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Timeline of the Harappan Civilization is Pushed Back 2,500 Years as Researchers Find New Reason for Its Fall

Timeline of the Harappan Civilization is Pushed Back 2,500 Years as Researchers Find New Reason for Its Fall

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A recent discovery suggests that the Indus Valley Civilization is at least 8,000 years old, not 5,500 as previously believed. Moreover, the researchers show that its power dwindled because of weaker monsoons.

According to The Times of India , the Indus Valley Civilization (also known as the Harappan Civilization) existed at least 8,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest known civilizations in the world – along with the Egyptian (7000BC to 3000BC) and Mesopotamian (6500BC to 3100BC) civilizations. The results of the study by scientists from IIT-Kharagpur and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) were published in the journal Nature on May 25.

So-called "Priest King" statue, Mohenjo-Daro, late Mature Harappan period, National Museum, Karachi, Pakistan.

So-called "Priest King" statue, Mohenjo-Daro, late Mature Harappan period, National Museum, Karachi, Pakistan. ( Mamoon Mengal/CC  BY SA 1.0 )

The discovery may mean that history books will have to be rewritten because earlier it was believed that the Indus Valley civilization was only 5,500 years old. The leader of the project, Anindya Sarkar, also believes that their research provides evidence that the civilization did not fall due to climate change but was influenced by it. The team discovered the oldest pottery from the civilization, which was made during the period called Early Mature Harappan (c. 6,000 years ago) and the pre-Harappan Hakra phase - as far back as 8,000 years.

The researchers set out to explore Lothal, Dholavira, and Kalibangan in India. They also dug in a mostly unexplored site, Bhirrana. They wanted to prove that the Indus Valley civilization spread to other Indian sites like Bhirrana and Rakhigarrhi in Haryana, apart from the known locations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan. However, they discovered something much more impressive.

Panoramic view of the excavation of mature Harappan stage at Bhirrana view from North-east.

Panoramic view of the excavation of mature Harappan stage at Bhirrana view from North-east. ( Archeological Survey of India )

The team unearthed large quantities of animal remains; including horn cores and the teeth and bones of cow, goat, antelope, and deer. These remains were put through Carbon 14 testing. Arati Deshpande Mukherjee of Deccan College, who helped analyze the finds along with researchers at the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, explained:

"We analysed the oxygen isotope composition in the bone and tooth phosphates of these remains to unravel the climate pattern. The oxygen isotope in mammal bones and teeth preserve the signature of ancient meteoric water and in turn the intensity of monsoon rainfall. Our study shows that the pre-Harappan humans started inhabiting this area along the Ghaggar-Hakra rivers in a climate that was favourable for human settlement and agriculture. The monsoon was much stronger between 9000 years and 7000 years from now and probably fed these rivers making them mightier with vast floodplains.''

The team believes that the civilization spread over a vast expanse of India, but the only evidence for this came from British excavations. The most recent research by the Indian team also suggests that climate change was probably not the sole cause for the collapse of the civilization. The people of the Harappan Civilization did not seem to give up despite the weakening monsoon. They did not disappear, but they changed their farming practices by switching from water-intensive crops to drought-resistant crops. This was the beginning of a new era in the civilization’s existence.

Diorama reconstruction of everyday life in Indus Valley Civilization, New Delhi.

Diorama reconstruction of everyday life in Indus Valley Civilization, New Delhi. ( Biswarup Ganguly/CC BY 3.0 )

The researchers believe that this change in their subsistence strategy - shifting crop patterns from the large-grained cereals like wheat and barley during the early part of the intensified monsoon to drought-resistant species of small millets and rice in the later part of declining monsoon - played a large role in the civilization’s fall as well. Moreover, the researchers discovered that from 7,000 years ago onwards, the monsoons became progressively weaker.

Map of Northwest India and Pakistan showing the locations of main Harappan settlements including phosphate sampling site of Bhirrana, Haryana, IWIN precipitation sampling station at Hisar and two paleo-lakes Riwasa and Kotla Dahar studied earlier. Black arrow indicates the direction of monsoon moisture transport from Bay of Bengal.

Map of Northwest India and Pakistan showing the locations of main Harappan settlements including phosphate sampling site of Bhirrana, Haryana, IWIN precipitation sampling station at Hisar and two paleo-lakes Riwasa and Kotla Dahar studied earlier. Black arrow indicates the direction of monsoon moisture transport from Bay of Bengal. ( Sarkar et al )

Some of the first accounts of the Indus Valley Civilization were recorded in the 1800s by the British. In 1826, the British army deserter James Lewis noticed the presence of ruins in a small town in Punjab called Harappa. It was because of this discovery that the civilization was called ‘Harappan.’

Harappan settlements were urbanized and well-organized. They had regular trade with Mesopotamia and the Middle East. Their material and craft culture was well-developed too. However, during the later phase of the Harappan existence their population dropped and they abandoned many settlements. For decades, researchers have tried to find the reasons behind this change. The first excavations in search of this answer took place in the 1920s and were led by John Marshall, but major works only started in 1986, when George Dales of the University of California at Berkeley established the Harappan Archaeological Project. This new study helps to put researchers one step closer to understanding the Harrapan civilization’s story.

A large well and bathing platforms are remains of Harappa's final phase of occupation from 2200 to 1900 BC.

A large well and bathing platforms are remains of Harappa's final phase of occupation from 2200 to 1900 BC. ( Obed Suhail/CC BY SA 3.0 )

Top Image: Computer-aided reconstruction of coastal Harappan settlement at Sokhta Koh near Pasni, Pakistan. Source: CC BY SA 3.0

By Natalia Klimczak

Comments

The picture on top of the article that shows 70-odd mud brick huts on a hilly outcrop is a reconstruction of the coastal Harappan-era site of Sokhta Koh near Pasni, Pakistan. The axonometric reconstruction was done by me. The site is unexcavated to date. An article by me can be read at:

http://kaiser-footloose.blogspot.com/2008/11/on-coast-of-harappan-times....

Well Indians do have the notion of being proud at anything and everything. The Harappan Civilization is ranked among the most Ancient civilizations, and we are clearly not satisfied.

Early Food Producing Era: Ca. 6500- 5000 B.C

Regionalization Era: Ca. 5000- 2600 B.C

Indus Civilization- Harappan Culture Integration Era: 2600- 1900 B.C

Late Harappan Period: 1900-1300 or 1000 B.C

[ https://talecup.com/harappan-civilization/ ]

I don't know much about Harappan Civilization but i get it, finding things dated before the civilization period doesn't make it.

Thank you for your comment. Although with all that fantasizing of yours it's lacking a bit of sources and facts.

Let me start give you some.

1). Quote "Vedic culture is oldest".
Which is completely false.
The Vedic culture started from 1500 BCE-500 BCE. There are hundreds of Cultures and civilizations that are older than the Vedic Culture. But since you refer to Greek, let's wander within this context.

The Mycenaean Civilization (2000 BCE - 1200 BCE) alone is already older than the Vedic culture. Let alone the Cycladic civilization (3200 BCE -2000 BCE)
Or the Minoan civilization (3650-1200 BCE)
Or the Helladic Period (3300-1200 BCE)
Or the many cultures, timeperiods and civilizations before that that precedes the Bronze age period in Greece.

2). Quote: "Greek language is derived from Sanskrit"
Absolutely wrong again.
- First of all, The Greek language is alive, Sanskit is dead with attempts to revive
- Second of all, The Greek language is the oldest living Indo-European language in the world.
http://www.humanjourney.us/images/indoEuropeanTree.gif
The Greek language comes directly from the source from the Indo-European tree. The Indo-Iranian language comes after that. The actual oldest language in India is the Brahmi Script of which the oldest date is 300 BCE, much later than the Greek language. The Greek language has the oldest proven written attestation of 3500 years ago and the earliest origins of the Greek language is believed to be 6th-5th Millennia ago.
Aside from that the Greek language is also the richest language in the world, stated also by the Guinness Book of Records with 5 million words and 70 million words when including the fact that Greek language is the foundation of the scientific, medical and Astronomic world.

I refer you to read a bit more real historical, archaeological, linguistic sources. Not emotions and opinions often based on 0 facts which I somehow see to be occurring frequent among people with Indian background.

Vedic culture is oldest
Greek language is derived from Sanskrit
It is called Bharat or Hindustan for your convinience you can call India.

I see what you're saying. Yet I think it's not so straight forward as this.
For example If one civilization was alive from 6000-1000 BCE in geographical area A and in Geographical area B a civilization from 7000-5000 and 4000-1000. maybe connected or maybe not, but for the purpose being lets say not.
Then even though all 3 civilizations died and both Geographical areas experienced an advanced bronze age period, Geographical A might have one civilization that had a in total longer continuous lifespan, but not the oldest.
As even though Geographical area B might not have had the same continuous lifespan but instead 2 lifespans after each other and thus having older civilization. That is the point I am making.

Indus valley civilization just like any other civilization eventually can be broken down into it's archaeological sites, towns, and other finds. There are only very few old archaeological sites in the Indus valley cultures that are before 4000 BC. So going back to before 4000 BC most of the sites would not exist. We could still call it a civilization, even though in the beginning it might be just a small part of the total extension the civilization was at it's height. Only Birrhana and Mergharh being the 2 single oldest archaeological village sites in India and south East Asia dated to around 7000 BC

But in Anatolia, Greece, Levant, Fertile Crescent, Iran, Balkan, China there are many areas with much more and equally or older archaeological town and village sites dated up to 10.000 BC.

Besides the countless examples, lets stick to the one example I have given about the 8000 year old civilization in Greece
http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/accidental-disco...
"The discovery reflects an incredibly advanced Civilization existing in northern Greece 8,000 years ago."

Not only is it for it's time (just like in the bronze age, Iron age, Classical age, and so on) advanced for it's time, we are talking about many archaeological sites of towns, villages, and other sites with advanced architecture for it's time. The article is 2 years old and back then already found 54 settlements with 24 being found in the last 2 years of which the earliest of these 54 archaeological sites where around 6500 BC.
Do not forget we are solely talking about this civilization and not the many more archaeological sites that are dated to even older dates in other regions in Greece as for example Knossos the capital of Minoan civilization with it's deeper layers dated to 7000 BC continuously inhabited for till 1300-1100 BC

There is more information about the recent finds of this civilization but it's in Greek, which I cannot read. In the same regions there have been 3 occasions where there have been found Proto-Linear writing dated to 5300 BC and 6000 BC, being the Dispilio tablet, the Yura potteries and another of which I don't know the name of. Which is not a coincidence due to the wealth of archaeological sites across the country that are dated to before the bronze age.

And even though archaeology is not sitting still in any region of the world, it shows that civilization in the eastern Mediterranean is incredibly old. I have never doubted that India, would not have old history even though most of it is on the most north western parts of India, but based on current archaeological finds around the globe it's not nearly the oldest

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