The prosperity of the Harappan Civilization, that was discovered in 1920-22 when two of its most important sites were excavated, was based on its flourishing economic activities such as agriculture, arts and crafts, and trade. In fact the whole period of the Harappan Civilazation is divided into three distinct phases:
(i) Early Harappan Phase (3500BC – 1900 BC) – It was distinguished by some town-planning in the form of mud structures, elementary trade, arts and crafts, etc.
(ii) Mature Harappan Phase (2600 BC – 1900 BC) – this period was characterized by well developed towns with burnt brick structures, inland and foreign trade, numerous types of crafts, etc; and
(iii) Late Harappan Phase (1900 BC – 1400 BC) – this phase marked the decline of the Civilization during which many cities of this great Harappan Civilization were abandoned and the trade disappeared creating the gradual decay of the important urban features.
Agriculture in the Harappan Civilization
It has been well established by the historian archaeologists that the fertile Indus alluvium contributed not only to the surplus in agricultural production but it also assisted the people of the Harappan Civilization to get involved in exchange, both internal and external, with others and also expand crafts and industries.
That the base of the Harappan Civilization was agriculture and cattle-rearing (pastoralism) became evident by the discovery of the granaries at sites like Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Lothal that served as the storehouse for grains.
Although, there is no evidence of tools which were used for agriculture, in Kalibangan the plough-marks or furrows have been observed indication to plough cultivation. In Banawali in Hisar district of Haryana a terracotta plough has also been found giving strength to the idea of plough cultivation.
The people of the Harappan Civilization carried on irrigation on a small scale by drawing water from wells or by deflecting river water into channels.
Among the chief ford crops the people of the Harappan Civilization grew were: wheat, barley, mustard, peas, sesasum, jejube, etc. However, from Lothal and Rangpur the evidence of rice has come in the form of husks embedded in pottery. The finding of a piece of woven cloth at Mohanjo-Daro suggests that cotton was one among other important crops. As far as the Harappan diet is concerned it has been founded that apart from cereals, fish and animal meat also formed a part of it.
- Representations on seals & terracotta sculpture indicate-> bull was known. Can be extrapolated that-> oxen used for ploughing + terracotta ploughs found @Cholistan and Banawali (Haryana)
- Another evidence-> ploughed field @ Kalibangan (Rajasthan)
- Above field has-> two sets of furrows @ right angles-> indicates two crops grown together.
- Most Harappan sites-> located in semi arid areas-> irrigation required.
- Traces of canals found @ Harappan site of Shortughai (Afghanistan) but not in Punjab or Sind.
- Water reservoirs found in Dholavira (Gujarat)-> indicates possible use of wells for
Industries and Crafts in the Harappan Civilization
The conclusion that except iron the Harappan pople were aware of almost all the metals gets strength from the evidences that suggest they manufactured gold and silver objects. The gold objects they made were beads, armlets, needles and other ornaments. However, the use of silver was more common then gold; a large quantity of silver ornaments, dishes have been discovered.
A number of copper tools and weapons, which commonly included axe, saws, chisels, knives, spearheads and arrowheads, were also discovered. It is imperative to mention here that the Harappans produced weapons that were mostly defensive in nature as there is no evidence of weapons like swords etc. Stone tools, that were commonly used, were also made in large quantities.
Copper was brought mainly from Khetri in Rajasthan. In the case of gold and silver, it has been speculated that gold might have been obtained from the Himalayan river beds and South India, and Silver from Mesopotamia.
The evidence of the use of the bronze, although in limited manner, has also been found. The bronze ‘dancing girl’, figurine, discovered at Mohenzodaro, is the most famous example concerning the bronze metal. This ‘dancing girl’ figurine is ‘a nude female figure, with right arm on the hip and left arm hanging in a dancing pose’, wearing a large number of bangles.
One of the most important crafts in the Harappan Civilization was the bead making. Precious and semi-precious stones such as agate and carnelian were used in making beads. Steatite was used for bead-making. At Chanhudaro and Lothal have been found the evidence of beadmakers’ shops, it has also been found that in beads, bracelets and other decoretions the use of ivory carving and inlaying were also in practice. All this shows the masterly skill that the Harappans possessed in a variety of arts and crafts.
At the site of Mohenjodaro, a well-known piece of art, a stone sculpture of a bearded man, was discovered; the eyes of the sculpture are half closed, indicating perhaps the posture of meditation, and across his left shoulder is an embroidered cloak. According to some scholars it could be the bust of a priest.
A large number of terracotta figurines of male and females, which outnumber those of males and are believed to represent the worship of mother goddess, have been is covered from various Harappan Sites. Apart from these, many varieties of models of birds, monkeys, dogs, sheep, cattle, humped and humpless bulls have also been found.
The most important industries during the period of the Harappan Civilization also included pottery-making. Potteries were mainly wheel- made and were treated with a red coating and had decorations in black. The painted designs include horizontal lines of varied thickness, leaf patterns, palm and papaltrees. Depicted on potteries the figures of birds, fishes and animals.
More than two thousand seals of various kinds, which were generally square in shape and were made of steatite, have been discovered from the different sites. It is imperative here to mention that although the seals belonging to the Harappan Civilization depict a number of animals, there is no representation of horse on these.
Apart from various kinds of animals the seals of the Harappan Civilization also enclose some signs in the Harappan script that has not been deciphered so far. Moreover, the most famous of the seals is the one that has a horned male duty represented on it; many scholars have identified the figure with the ancient form of the God Pashupati (Lord of beasts).
- Chanhudaro (area = 7 hectares)-> exclusively devoted to craft production. This included-> bead-making, shell-cutting, metal-working, seal-making and weight-making.
- Steatite-> a very soft stone, easily workable-> used for bead-making.
- Nageshwar & Balakot-> settlements near coast
- The above-mentioned are specialised centres for making shell objects-> includes bangles, ladles and inlay.
- Finished products from Chanhudaro & Lothal-> taken to large urban centres (Mohenjodaro & Harappa)
Trade in the Harappan Civilization
During the period of the Harappan Civilization the trading network, both within the country (internal) and foreign (external) was a significant characteristic of the Harappan urban economy. A village- town (urban- rural) interrelationship developed due to the dependency of the urban population for the supply of food and many other necessary products on the surrounding countryside. In the similar fashion, the craftsmen belonging to urban areas required markets to sell their goods in other areas; it necessitated the contact between the towns.
As various kinds of metals and precious stones, which were needed by craftsmen to make goods, were not available locally, they had to be brought from outside. Lapis-lazuli, the precious stones used for making beads, was located in Badakshan mines in North-east Afghanistan. Turquoise and Jadehave been brought from Central Asia.
In the field of external trade the people of the Harappan Civilization were engaged with Mesopotamia largely through Oman and Behrain in the Persian Gulf. This has been confirmed by the presence of artefacts, belonging to the Harappan Civilization, such as beads, seals, dice, etc. in these regions; in Mesopotamia cities like Susa, Ur, etc. about two dozens of Harappan seals have been found. Apart from seals, other artifacts belonging to the Harappan Civilization which have been discovered comprise potteries, etched carnelian beads and dices with Harappan features.
PROCUREMENT OF RAW MATERIALS
- As we have seen above, a lot of craft production was taking place in the smaller as well as larger centres of the Harappan Civilization.
- This indicates a lot of raw materials was required-> some of which was locally
available + others were procured from outside.
- For this purpose proper means of transportation and routes were identified and used to carry goods and people across land routes (eg. Bullock carts)
- Riverine routes along Indus and its tributaries + coastal routes also used.
Materials from subcontinent and beyond
- Harappans established settlements in-> Nageshwar & Balakot-> as shell is available here.
- Shortughai (Afghanistan)-> established near-> best source of lapis lazuli (a bluestone-> very highly valued)
- Lothal established near-> source of carnelian (near Bharuch, Gujarat), source of steatite (from south Rajasthan & north Gujarat) & metal (Rajasthan)
- Another strategy for procurement of raw materials-> sending expeditions to:
- Khetri (Rajasthan)-> for copper. referred to as Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture-> distinctive non-Harappan pottery found + abundance of copper objects-> indicates inhabitants of this region may have supplied copper to the Harappans.
- South India-> Gold. Such expeditions helped communities establish communication with local.
Evidence-> occasional finds of Harappan artefacts (eg. Steatite micro beads)
Connection with far away regions/lands
- Oman-> copper probably brought from here (according to recent archaeological finds)
- Oman lies on the south eastern tip of Arabian peninsula (A quick check on your geography!!!)
- Omani copper + Harappan artefacts-> have traces of nickel-> common origin indicated
- A large Harappan jar (coated with thick layer of black clay)-> found @ Omani sites
- Such thick coatings prevent the percolation of liquids-> content of vessels unknown but probably would have been used in exchange for Omani copper.
- Mesopotamian texts-> refer to copper coming from region called Magan-> probably a name for Oman.
Also the copper found @ Mesopotamian sites contained traces of nickel
- Other evidences of long distance contacts-> findings of Harappan seals, weights, dice & beads.
- Mesopotamian texts mention contacts with regions named->
(a) Dilmund-> Island of Bahrain
(b) Magan-> Oman
(c) Meluhha-> possibly Harappan region
- Mesopotamian texts mention products from-> Meluhha-> carnelian, lapis lazuli, copper, gold & varieties of wood.
- Mesopotamian texts refer Meluhha as-> land of seafarers-> depictions of ships and boats on seals are found.