February 18th, 2023
Above: Daya Ram Sahni [likely] standing at the northeast corner of Mound AB, Harappa, 1923-24
We are delighted to publish a new set of over 50 photographs from Daya Ram Sahni's second season at Harappa in 1923-24, before he or anyone knew about the ancient Indus civilization.
Unearthing the Mysteries of Harappa is unique contribution to Indus archaeology curated by Dr. Nadine Zubair with contemporary commentary by Dr. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, who has led excavations at the site in modern times and in many of the same areas as Sahni. For the first time, Dr. Zubair has brought together a famed Indian archaeologist's own commentary on his finds, and that of Madho Sarup Vats from his later report Excavations at Harappa (1940). She has reconstructed the order of the finds as best as she could based on these reports, a careful exercise in sleuthing through old documents.
Part of this larger effort to document the nearly 1,000 photographs from the early excavations at Harappa is to reinstate the role of Indian archaeologists and their teams in the discovery and exploration of the ancient Indus civilization. In this context we can also identify – with a high degree of probability – that it is Daya Ram Sahni standing and surveying the results of his efforts on Mound AB in 1924 in the photograph shown above.
The section includes an introduction to what made this excavation season so important. For it was these finds, together with those of Rakhaldas Banerji at Mohenjo-daro around the same time, that lead to the famous meeting with John Marshall in Simla during the summer of 1924 where discoveries from the two sites were first directly compared. The conclusion – that a major ancient civilization had once been present at both sites – completely re-wrote the story of the ancient subcontinent.
We have many more seasons of excavations to go that lay out the story of excavations at Harappa, but what one of the most interesting things about this season was that Sahni did not yet know what it all meant. Everything he saw was new and fit no known paradigm.