Harappa – Indus Valley Civilization
From roughly 2300 BC until 1500 BC the Indus Valley civilizations thrived in what is now modern-day Pakistan. The first excavations of the Indus Valley, began by archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, began in 1921-1922 and uncovered important information of the highly complex civilization. One of the main cities was called Harappa.
Harappa, like Mohenjo-Daro, grew along the Indus River. It came into existence earlier than and lasted longer than the southern city of Mohenjo-Daro. It was well known for its surprisingly advanced town planning. Each town and city was structured like a grid with wide streets which ran perpendicular to one another. Between the large streets were smaller connecting lanes, which were lined with houses. The streets were anywhere from 13 to 30 feet wide and the lanes were between 3.5 to 7 feet wide. The city of Harappa was oriented toward true north, with its main streets running from north to west and the connecting streets running east to west. This city plan demonstrates the civilization’s early knowledge of astronomy. Harappa was divided into two sections- upper town and lower town. Upper town consisted of a well-fortified citadel which sat on a 40-foot-high mound with a 45-foot-thick brick embankment. The citadel served as a community center in times of peace and a fortress in times of trouble. The existence of the citadel (along with the well planned city) suggested a structured government.
Harappa – Indus Valley Civilization Essay Example
Near the citadel was the Great Bath, excavated by Sir John Marshall that was constructed in a series of five different layers that made the bath so water-tight that even to this day it holds water. The bath, a key feature of Harappa, was used in festivals and religious ceremonies. On the sides were dressing rooms.
There were other public structures in the city. One such public structure was the town hall in the citadel. Like modern day town halls, it was a meeting place for citizens and the city government officials of the city of Harappa. Another example of these structures is the granaries- large buildings used to store surplus grain. For every crop a farmer cultivated, a large portion of it was required to go straight to the granaries. There were two rows of granaries and each row was divided into six individual granaries. These granaries were built close to the river’s edge for easy transportation of grain.
Harappa’s lower town was mostly made up of houses, each made of oven-dried bricks of uniform size. The average-sized house was two floors high, with a staircase leading down to the streets. Each house had a courtyard in the center and a bathroom area in the downstairs portion of the house. The house doors generally opened into the smaller lanes rather than into the busier main streets. The houses of Harappa had a very modern plumbing system with sinks and drains that led into a sewer system in the streets. These plumbing systems were so advanced that even upper rooms were furnished with baths which were drained into the street sewers by clay pipes attached to the house walls.
The city was supported by its extensive agricultural production of wheat, rice, fruits, and vegetables. Commerce with Sumer and other surrounding civilizations also helped Harappa become as well established as it was. Among the commonly traded items were tools crafted from copper and bronze and cloth woven from cotton, another major advancement of the Indus Valley civilization.
The men and women of Harappa wore clothes woven from wool and cotton, rather than from sheepskin clothing, like the clothes Sumerians wore. The women seemed to have worn knee length skirts while men wore clothes resembling modern-day dhotis (traditional Indian clothing) that often passed between the legs and tucked up behind. Men and women both wore different styles of jewelry including hair fillets, bead necklaces, and bangles.
Some of the most common and significant Harappan artifacts include seals, inscribed in the Harappan language. The Harappan language has not yet been deciphered so much of what is inscribed on those seals remains a mystery. Alongside the mystery markings are pictures of sacred animals or godheads or god figures. These seals suggest the polytheistic beliefs of the Indus Valley. Stone structures carved from limestone or alabaster seem to represent a male who may have been a god. The pieces of pottery recovered from Harappa were pieces of artwork formed into figures of humans and animals. Other than these few objects, not many other artifacts have been uncovered.
The reason for the city’s downfall around 1500 BC is unknown. Scholars believe that when the Aryans came into the area, they dominated the city and the Indus Valley area. Another theory is that floods came and wiped out the cities. Other theories and explanations exist, but nothing is definite. The people of the Indus Valley civilization and the city of Harappa were a strong, innovative, and well organized people who were well advanced for their time. However, much about these people remains a mystery- one that will continue to be investigated for years.