||by R.H. Meadow and J.M. Kenoyer ||
|| Introduction ||
The greater Indus Valley of Pakistan and western India was the setting for one of the world's earliest urban societies. Although the ancient script of this culture has not been deciphered, archaeological research is gradually exposing the unique character of this society through detailed studies of its cities and architecture, the organization of technology and trade, its subsistence economy and a wide range of symbolic arts and ornaments.
The site of Harappa, Pakistan is one of the largest and most important cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. This is one of the only sites where an entire sequence has been recovered that spans the history of Indus cities. Unlike the equally important site of Mohenjo-daro to the south, where baked bricks buildings provide an impressive vista of urban architecture, drains and wells, the ancient mounds of Harappa are characterized by imposing erosion gullies, piles of brick rubble and fragmentary walls. Excavations in the 1920s and 1930s exposed large areas of the urban occupation, but found only more extensive evidence of the intensive brick robbing. The architecture and city planning of Harappa was similar to that of Mohenjo-daro and the varieties of artifacts recovered from the excavations confirmed that these two sites represented the same cultural tradition which has come to be known as the Harappa Phase of the Indus Valley Civilization. Recent excavations by the Harappa Archaeological Research Project have been able to build on these earlier studies to define at least five major periods of development (Table 1). These five periods represent a continuous process of cultural development where new aspects of culture are balanced with long term continuities and linkages in many crafts and artifact styles.
The Ravi or Hakra Phase represents the initial occupation of the site (Period 1 : >3500 BC -2800 BC). Over time, the economic and political importance of this small community resulted in its growth and expansion during the Kot Diji (Early Harappan) Phase (Period 2 : 2800BC - 2600 BC). Excavations of the early Ravi and Kot Diji levels from different parts of the ancient city have focused on aspects of settlement organization, craft technologies, subsistence activities and various forms of social and political organization. A special emphasis has been placed on defining the contexts for the use of writing and technological changes in writing as it evolved along with other new technologies during the critical period of transition between 2800 and 2600 BC.
The initial urban character of Harappa begins during the Kot Diji Phase, but it is in the following Harappa Phase (Period 3 : 2600 BC - 1900 BC) that the settlement became a major urban center with links to other equally large centers, towns and rural settlements throughout the greater Indus Valley. With the rise of the Indus cities, technology and crafts appear to have become an essential mechanism for creating unique wealth objects to distinguish socio-economic classes and reinforce the hierarchy of these classes in an urban context. The use of inscribed seals, along with various forms of writing on a wide range of artifacts appears to be directly associated with the need to communicate social or ritual status and for economic control. Much of the most recent excavations at Harappa have focused on understanding the details of social, economic and political developments during Period 3. Initial results reveal a dynamic period of urban expansion, growth, decay and reorganization.
Aside from the earlier excavations in the Cemetery H area, only limited preserved occupation areas have been identified dating to the Late Harappa Phases (Period 4 and 5: 1900-1300 BC). However, these small areas have provided invaluable information on the nature of the Late Harappan subsistence, architecture and every day life. In contrast to earlier interpretations of decline and abandonment, the city was in fact thriving and at the center of important cultural, economic, and ideological transformations.
During the last five years excavations have focused on all of the major phases represented at the site. The year 2000 season was the 14th season of research at Harappa, currently under the auspices of the Harappa Archaeological Research Project, directed by Dr. Richard H. Meadow (Harvard University) and Dr. J. Mark Kenoyer (University of Wisconsin-Madison) with the assistance of Dr. Rita P. Wright (New York University). Excavations by HARP are conducted in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, which was represented in 2000 by Mr. Saeed-ur-Rehman (Director-General), Mr. Farzand Massih (Curator, Harappa Museum and Dept. Representative) and Asim Dogar (Assistant Curator).
|| Ravi Phase Occupation ||
On the northern part of Mound AB (Figure 1) excavations in 1996 were undertaken in both the Ravi (Hakra) Phase (Period 1: 3300-2800 BC) and the Kot Diji Phase (Period 2: 2800-2600 BC) occupation levels. In 1998 - 2000 a much larger horizontal exposure was made of both Ravi and Kot Diji levels. During the Ravi and Kot Diji Phases various aspects of settlement structure, specialized technologies, and socio-economic networks were developed and became the foundation for later urban structure of the Harappa Phase (Kenoyer and Meadow 1999).
The Ravi Phase village was probably divided into two parts, with one part along the northern edge of what is now Mound AB and the other at the northwest corner of Mound E, the two separated by a low-lying area (Figure 1). The earliest architectural structures appear to have been huts oriented north-south and east-west made of wooden posts with walls of plastered reeds. Some mud-brick fragments of what may be a kiln have been found, but no complete mud-brick architecture has been found to date.
The earliest pottery at Harappa (Period 1A) are entirely hand-built shapes with a range of decoration from plain to polychrome (Figure 2). Some vessels have a coarse appliqué on the exterior made from clay and calcium carbonate nodules. Towards the end of the Ravi Phase (Period 1B), the potter's wheel began to be used, resulting in new and diverse vessel forms and rim shapes. Some of these forms became the basis for the pottery of the Kot Diji Phase.
The use of pre-firing "potter's marks" and post-firing "graffiti" on pottery also indicates that concepts of graphic expression using abstract symbols were emerging (Figure 3). Many of the marks and signs consisted of a single character or symbol, but one example has three linked trident or plant shapes. Many of marks and signs used during the Ravi Phase continued to be employed through the Kot Diji Phase, and on into the Harappa Phase, where some of them can be identified as elements of the Indus writing system.
|| Kot Diji Phase Developments ||
The Kot Diji Phase was initially proposed as representing a phase of incipient urbanism, based on surveys conducted by Mughal (Mughal 1990). This interpretation can now be confirmed through excavations at Harappa (Meadow and Kenoyer 2001) and additional surveys in the hinterland around Harappa (Mughal, Iqbal et al. 1996). It is now clear that initial urban development in the Indus region began between approximately 2800 and 2600 BC during the Kot Diji Phase (Harappa Period 2). The scale of urban networks is smaller than that characteristic of the Harappa Phase, but many of the basic characteristics of later Indus society are identifiable.
The total area of the Kot Diji settlement at Harappa is more than 25 hectares and covers most of Mound AB, Mound E and parts of Mound ET (Figure 1). Early city planning is reflected in the layout of north-south and east-west oriented streets and houses, and the use of mud-bricks of two sizes with 1:2:4 ratios to build houses, massive mud-brick platforms, and perimeter walls (Kenoyer 1993; Kenoyer 1995). In addition, the site was divided into two distinct mounds (AB and E) each with a massive mud-brick perimeter wall. During this period Harappa emerged as a major regional center, integrating its hinterland as well as obtaining materials from distant resource areas (Kenoyer 1997).
The wide variety of raw materials used in specialized crafts during the Kot Diji Phase indicates the continued expansion of trade networks that were initiated during the Ravi Phase. Marine shells were brought from more than 860 kilometers away for ornament manufacture. Various rocks and minerals were imported over distances of 300 to 1000 kilometers for the production of utilitarian objects such as grinding stones and chipped stone tools as well for the manufacture of ornaments such as beads and inlay. The use of similar raw materials from different resource areas, such as grey black chert from Baluchistan and tan chert from Sindh, indicates a competitive expansion of trade networks and the increasing importance of exotic items.
Craft production indicators from Kot Diji levels show a marked increase in technological complexity and new types of finished objects. The production of glazed steatite beads and seals as well as of faience ornaments resulted from the refinement of earlier glazed steatite manufacturing techniques. Precious metals such as copper and gold were also employed for both utilitarian and decorative purposes. Many additional styles of bangles, beads, pottery and other utilitarian objects reveal the need for increased variety for a more diverse urban population (Kenoyer 2000).
While some hand-built containers continued to be made during Period 2, most pottery was made on the wheel and carefully trimmed, slipped, painted, or decorated with some sort of surface modification. Red slip and black painted designs replaced polychrome decorations of the Ravi Phase. The motifs include horizontal bands, new styles of geometric and floral motifs, as well as the more traditional pipal leaf, fish scale, and intersecting motifs that had their origins in the Ravi Phase.
The large collections of pottery from this area reveals a clear transition from the earlier Ravi pottery to what is commonly referred to as Kot Diji pottery. The later Kot Diji levels show a gradual transformation into what is commonly referred to as Harappa Phase pottery. When combined with the evidence of other artifact types, such as terracotta cakes, bangles, figurines and even architecture, it is possible to confirm that the Harappan culture emerged from the earlier Kot Diji culture and that it was not introduced to this area from outside regions.
Of particular importance in this regard is the first appearance of the Early Indus script that has been found on pottery, a sealing of a square seal with possible Early Indus script, and a cubical limestone weight that conforms to the later Harappan weight category. In 2000 a fragment of an unfinished square steatite seal carved with an elephant motif was discovered which indicates that this unique type of seal was being made in addition to the more common geometric button seals (Figure 4) (Meadow, Kenoyer and Wright 2000). These discoveries suggest that the development of the Indus script, the use of inscribed seals and the standardization of weights occurred during the Kot Diji period, some 200 years earlier than previously thought. The emergence of writing, seals and standardized weights also implies the development of more complex social and political organizations that would have required these sophisticated tools and techniques of communication and administration.
These new developments of site organization and specialized crafts appear to be linked to the emergence of a more highly differentiated society during the Kot Diji Phase. Possible forms of social elaboration include the development of hierarchies and occupational classes as well as the inclusion of new ethnic groups, including those not previously incorporated into the urban structure. Such groups may have comprised pastoralists, hunters, fishers, and those associated with many of the specialized crafts and long distance trade that became increasingly important during this period and the following Harappa Phase.
|| Harappa Phase Occupation ||
Since 1986, excavations of the Harappa Phase occupations (2600-1900 BC), have been conducted on all of the major mounds and in low lying areas between the mounds and along their peripheries (Figure 1). On the basis of these studies, it is possible to determine the overall size of the city at over 150 hectares and the size of the separate walled areas range from 10 to 25 hectares each. Three subphases can be defined based on major rebuilding phases of the city walls, changing artifact and pottery styles, and changes in styles of seals (Figure 4).
For example, the characteristic square steatite seals with animal motifs and short inscriptions begins in late Period 2 as noted above, is found in 3A and continues into Period 3C, but the carving style for both the animal motifs, and the inscriptions shows stylistic changes. The greatest variation and widespread use of such seals appears to be during Period 3B. Small rectangular inscribed tablets made from steatite begin to appear at the beginning of Period 3B and by the end of 3B there is a wide variety of tiny tablets in many different shapes and materials. They were made of fired steatite or of molded terracotta or faience. Some of the steatite tablets were decorated with red pigment and the faience tablets were covered with a thick blue-green glaze. These various forms of inscribed tablets continued on into Period 3C where we also find evidence for copper tablets all bearing the same raised inscription. The copper tablets at Mohenjo-daro are incised and have several variations in terms of animal motifs on one side and inscriptions on the opposite side. Rectangular steatite seals with inscription only, glazed faience geometric seals, and stamped pottery (exclusively pointed-base or Indus goblets), appear to have been used only in Period 3C.
Beginning in 1997, selective excavations have served to clarify the chronology and function of some of the most famous structures at the site. These include the Mound AB "fortification walls," the Mound F "Circular Platforms," and the "Great Granary" (Meadow, Kenoyer and Wright 1998; Meadow, Kenoyer and Wright 1999; Meadow, Kenoyer and Wright 2000).
|| Fortification Wall ||
The fortification walls of Harappa were first defined by Wheeler in 1946 (wheeler 1947) and one of the most impressive excavations of the city walls was in Trench XXX. This well known trench is where he noted the presence of an "alien culture" from beneath the city walls. These cultural deposits were later identified by M. R. Mughal (1970) as belonging to the Early Harappan or Kot Diji Phase, and he also suggested that the lower portion of the inner part of the huge perimeter ("fortification") wall might be Early Harappan in date.
A reexamination of this trench in 1997 and 1998 determined that indeed there was a substantial Early Harappan occupation deposit with hearths, stone tools figurines, and lots of pottery. An Early Harappan wall was also identified, but it was below the area designated by both Wheeler and Mughal (Figure 5). The Harappan phase wall was actually built on top of the Early Harappan city wall. Careful examination of the Harappan wall construction and sampling of sherds found in the mortar revealed that it was built up and refaced both inside and outside numerous times during the c. 700 years of the Harappan phase occupation (Meadow, Kenoyer and Wright 1997).
Against the eastern (inside) face of the wall is a long sequence of Harappan deposits that include early street levels filled with pottery and steatite bead workshop debris. The earliest street layers date to Period 3A and there is a continuous sequence through Period 3B and 3C. In the uppermost levels, Cemetery H pottery of Period 4/5 was recovered along with large quantities of charred grain was associated with a burned storage bin made of wattle and daub.
|| Granary or Great Hall ||
|One of the most famous buildings at Harappa is the so-called "Great Granary" (Trench II) that was first excavated under the supervision of Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni and Madho Sarup Vats between 1921 and 1929 (Vats 1940). Excavations during three seasons (1997 to 1999) were undertaken at three corners of the "granary" or Great Hall to investigate its phases of construction. Two additional trenches were laid out in adjacent areas to the northeast and southeast to better understand the stratigraphic relationship of the Great Hall to other areas of Mound F. These excavations also revealed the presence of a mud brick perimeter wall along the north edge of Mound F that probably articulates with a wall discovered along the western edge of the mound. In both areas the wall is over 14 meters wide and built up through several phases of construction.
There are three major building episodes that have been defined in the area of the Great Hall (Figure 6). The earliest structure is represented by a single wall that is oriented east-west and lies directly below the second major building, the Great Hall. The Great Hall was first modified with the addition of an external mud-brick platform and subsequently completely filled with clay. On top of this new platform the Later Hall was built. Although it is disappointing to have to state that the actual use of these buildings remains unknown, it is possible to confirm that there is no direct evidence for their use as granaries (Meadow, Kenoyer and Wright 1999).