- But none of these reasons can explain the end of all the cities.
- Flooding, or a river drying up would have had an effect in only some areas.
- It appears as if the rulers lost control.
- In any case, the effects of the change are quite clear.
- Sites in Sind and west Punjab (present-day Pakistan) were abandoned, while many people moved into newer, smaller settlements to the east and the south.
- New cities emerged about 1400 years later.
- Find Egypt in your atlas.
- Most of Egypt is a dry desert, except for the lands along the river Nile.
- Around 5000 years ago, kings ruled over Egypt.
- These kings sent armies to distant lands to get gold, silver, ivory, timber, and precious stones.
- They also built huge tombs, known as pyramids.
- When they died, the bodies of kings were preserved and buried in these pyramids.
- These carefully preserved bodies are known as ‘mummies’.
- A large number of objects were also buried with them.
- These included food and drink, clothes, ornaments, utensils, musical instruments, weapons and animals.
- Sometimes even serving men and women were buried with the rulers.
- These are amongst the most elaborate burials known in world history.
- Cotton cultivation at Mehrgarh (about 7000 years ago)
- Beginning of cities (about 4700 years ago)
- Beginning of the end of these cities (about 3900 years ago)
- The emergence of other cities (about 2500 years ago)