Montag, 27. Oktober 2014

The forgotten Indus Civilisation

guest post by Sidra Gulzar

Pakistan is a country with one of the earth's richest archaeological legacies of human history. It has unprecedented 'treasures' in the shape of monuments of ancient civilization and historical buildings. Here we find relics from stone age up to modern days. We have the remains of ancient flora and fauna, bronze age Indus valley civilization, rock carvings, Alexander's regime and the remains of Buddhist civilization as well. Traces of a dynamic human settlement can be detected throughout all periods.

Indus Civilization
However, Pakistan's most otstanding heritage is the Indus valley civilization which is regarded the world´s largest political denomination of its time. The main phase of the Indus valley civilization dates to the Bronze Age and is also known as Harappan civilization (because the first city discovered was Harappa) and its antecedents are called Harappans. The ancient sites of Indus valley civilization covers the area of present day Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and some parts of Iran.
Obviously there were complex political forms, spreading over vast areas within the Indus civilisation, but still little known.

The Indus valley culture existed from approximately 7000BCE and declined around 1900BCE. The remains of Mehargarh village, found in province Balochistan represent an aceramic early neolithic and is one of the earliest agricultural sites of the region.

From 7000 until 1900BCE there are the emergence of several cultures in different regions of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. These cultures developed into a full urbanized society with a scripture which unfortunately cannot be deciphered yet.

A rough chronology of Indus valley civilization:

Mehargarh phase
Early food producing era
Early Harappan phase
Regionalization era
Mature Harappan phase
Integration era
Bronze Age
Late Harappan phase
Localization era

Ancient rivers irrigated the Civilization
Water is life, without water existence of life is not possible. Its true, and for Harappans there were two major river systems. One is the “Indus river”, the other is known as “Ghaggar Hakra river”. These two water systems were used by Harappans to irrigate the land and for other purposes of life.
Both rivers were independent: The Indus river originated from Himalaya foothills and irrigated the western part of the civilization; the Gagghar Hakra river system originated from Siwalik foothills when it entered in Pakistan, carried water from Sutlej and irrigated the eastern part of civilization. 

Discoveries of the Sites

The first Harappan city was discovered by Charles Masson already in the early 19th century and the first Harappan seal was published by Alexander Cunnigham in 1872-75. Excavations, started by Sir John Hubert Marshall and his team in 1921, were the starting point of a huge number of research activities before the partition of India in 1947.
Extensive pottery including jars, dishes, glasses, disposable glasses, plates, dishes on stand, and cooking pots have been discovered from Indus valley sites. Blades, chert, stones, bangles, beads, jewelry, terracotta cake etc. are also most common findings. The most significant discovery from Indus valley sites is seals. Seals and clay tablets with script and many decorative motifs have been discovered from mature Harappan sites which show the trade and prosperous economy of this civilization.

Trade links with other civilizations

There is evidence of trade relations between the Indus valley, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Many Indus valley seals were found in nearby regions as Sumer, Behrain and Egypt, predicting trade and cultural relationships with other societies. Trade goods include terracotta pots, beads, gold and silver, coloured gemstones such as turquoise and lapislazuli, metals, flints, seashells and pearls.
In this sense the study of the Indus civilisation is a great effort to reconstruct the social and cultural interaction between European and Asian Bronze Age civilizations.

Some major sites of the Indus Civilisation: Harrappa, Mehgarh, Rakhigiari and Moinjodaro (circles) - and the location of Ganeriwala (red star)

Urban centers

Harappa and Moinjodaro are two largely excavated sites of Indus valley. Both cities are well planned urban centers with huge houses (some of them are double storey) and 'modern' sewerage systems of covered drain.Water wells and sewerage systems were present in almost every house.
The concept of a citadel and a lower town has been used as the basic concept of construction. Harappa had fortification wall around and the main city is situated inside a wall. Possibly the wall was built to protect the town from flood.
At Moinjodaro the same pattern of the citadel and lower town has been used. The sewerage system that Harappan people used 2600BCE is similar to the system, which people use in  modern day Europe.
However, Harappa and Moinjodaro are the only big sites which are investigated. But there are many small sites which are excavated on limited scale.

Small Indus valley sites
Unfortunately a big area of expected Indus valley sites are still unexplored. From these unexplored sites Cholistan dessert is a hub of ancient Indus valley sites and Ganweriwala is the largest among them.

“Ganweriwala” - a city of Indus valley civilization

One most significant site is “Ganweriwala” from Cholistan region (southern Punjab Pakistan).
This site is situated in a deserted environment and teh region may be seen as an outland region of the Indus valley. The area firstly explored by Sir Aurel Stein in 1941. Later Dr. Mughal carried four season field work from 1972 till 1976 along the 300 miles river Hakra belt. He extensively explored 414 ancient Indus valley sites along the old river Hakra bed. There is a continuous fluctuation in the formation of sites, which shows the development phases of Indus valley civilization. The time period of these sites started from fourth millennium BCE until medieval period.
The site has two closely situated mounds like other Harappan cities with measurements of 503 x 533 ft (ca. 153 x 162 m) and 488 x 290 ft (ca. 149 x 88 m) and 28 ft (8,5m) height. Both mounds cover 81.5 hectares, which is 16 hectares larger than Harappa. It became a core part of vast network of Indus cities, which include Moinjodaro, Harappa, Rakhigarhi and Dholavira. The surface of this site is very very rich with archaeological finds. Ceramics of mature Harappan period, clay toys and a clay tablet have been reported. The discovery of clay tablets signifies the social cultural value of this site. The clay tablet has the motif of a seated man in yogee position which is the most common feature finding from the Indus seals and Indus clay tablets. This site has been declared the third urban center of Indus valley civilization in Pakistan because of its huge occupation area. One another important aspect is that it is situated between on equal distance from Moinjodaro and Harappa. Its discovery rises a big question for Indus valley Specialists about its inter-regional and regional connections in term of trade and socio-political relations to the outer world.

Huge mounds of Ganweriwala site in Cholistan
(foto: Sidra Gulzar)

Need of special attention

Almost four decades have been passed since Mughal documented the 414 sites, but unfortunately no excavations or no further investigations have been realized. Especially Ganweriwala is important in many points. It is the largest site in Cholistan region and it seems to have the same pattern of construction than Moinjodaro has: a citadel to the west and a lower city to the east. The most pathetic aspect of this archaeological rich area is, that it is still neglected by the worlds' archaeologists.

But of this neglection the site is now going towards vandalism and destruction. There are also several environmental factors, which enable the access of the site. Local nomadic people do not know much about archaeology and about the past of human being. This unconsciousness is causing serious loss of precious heritage. At Ganweriwala a road has been constructed on the main site which is very harmful for the antiquities.
Some serious steps needed to protect this asset from all present day dangers.

A road on the top of Ganweriwala site
(foto: Sidra Gulzar)

It's time to call special attention for the hidden Indus valley sites in Pakistan. The Ganweriwala site is a precious asset for the ancient urban cities. It should be save for the further archaeological investigations. And it must be protected for future generations, as it is heritage for all humans. 
There are many `Ganweriwalas` not only one `Ganweriwala` which are not classified as world heritage. A documentation of sites of the Indus civilization is a real asset for the whole world. Unesco World heritage authorities should take special notice of the current archaeological situation in Pakistan, otherwise humanity will be deprived of his Bronze Age ancestors. We need to create the importance of this glourious civilization internationally to draw the real picture of interaction between Asia and Europe. 
Nevertheless these sites are crucial for our knowledge about a glorious past and daily life of forgotten Indus civilization….


Bibliographical references
Mughal, M. R, 1981, New Archaeological Evidence from Bahawalpur, ed; Dani, A.H, Indus Civilization: New Perspectives, Quid e Azam University, Islamabad

Mughal, M. R, 1982, Recent Archaeological Research in Cholistan Desert, Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. New Delhi

Mughal, M. R, 1990, Further Evidence of Early Harappan Culture in the Greater Indus Valley; 1971-90, South Asian Studies, vol,6.

Mughal, M. R, 1990, The Harappan Settlement Systems and Patterns in the Greater Indus Valley (circa3500-1500); Pakistan Archaeology, vol.25

Sidra Gulzar is a PhD candidate at Gothenburg University in Sweden. She comes from Pakistan and currently works on the Ganeriwala site. She has keen interest to explore new sites of archaeology world wide.

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