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The disappearance of the Harappan civilization


The problem of the “disappearance” of the Harappan civilization

So, the Harappan civilization appears now as quite dynamic, the appearance of which has changed over many centuries. For the reconstruction of the processes that took place in it, the data of paleoeconomics, information theory, etc. are used. The assumptions built on them certainly deserve attention, although their correction as a result of the appearance of new data is very likely.

Excavations at the site of Harappa.

Excavations at the site of Harappa.

At an early stage, the culture, whose region is very wide, does not appear homogeneous — the signs of the peculiarity of material culture make us think that they reflect the peculiarities in the field of traditions, economic life, ethnicity and language. It is suggested that the circulation of information in the broad sense of the word was carried out at the level of kinship relations by representatives of individual communities. It is possible to assume competition between different social groups that had different status, while the conditions for the development of high-status groups were formed. At the stage of advanced Harappa, the picture changes. Production is intensifying, including agricultural production, and the role of handicrafts and, probably, exchange is also sharply increasing. It is suggested that up to 50% of the population was concentrated in cities. The diversity of economic, cultural, and ethnic zones between which relations were maintained could lead to the formation of a large centralized system.

Relations between regions are changing. In Balochistan, life has been preserved in relatively few settlements, including those centered on strategically important routes to Iran and Afghanistan. At the same time, there is reason to talk about the strengthening of the role of maritime trade and exchange or trade that was carried out along the coast of Makran, as well as the southern coastal region. The creation of a system of direct trade over long distances is caused by the desire to get rid of”intermediaries”. The period of mature Harappa is a time of territorial expansion to the south and east, carried out, as far as the data allow, not by military force, but by economic growth and the ability to maintain balanced social relations. At the same time, the existence of fortifications in large and small cities is significant (in a small Surkotad on the “citadel”, throwing balls were found).

In the period of developed Harappa, an important role is played not only by relations of kinship (which can be assumed for a predominantly “rural civilization”), but also by those that were determined by professional affiliation, status and / or rank, and not so much inherited as acquired, i.e. achieved as a result of human activity. Contacts are built both directly and through intermediaries, they become more impersonal. This is evidenced by the spread of writing.

A modern view of the ruins of Harappa.

A modern view of the ruins of Harappa.

The final period of the Harappan civilization and the post-Harappan situation. Its time is still not precisely defined, about the second quarter — the middle of the second millennium BC. e., the integrity of the culture and its entire appearance are undergoing changes. Signs of this are evident in the desolation of large centers, in the differences in the evolution of ceramic complexes of large settlements (Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro), the addition of various local styles. The regularity of settlement planning is being lost, construction techniques are deteriorating, writing is disappearing, and the standard system of weights and measures is falling out of use. Nevertheless, in the field of agriculture, continuity persists, as well as in the traceable elements of everyday life and religious beliefs. According to researchers, primarily Indian, they may persist until recently or modern times. Signs of Late Harappan culture can be traced in Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh. In Haryana and the vicinity of Delhi, according to some sources, there were about 500 Late Harappan settlements, and the inhabitants of some of them grew rice. There is evidence that the Late Harappan archaeological complexes co-existed with the so-called Painted Gray Ware (PGW), which will be discussed below.

Possible causes of disappearance

As in the study of other early civilizations, researchers of the final period of the existence of Harappa and its end often proceeded from the general provisions common in the historical science of their time. Thus, their supposed disappearance of a vast civilization was depicted as the result of its destruction by aliens, in this case — the Aryans. As an indication of this, the existence of a defensive wall on the Harappa hill and the skeletons of supposedly dead people in Mohenjo-Daro were considered. At the same time, the settlements showed almost no signs of their violent seizure.

New, scrupulously collected data from the territory of the Harappan civilization itself and from neighboring areas allow us to outline the features of a more complex picture. Among the possible causes are natural disasters-severe floods or, conversely, the drying up of the Ghaggar system in Punjab, from where the population could have moved to the Ganga — Yamuna interfluve. Based on the assumption of the absence of a state apparatus in civilization, it is quite obvious that such a vast entity, whose existence depended not only on its own resources, but also on connections with more or less distant regions, was relatively fragile, and its unity could not be prolonged. Researchers in recent decades have insisted on the unsuitability of simplified models (one of which is the invasion of alien masses) for understanding the changes that took place in the first half of the second millennium BC in the north of the Indian subcontinent, in Central Asia and Iran.

When considering the changes in the late Harappa, it is impossible to exclude the possibility of large-scale impacts, changes in the historical situation in the vast territories of Asia. As already mentioned, in the first half of the second millennium BC, the directions of trade relations between Mesopotamia and the surrounding countries changed. With the emergence of the state of Hammurabi, trade relations are reoriented to the west. It is possible that these processes also played a role in disrupting the traditional balance that has developed in the Indus Valley and in the adjacent regions of Central Asia.

A charioteer figure found in Harappa.

A charioteer figure found in Harappa. Ca. 2000 BC

In the second quarter of the second millennium BC, processes took place in Central and South Asia, which in archaeological terms appear as a violation of the continuity of the development of the cultures that existed here. People leave their settlements, in which life continues only to warm up. Big cities are disappearing. There is a picture of the destruction of the old ties and the formation of new ones. Previously sparsely populated areas are being developed. Signs of foreign cultural phenomena in different areas are becoming more frequent.

It is widely believed that the language of the speakers of the Harappan culture belonged to the proto-Dravidian. The supposed belt of distribution of Dravidian languages in ancient times — Balochistan, Sindh, Rajasthan, Malwa and Maharashtra, as well as Punjab and the Ganges Valley (note that the Dravidian-speaking population, according to some researchers, could live in the south of Iran, and in the south of Turkmenistan). According to linguistic evidence, the Dravidians made early contact with the Aryan invaders, perhaps before they reached the north of the subcontinent.

Arrival of other ethnic groups

Around the middle of the second millennium BC, the greatest complex of religious texts, the Rig Veda, was created by these newcomers. They were mobile pastoralists and farmers, much inferior in the development of material culture to the “Harappans”. Several generations of researchers have attempted to trace the path of the Indo-Aryans and Aryans from their supposed ancestral homeland to Central and South Asia and Iran, linking it, in particular, with the characteristic gray, or stucco, ceramics of the “steppe” appearance (common in the steppe belt of Eurasia and in Kazakhstan). These attempts, although they have yielded interesting results, have not yet been successful because the events that took place in the region of interest in the second millennium BC were extremely complex, and the processes are diverse and their details are either not reflected in the archaeological monuments, or, rather, are not yet recognized by researchers.

Considering that the Aryans were at least partly mobile pastoralists, and that there are indications of their long-term “acquaintance” with the Harappan civilization, it is legitimate to pay close attention to the communities that led this way of life in the territories from which the Aryans may have come. This raises the question of the ethnicity of at least partially mobile communities on the northwestern border of the Harappan civilization at the late stage of the developed and late Harappan, i.e., in the early-mid II millennium BC. In Central Asia, at the end of the third and second millennium BC, there is an extremely bright archaeological culture, which received the conditional name “Bactrian-Margian archaeological complex”. Its characteristic items — copper-bronze weapons, household items, cloisonne seals, and religious objects-were found in a vast territory far beyond the territory of later Bactria and Margiana. They were also found in Balochistan, in Sibri near Mehrgarh, and in Quetta, where items characteristic of this culture formed part of the burial equipment. At present, it is difficult to say whether these monuments are connected with the migration of population groups: whether they were left by seasonally nomadic pastoralists or whether the inhabitants of Central Asia rushed to the area of the Bolan Passage — an important point on the exchange routes, trying to establish control over these routes. It seems that even more caution can be assumed in the carriers of complexes of this kind of Indo-Aryans.

Signs of contacts with remote northern regions, northern Afghanistan, north-eastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are found in the monuments of the II millennium BC of the Swat Valley. They are best studied from the burial grounds spread from Inayat Kuyl near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the west to the Indus in the east and from Chitral in the north to the Kabul River in the south. There are some similarities in the burials, the shapes of ceramic vessels, and metal products. These burial grounds and settlements belonged to farmers and pastoralists. Their dwellings were built of stone and clay, less often-mud bricks. In the burial grounds, along with the remains of complete skeletons, corpses were found in urns. At a later stage, a horse was known. The population belonged to several anthropological types-Mediterranean, Proto-Australian, and Mongoloid. Such phenomena as the use of cremation and the use of the horse, as well as connections with the regions to the north and northwest, gave rise to the identification of this culture as belonging to the Indo-Aryans or the ancestors of one of the peoples of Eastern Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan, the Dards (k. Yettmar).

Based on the data of the Rig Veda, it has been suggested that the Aryans of the hymn-making period may have settled in North-Eastern Punjab. Here and in the neighboring regions, they searched for evidence of their presence.

Attempts have been made to identify with the Aryans the bearers of several archaeological cultures of the north of the subcontinent. One of them is the Jhu — kar culture, which existed in Sindh in the second half of the second millennium BC. Its ceramics are somewhat different from the late Harappan, there is a painting of black and red colors, peculiar seals-stamps, characteristic bronze axes and pins. Now it is believed that this culture is a local variant of the Late Harappan, marked by influence from Balochistan. B. B. Lal in the 50s of the XX century. He suggested that the Aryans belonged to the so-called culture of gray painted ceramics, identified in Punjab, Haryana, Northern Rajasthan and western Utgar Pradesh, the basis for which was the territory of its distribution and the alleged dating: the end of the II — beginning of the I millennium BC.e. The carriers of this culture built dwellings from wattles, smeared with clay, or from raw materials, bred buffaloes, pigs, horses, sowed rice. In addition to the burial of the remains, cremation was also practiced, which corresponds to the ideas of the funeral rite of the Aryans. However, this attribution was soon questioned. It turned out that gray painted ceramics are not so typical for the selected complexes — it is only about 10% and is found in settlements of different times, including the Harappan type. The very appearance of such ceramics is associated with a specific firing, indicating the spread of the technology of using iron. It was also noted that it does not occur on the supposed path of the Aryans, and the economy of its carriers is of eastern rather than Western origin.

It was assumed that the Aryans also belonged to the culture of ochre ceramics, which are characterized by poor firing and an ochre surface. It is common in Hastinapura. Now it is believed that this culture is local and belongs to the Late Harappan time. Another culture of the second millennium BC — the culture of copper hoards, signs of which are found from West Bengal and Orissa to Gujarat and Haryana and from Utgar Pradesh to Andhra Pradesh. It is characterized by products made of almost pure copper-flat Celtic axes, swords with antenna pommels, harpoons, spearheads, anthropomorphic figures cast in one-or two-sided forms. It is assumed that the bearers of this culture were hunters and warriors, some tools were intended for clearing the jungle; they did not engage in agriculture. The origin of this culture remains unclear, it is possible that it belonged to migrants from the territory of Harappa. It is believed that it belonged to the ancestors of modern munda. The range of monuments that allow us to think that at the end of the second millennium BC in the territory of the Harappan civilization, due to the appearance of native speakers of a new language, there was no cultural vacuum. The penetration of the Aryans was not a one-time event, it was generally gradual, probably they borrowed many elements of the culture of the local population. Clashes between them and the local inhabitants obviously took place, but they did not necessarily occur in the early stages of penetration. In conclusion, we can agree with F. R. Allchin and others have argued that the” Indo-Aryanization ” of India was dynamic.

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