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John Lynch, Harappa

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There are many ancient civilizations that thrived in on the Eastern Hemisphere, but Harappa is one that is particularly interesting. The reason why this society is so important is that the way it was run would go against common knowledge of our Capitalist society here in the U.S. There is evidence as to how it was not big on societal classes for its people. It was a very organized society, so was the city of Mohenjo-Daro. “The two cities may have existed simultaneously and their sizes suggest that they served as capitals of their provinces” (Swanson, Emily). If these two cities were thriving together then they are what the Indus Valley civilization lived off of; to be compared to the United States’ New York and Los Angeles, the largest cities in the country. Only Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were a lot closer and depended on each other more.

Harappa's Discovery

“The story of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization developed gradually. It does not enter archaeological record until 1924 when Sir John Marshall began excavations at Harappa.” (Javonillo, CJ). Awareness of Harappa actually goes back to the 19th century when a man named Charles Masson, who is described as a deserter and wanderer, had stumbled upon the remains of Harappa in the late 1820’s. Masson had did not know of the significance of what he had found but he would record his findings and about two centuries later be published in a book called, Narratives of various journeys in Balochistan and the Panjab-1996. Over four decades later Sir Alexander Cunningham would briefly excavate the site and had discovered seals of which made the Indus Valley Civilization much more known about. “All that changed in the 1920’s when Sir John Marshall announced the discovery of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Illustrated London News.” (Javonillo, CJ). The city of Harappa was just one of two cities in that supported the Indus Valley Civilization. “Harappa and the city of Mohenjo-Daro were the greatest achievements of the Indus Valley Civilization” (Swanson, Emily).

Harappa Today

Societies Structure and Mystery

The city of Harappa is known for its elaborate and organized layout at the time of its existence, which was from 3,000 B.C. to 1500 B.C. What is interesting is that most of the Harappan people were literate and used the Dravidian Language. The Dravidian language has not been completely deciphered and this is what leaves a mysterious aura around the city. Harappa most likely flourished at its time due to the fact that most people could read so that says something about what type of education the people received. “The Harappan civilization was mainly urban and mercantile. Inhabitants of the Indus Valley traded with Mesopotamia, southern India, Afghanistan, and Persia for gold, silver, copper, and turquoise” (Swanson, Emily). It sounds like this city made most of its income of exports, due to the fact that they traded with these other societies for gold, silver, and copper. I assume that turquoise was probably used mostly for fashion, but turquoise could be used to color coins and other desired valuable for that time. There is not many evidence that Harappa itself had much military structure but there have been fortifications found around the city and armaments were found in the ruins. “The cities did contain fortifications and the people used copper and bronze knives, spears, and arrowheads” (Swanson, Emily). The copper that was traded into the city was clearly used for defensive weapons. All societies throughout history have had a form of a defense force, and so did Harappa.


Artifacts that have been found by archaeologists in Harappa give signs that the city was part of a unified government with Mohenjo-Daro, and that they were very organized for their time. “Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia may be the best known was the Indus or Harappan civilization” (Choi, Charles). The article from the Discovery News network illustrates how the people of Harappa had a complex trade route system. This is why Harappa was important, it traded with other societies such as Persia and Mesopotamia and this is how each of the Ancient Middle Eastern societies (namely Persia and ancient Egypt) flourished. Harappa was a major artery in the trade system. “The Civilization built up in a ‘Goldilocks’ period when the rivers flooded often enough to support agriculture” (Choi, Charles). This explains how Harappa made a majority of its money. They most likely exported vegetable and other grown products from the enriched soils that they were lucky enough to have. “Crops grown included wheat, Barley, Peas, Melons, and sesame.” (Swanson, Emily). So, though the culture had money, but going back to the introduction and their government they seemed to be more on the socialistic side of economics. Evidence that supports this is that burial sites that were uncovered by archaeologist’s state that graves were not elaborately decorated with goods and flashy items. Now, this doesn’t conclude the theory of their economics, but it does say something about their social classes. Usually in ancient civilizations, such as the most obvious Egyptian society, graves were made to look graceful for the journey onto the next life. Either the Harappans did not choose to believe in any deities (which is highly doubtful) or they treated every burial pretty much the same. So what is interesting is that on one side Harappa was a more government-oriented society, but on the other side one of the biggest hubs for trade along the Indus River. “Regional surveys and excavations at smaller settlements throughout the northwestern portion of the subcontinent have provided additional details of urban-rural interaction, and revealed the presence of trade networks that connected the major urban centers with regional centers and resource areas” (Kenoyer, Jonathon). There were many different outlying towns and villages around Harappa and Mehenjo-Daro, and the researchers concluded that as the Indus Valley civilization began to decline, the populations of these smaller communities started to move towards the, “Big City.” The big city being Harappa, It sounds similar to how immigrants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries immigrated to cities such as New York and Boston due to the constant hardships of their original homelands. “The researchers first analyzed satellite data of the landscape influenced by Indus and neighboring rivers” (Choi, Charles). A research team collected sediment from coast of the Arabian Sea and into the fertile irrigated valleys of Punjab and the Thar Desert to the north. These samples helped determine what type of crops were grown and the chronological timeline of the landscape changes. In the Discovery news article a researcher, Dorian Fuller, University college London archaeologist stated that these samples brought new insight into the eastward population shift, the change towards many small farming communities and the decline of different cities during the Harappan times.

Harappan Seal


The explanation as to why there is not much known about the City of Harappa is because For years researchers were clueless as to how the city of Harappa declined. “The Harappa people used an early form of writing based on hieroglyphs like the Egyptians. But we can’t read it because there isn’t very much left of it” (Carr, Karen). It was the one of the biggest cities of the Ancient world, though not as known about as Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, Harappa interacted through trade and commerce with those other societies. “The LA times reports that slow migrating monsoons across Asia helped create, then destroy, the Harappan Civilization” (Evon, Dan). This is most interesting because a main contributor to the Harappan economic system was the fact that the Indus River was such a good natural opening for trade (as like for many cities with rivers) and how monsoons slowly migrating past the city throughout the centuries helped create their highly regarded economic status. The city of Harappa did not develop their irrigation systems for the crops; they in fact, relied on their annual monsoons as a natural, free-based, way to support their Economy. “Researcher Liviu Giosan, said: ‘Until now, speculations abound about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers…our research provides one of the clearest examples of climate change leading to the collapse of an entire civilization” (Evon, Dan). How these monsoons came around are not entirely certain, but no one can predict the weather. Most of what is known about the Decline of Harappa is how the people decided to leave the city and the migrating monsoons moved on over the city, leaving it to literally dry. “Some had suggested that the Harappan heartland received its waters from a large glacier fed Himalayan River, thought by some to be the Sarasvati, a sacred river of Hindu mythology” (Choi, Charles). The final thing to be said about this civilization is that it relied too much on the weather, why the Monsoons had migrated away from the city is unknown. The city had a natural start and a natural end. Either way, all societies have a beginning and an end whether induced by the people or natural causes. It is unfortunate that not as much can be known about how strong and advanced the system for the city of Harappa was. It seems to be that there was a plumbing system, irrigation system, and a good theoretical guess as to them having an education system. What is known is how strong of a Government there was and how things worked for the people of that great ancient city.


Carr, Karen Eva. "Harappans." Harappan Civilization in India. N.p., 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.

Choi, Charles. "Discovery News." DNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Kenoyer, Jonathan M. "Trade and Technology of the Indus Valley: New Insights from Harappa, Pakistan." Taylor and Francis. N.p., n.d. Web. 1997

Swanson, Emily. "Harappan Civilization." : Ca. 3000-1500 BC. N.p., n.d. Web.14 Sep. 1998.

Evon, Dan. " Fall Of Harappan Civilization Caused By Ancient Climate Change, Says New Study." The Inquisitr Fall Of Harappan Civilization Caused By Ancient Climate Change Says New Study Comments. N.p., 29 May 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.