The 2nd Season at Harappa led by Daya Ram Sahni 1923-24

The 2nd Season at Harappa led by Daya Ram Sahni 1923-24

Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni continued another season of excavations at Harappa in the winter of 1923-24. A summary report of the explorations was published in 1926 in the Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India 1923-24. John Marshall, who was the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, wrote the introduction to this section on the Harappa and Mohenjo-daro excavations, and noted the limits to the scope of the exploration that year due to budgetary concerns:

"Let it be added that the funds available this year have been so meagre that the excavators have been able to do little more than dig a few more trial trenches on the surface of the vast mounds at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro." (Annual Report, pp 50)

He also balanced the excitement and announcement of these "remarkable discoveries" in the London press with caution about premature speculation and explained why the "brief summaries" provided are adequate at the present time.

Discovery 1923-24

"Now that these important facts of their age and affinities have been established, much interest is naturally concentrated on the discoveries at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. and there has been not a little wild writing in the Press on the subject. It is very desirable therefore that a full and authoritative account of the excavations up to date should be published as soon as possible.

On the other hand, it is evident from my perusal of the reports written by the excavators that many pitfalls are likely to be encountered and that it will be safer not to issue any detailed Memoirs on the subject until the excavations have progressed further and we can feel our way with relative certainty in this new and unexplored field. For this reason I shall probably postpone the publication of the work hitherto accomplished until the close of the season 1925-26, by which time I anticipate that many of our present doubts and difficulties will have been solved. Meanwhile the brief summaries given below of the past years operations will suffice to give an idea of how the work is progressing." (Annual Report, pp. 48-49)

In 1940 Madho Sarup Vats was able to tell the story of the Harappa discoveries, and further details of the 1923-24 season's excavations were published by in his two-volume monograph Excavations at Harappā: being an account of archaeological excavations at Harappā carried out between the years 1920-21 and 1933-34, in which Volume 1 is the text, and Volume 2 has the plates. Vats brought in Sahni’s work to link to his own to give a comprehensive report on what the discoveries at Harappa had been.

Discovery 1923-24

Sahni’s summary of the excavations in the Annual report of 1923-24 include an outline of where the digging was done, and what salient artefacts were unearthed. He continued to excavate Mounds F and AB, opening new trenches, or expanding those opened in 1920-21. In Mound F, work was carried out in the north-west portion, where he excavated the diagonal Trench A which revealed two series of parallel walls forming a part of what has been identified as the Great Granary, as well as Trenches Af and Ae.

In Mound AB he excavated a large trench (Trench B to the west of the Naugaza tomb) and four pits in the southern half of the same mound (Pits I, II, III and IV). The objective was to get a general idea of the stratification of this large mound before commencing large scale excavations. Despite digging down to a depth of about 35 ft from the highest point of the mound, exposing seven successive layers of buildings, “owing to the deep accumulation of earth and insufficiency of funds the virgin soil could not be reached anywhere.” (Annual Report, pg.53) He also used rain gullies to reach the lower strata and found some interesting objects including painted pottery and some copper implements “possibly intended for surgical instruments.” (Annual Report, pg 54)

It is during this season that the metal "ear cleaning" implement is found that is suggested to have parallels at Ur and Kish (Sahni 1923-24:PI. XIX, 22). This has been given a new interpretation by Mark Kenoyer as you will see in Slide 47.

The Annual Report also notes "twenty-seven photographs of the excavations and minor antiquities found at Harappa," (pg. 140) and that "the draftsman attached to the office of the Superintendent, Hindu Lahore and Buddhist Monuments, Northern Circle, prepared…four [drawings] of the excavations carried out in the mounds at Harappa, and coloured copies of two painted vases found at Harappa…" (pg. 141).

The organisation of the slides follows the account presented by Daya Ram Sahni.

- Dr. Nadine Zubair

Sahni, Rai Bahadur Daya Ram and John Marshall, 1923-24 Exploration and Research, Northern Circle, Punjab, Harappa. Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India 1923-24:52-54. Delhi

Image Source: Gerda Theuns-de Boer, A Vision of Splendour Indian Heritage in the Photographs of Jean Philippe Vogel, 1901-1913, The Kern Institute Collection of Photography/Mapin Publishing, 2008.