British explorers and archaeologists began the process of rediscovering Harappa in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, the British also used the visible ancient city as ballast to build the Lahore to Multan railway in the 1850's.
This makes the few reports we have by visitors before the railway was constructed all the more valuable, even if they didn't know what they were looking at.
Charles Masson was sure that he stood in front of Sangala, the capital of King Porus against whom Alexander the Great had won a battle nearby in 326 B.C.
Sir Alexander Cunningham thought he had discovered the Po-fa-to-lo described by Hwen-Thsang, an ancient Chinese traveller in India.
By the end of the 19th century, the riddle of the Indus Valley had been posed in various publications in the form of three seals unearthed at Harappa. They had no connection to any known Indian tradition. This section of the site will trace these developments using the original sources and media.
The first explorers aside, Harappa in the 19th century was and today remains an important inhabited town. Recent construction is above and adjacent to the ancient city.
Current architectural features and crafts seem to have commonalities with ancient practices. Recent research suggest continuities between ancient and modern Harappans rather than the abrupt break assumed earlier. The local folk tales the explorers relate about Harappa's rise and fall could also be relevant.
Finally, the railway ballast. Since the 1985 much more has been discovered beneath the earth at Harappa. The estimated size of the city area has grown. There is evidence of many periods of growth, change and decline. The railway brick robbers' damage, in retrospect, may not be as serious to an understanding of the Indus Valley as once feared.
© Harappa 1996