05 September 2015

#History World Civilization, Day Five

World Civilization Tour, Day Five

The Harappan Civilization

Why is so little known about the Harappan society? What is it that we do know about the nature of that society?

Knowledge of the Harappan society is limited due to modern scholars’ unsuccessful efforts to decipher the complex symbols used in the surviving “writings” of the Harappans. Indeed, scholars cannot even agree whether the known symbols are merely stand-alone, nonlinguistic pictographs or constitute a consistent script.

The desert long ago reclaimed their cities, but archaeologists have uncovered much of two of their largest cities, Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro. Unfortunately, the oldest ruins lie beneath the modern-day water table, making them impossible to excavate. The ruins that have been unearthed have revealed complex, precisely planned cities with fortified citadels, public baths, advanced sewer systems and gravity-assisted water delivery systems. Housing is uniform in building materials and room sizes, indicating common design, but dwelling size varies, indicating differentiation in wealth and status among the citizenry. Archaeologists have found small, one-room, clustered huts and large, three-story houses with private courtyards. The cities boasted large granaries, indicating considerable surplus harvests and centralized collection and distribution. There is no evidence of a monarchy, but the exact nature of their political structure is unknown. The sheer size and uniformity within the cities, and the extensive public buildings and infrastructure indicate considerable planning and cooperation.

Excavations display a distinct paucity of weaponry among the ruins, and an abundance of children’s toys, giving rise to speculation that the society was predominantly peaceful and family-oriented. Perhaps they simply took the more important items with them when they abandoned the city, or later scavengers took only what they could make use of. In any event, something happened to disrupt the peaceful, agricultural life of Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro, perhaps drought, flooding, soil depletion, deforestation, disease, or changes in the course of the Ravi and Indus rivers.

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