Rakhigarhi now the biggest Harappan site after two new mounds discovered
The discovery in January of two new mounds at the ancient Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Haryana, India, now makes it the largest known site of the Harappan (Indus Valley) civilisation, even outdoing the well-known site of Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan.
The Harappan or Indus Valley Civilisation is one of the three oldest urban civilisations, along with Egypt and Mesopotamia, but it is the least understood. Its script is yet to be deciphered, and the knowledge of social structures and life during that period is scant. Rakhigarhi promises to change this as new discoveries continue to be made. It is one of the few Harappan sites which has an unbroken history of settlement—Early Harappan farming communities from 6000 to 4500 BC, followed by the Early Mature Harappan urbanisation phase from 4500 to 3000 BC, and then the highly urbanised Mature Harappan era from 3000 BC to the mysterious collapse of the civilisation around 1800 BC. That’s more than 4,000 years of ancient human history packed into its rich soil.
Until now, experts believed that Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan was the largest among the 2,000 Harappan sites known to exist in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The archaeological remains at Mohenjo-daro extend around 300 hectares. However, with the discovery of two more mounds, adding to the seven mounds already discovered, the total area of the archaeological site of Rakhigarhi now measures 350 hectares. The two newly-discovered mounds spread over 25 hectares each and are situated to the east and west of the main site. Unfortunately, much of the mounds have been destroyed for cultivation.
The newly discovered mound situated to the west of Rakhigarhi. Photo credit: Vasant Shinde
“Our discovery makes Rakhigarhi the biggest Harappan site, bigger than Mohenjo-daro. The two new mounds show that the Rakhigarhi site was quite extensive. They have the same material as the main site. So they are part of the main site. On the surface of mound nine, we noticed some burnt clay clots and circular furnaces, indicating this was the industrial area of the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi,” said Dr Shinde, a specialist in Harappan civilisation and Director of the current excavation at Rakhigarhi.
Rakhigarhi, India. Photo source
Recent excavations at the newly-discovered and pre-existing mounds have also revealed a cornucopia of ancient artefacts including terracotta bangles; pottery pieces; a seal and a pot shard, both inscribed with the Harappan script; pot shards painted with geometric designs; and terracotta animal figurines, all belonging to the Mature Harappan phase of the civilisation. In addition, five trenches around the mounds have revealed residential rooms, a bathroom with a soak jar, drainages, a hearth, and a platform, all built with mud bricks. The rest of the ancient Harappan site of Rakhigarhi still lies buried under the present-day village, with several hundred houses built on the archaeological remains.
Ancient India during the Harappan era had one of the largest populations in the ancient world, far greater than the Middle East or Europe. It had the largest number of cities of any region of the time. Its urban culture spread over a larger area than any contemporary civilisation, being greater in size than Mesopotamia and Egypt put together, extending from what is now the coast of Iran to Mumbai, and from the Amu Darya River in Afghanistan to the West to the Ganga in India to the East. Discoveries, like those that have just taken place in Rakhigarhi, help to unravel the lives and culture of the people making up the once great and powerful Indus Valley civilisation.
Featured image: Excavation at Rakhigarhi. Photo credit: Global Heritage Network