The first appearance of the Indus civilization was the early Harappan/Ravi Phase. This Ravi Phase, named after the nearby Ravi River, lasted from approximately 3300 BC, or even 3500 BC, to 2800 BC. This phase is related to the Hakra Phase, identified in the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley to the west, and predates the Kot Diji Phase (2800-2600 BC), named after a site in northern Sindh near Mohenjo-daro.
|Gateway At Harappa|
Increasing knowledge of the Ravi and Kot Diji Phase occupations at Harappa, and of contemporary settlements throughout northwestern South Asia, permits glimpses of later Indus Civilization. Some of the most exciting discoveries in Ravi Phase levels have been of early writing. The origins of the Indus script-like signs dates from 3300-2800 BC. This would make the origins of writing in South Asia approximately the same time as in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The civilization’s mature Harappan period began from 2600 BC.
A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture is evident in the Indus Valley civilization. The quality of municipal town planning suggests knowledge of urban planning and efficient municipal governments which placed a high priority on hygiene. The streets of major cities such as Mohenjo-daro or Harappa were laid out in a perfect grid pattern, comparable to that of present day New York. The houses were protected from noise, odors, and thieves.
As seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, and the recently discovered Rakhigarhi, this urban plan included the world’s first urban sanitation systems. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. From a room that appears to have been set aside for bathing, waste water was directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes. The ancient Indus systems of sewage and drainage that were developed and used in cities throughout the Indus Empire were far more advanced than any found in contemporary urban sites in the Middle East and even more efficient than those in some areas of modern Pakistan and India today. The advanced architecture of the Harappans is shown by their impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms, and protective walls. The massive citadels of Indus cities that protected the Harappans from floods and attackers were larger than most Mesopotamian ziggurats.
The purpose of the “Citadel” remains debated. In sharp contrast to this civilization’s contemporaries, Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, no large monumental structures were built. There is no conclusive evidence of palaces or templesÐor, indeed, of kings, armies, or priests. Some structures are thought to have been granaries. Found at one city is an enormous well-built bath, which may have been a public bath. Although the “Citadels” are walled, it is far from clear that these structures were defensive. They may have been built to divert flood waters.
Most city dwellers appear to have been traders or artisans, who lived with others pursuing the same occupation in well-defined neighborhoods. Materials from distant regions were used in the cities for constructing seals, beads, and other objects. Among the artifacts made were beautiful beads of glazed stone called faïence. The seals have images of animals, gods, etc., and inscriptions. Some of the seals were used to stamp clay on trade goods, but they probably had other uses.Although some houses were larger than others, Indus civilization cities were remarkable for their apparent egalitarianism. For example, all houses had access to water and drainage facilities. One gets the impression of a vast middle-class society.
|Ruins of Harappa city After Excavation|
Houses were one or two stories high, made of baked brick, with flat roofs, and were just about identical. Each was built around a courtyard, with windows overlooking the courtyard. The outside walls had no windows. Each home had its own private drinking well and its own private bathroom. Clay pipes led from the bathrooms to sewers located under the streets. These sewers drained into nearly rivers and streams.
Harappan cities did not develop slowly, which suggests that whoever built these cities learned to do so in another place. As the Indus flooded, cities were rebuilt on top of each other. Archaeologists have discovered several different cities, one built over the other, each built a little less skillfully. The most skillful was on bottom. It would appear that builders grew less able or less interested in perfection over time. Still, each city is a marvel, and each greatly advanced for its time.
Their towns were laid out in grids everywhere (straight streets, well built homes!) These people were incredible builders. Scientists have found what they think are giant reservoirs for fresh water. They have also found that even the smallest house at the edge of each town was linked to that town’s central drainage system. (Is it possible that they not only drained waste water out, but also had a system to pump fresh water into their homes, similar to modern plumbing.
People used camels, oxen and elephants to travel over land. They had carts with wooden wheels. They had ships, with one mast, probably used to sail around the Arabian Sea. Seals with a pictographic script, which has not as yet been deciphered, were found at the Indus Valley sites. Similar seals were found in Mesopotamia, which seems to indicate possible trade between these two civilizations.
The Indus civilization’s economy appears to have depended significantly on trade, which was facilitated by major advances in transport technology. These advances included bullock-driven carts that are identical to those seen throughout South Asia today, as well as boats. Most of these boats were probably small, flat-bottomed craft, perhaps driven by sail, similar to those one can see on the Indus River today; however, there is secondary evidence of sea-going craft. Archaeologists have discovered a massive, dredged canal and docking facility at the coastal city of Lothal.
Judging from the dispersal of Indus civilization artifacts, the trade networks, economically, integrated a huge area, including portions of Afghanistan, the coastal regions of Persia, northern and central India, and Mesopotamia.
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