Geographical sites:

  • Harappa (click here to focus in map) (see also GeoNames #1387783)
    Geonames_icon Harappa archaeological/prehistoric site Geocontext: Asia/Karachi
  • Mohenjodaro (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #902113570)
    Pleiades_icon Moenjodaro settlement Description: An ancient (third millennium BC) city of the Indian sub-continent connected with the Harappan Civilization. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
  • Sehwan (click here to focus in map) (see also GeoNames #1365059)
    Geonames_icon Sehwān area Geocontext: Asia/Karachi
  • Sindh (click here to focus in map) (see also GeoNames #1164807)
    Geonames_icon Sindh first-order administrative division Geocontext: Asia/Karachi
  • Baluchistan (click here to focus in map) (see also GeoNames #1161739)
    Geonames_icon Baluchistan region Geocontext: Asia/Tehran
  • Ghaggar (click here to focus in map) (see also GeoNames #1271406)
    Geonames_icon Ghagghar Branch canal Geocontext: Asia/Kolkata


Text #9017

Choi. "Huge Ancient Civilization's Collapse Explained"


Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia may be the best known of the first great urban cultures, but the largest was the Indus or Harappan civilization. This culture once extended over more than 386,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, and at its peak may have accounted for 10 percent of the world population. The civilization developed about 5,200 years ago, and slowly disintegrated between 3,900 and 3,000 years ago — populations largely abandoned cities, migrating toward the east.

“Antiquity knew about Egypt and Mesopotamia, but the Indus civilization, which was bigger than these two, was completely forgotten until the 1920s,” said researcher Liviu Giosan, a geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “There are still many things we don’t know about them.” […]

“Our research provides one of the clearest examples of climate change leading to the collapse of an entire civilization,” Giosan said. […]

After collecting data on geological history, “we could reexamine what we know about settlements, what crops people were planting and when, and how both agriculture and settlement patterns changed,” said researcher Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist with University College London. “This brought new insights into the process of eastward population shift, the change towards many more small farming communities, and the decline of cities during late Harappan times.”

Some had suggested that the Harappan heartland received its waters from a large glacier-fed Himalayan river, thought by some to be the Sarasvati, a sacred river of Hindu mythology. However, the researchers found that only rivers fed by monsoon rains flowed through the region.

Previous studies suggest the Ghaggar, an intermittent river that flows only during strong monsoons, may best approximate the location of the Sarasvati. Archaeological evidence suggested the river, which dissipates into the desert along the dried course of Hakra valley, was home to intensive settlement during Harappan times.

“We think we settled a long controversy about the mythic Sarasvati River,” Giosan said.

Initially, the monsoon-drenched rivers the researchers identified were prone to devastating floods. Over time, monsoons weakened, enabling agriculture and civilization to flourish along flood-fed riverbanks for nearly 2,000 years. […]

“The Harappans were an enterprising people taking advantage of a window of opportunity — a kind of “Goldilocks civilization,” Giosan said.

Eventually, over the course of centuries, Harappans apparently fled along an escape route to the east toward the Ganges basin, where monsoon rains remained reliable.

Text #9018

Sci-News. "Study Sheds More Light on Collapse of Harappan Civilization"


Recent excavations have demonstrated that the cities grew rapidly from 2200-1900 BC, when they were largely abandoned. […]

Dr Schug and her colleagues examined evidence for trauma and infectious disease in the human skeletal remains from three burial areas at the city of Harappa. Their findings counter longstanding claims that the Harappan civilization developed as a peaceful, cooperative, and egalitarian state-level society, without social differentiation, hierarchy, or differences in access to basic resources. […]

The study shows that leprosy appeared at Harappa during the urban phase of the Harappan civilization, and its prevalence significantly increased through time.

New diseases, such as tuberculosis, also appear in the Late Harappan or post-urban phase burials.

Violent injury such as cranial trauma also increases through time, a finding that is remarkable, she said, given that evidence for violence is very rare in prehistoric South Asian sites generally. […]

The results of the study are striking, because violence and disease increased through time, with the highest rates found as the human population was abandoning the cities. However, an even more interesting result is that individuals who were excluded from the city’s formal cemeteries had the highest rates of violence and disease. In a small ossuary southeast of the city, men, women, and children were interred in a small pit.

The rate of violence in this sample was 50 percent for the 10 crania preserved, and more than 20 percent of these individuals demonstrated evidence of infection with leprosy.

Text #9016

Mandelkehr. The 2300 BC Event. Series: The 2300 BC Event. Vol. 1
[pp. 76--77]

It appears that crustal movements starting at 2300 BC doomed the incoming Harappans.1 … Mohenjo-daro, a major Harappan city, was found to have seven levels of occupation, separated by unusually thick layers of fine silt (mud). In one case, the silt layer between occupation levels was two meter. The earliest occupation level was found an astounding 30 meters below present surface level. Based on excavations in the region, other Indus sites were also similarly affected by silting. The overwhelming evidence is that the Harappans moved into a bizarre environmental situation that continuously increased the level of fine silt in their settlements and surrounding areas. The Harappans struggled against the encroaching mud, at one point constructing huge mud-brick platforms.2 All indications are that the Harappan civilization was ultimately wiped out because of the silt gradually covering their settlments.

For a time, the prevalent theories centered on the idea of heavy flooding… This approach was discarded since it did not account for the existence of the deposited fine silt. Deeper water would result in higher velocity water movement which would have carried the fine silt along… continuous deep flooding would probably cause general abandonment of the area, rather than a continuous effort to raise the levels of the structures. Raikes, a hydrologist from an engineering firm in Rome, made extensive tests in the area and came to the conclusion that the silt buildup was due to a local uplift starting about 2300 BC. […]

Raikes’ initial theory was that at about 2300 BC, there was a regional uplift, possibly extending over no more than tens of kilometers, inhibiting the water flow to the sea. Water on the plain, rather than flowing fairly quickly to the sea and carrying most of the silt with it, flowed so slowly that essentially all of the silt was left on the flood plain. … The current position is that it is highly likely that there was an uplift or series of uplifts around 2300 BC … The zone of the uplift has been tentatively located in the Sehwan area, north of Amri and Chanhu-daro, two of the affected Harappan sites. Raikes feels that the uplift would explain the reported damage to sites in Sind and Baluchistan around 2300 BC, since it definitely would have caused violent earthquake shocks.[…]

At the same time as the uplift at 2300 BC, Raikes feels that the sea may have extended into parts of the southern Indus valley. This conclusion is based on the absence of Harappan sites in that region… and the peculiar distribution of other Harappan sites… These sites appear to be located around the periphery of an area that might have been flooded at that time. […] repeated flooding apparently occurred until 1900 BC, when all buildings were destroyed and there was a virtual end to site occupation.

  1. R. L. Raikes: “The Mohenjo-daro Flood: The Debate Continues” South Asian Archaeology Vol. 1 (1977), p. 566; see also M. J. Shendge: The Civilized Demons: The Harappans in Rgveda, (Abhinav, 1977), pp. 246, 247.

  2. Raikes, op. cit, pp. 287-290.

Text #9020

Benson. "Ancient civilizations shaken by quakes, say Stanford scientists"


Manika Prasad, a research associate in the Rock Physics Laboratory at Stanford, has helped expand the study of ancient earthquakes beyond the Eastern Mediterranean. Together with Nur, Prasad is studying the contribution of earthquakes to the collapse of the Harappan civilization in South Asia.

The Harappan civilization mysteriously disappeared in 1900 B.C., after almost 2,000 years of continuous existence. Some researchers have argued that the civilization slowly declined because of changing trade patterns; others, now mostly discredited, blamed Aryan invaders from the north.

Prasad and Nur blame earthquakes. Last January, a catastrophic earthquake struck the southern edge of the former Harappan territory, a coastal area near the border between India and Pakistan. In 1819, a similar earthquake raised an 50- to 62-mile (80- to 100-kilometer) ridge of earth about 20 feet (6 meters), creating an artificial dam known as the “Allah Bund” (God’s Dam). Both earthquakes are evidence that the Harappan region, though not near a traditional fault zone, is seismically active.

The evidence of seismic activity in the region, combined with the recent discovery of an ancient riverbed at the center of the former Harappan region, offers a possible explanation for the civilization’s decline.

Four millennia ago, one or more quakes could have blocked or diverted the water that flowed through the riverbed, say Prasad and Nur. That would have helped turn part of the Harappan region into the desert it is today – and destroyed the Harappan civilization in the process. […]

Despite growing evidence of the effects of ancient earthquakes, some researchers remain skeptical. Iain Stewart, a geologist at Brunel University in England, argued at the AGU conference that earthquake damage is hard to distinguish from the effects of poor construction, ground instability or human intervention.

Other researchers, however, have warmed to the idea that earthquakes may be a missing piece of the archaeological puzzle. Erhan Altunel of Osmangazi University in Turkey proposed that massive earthquakes may have helped destroy several ancient Turkish cities. Other researchers have linked earthquakes to the collapse of the ancient Mediterranean temples in Sicily and elsewhere.

Text #9022

"Kalibangan", in Wikipedia.

Robert Raikes has argued that Kalibangan was abandoned because the river dried up. Prof. B. B. Lal (retd. Director General of Archaeological Survey of India) supports this view by asserting: “Radiocarbon dates indicate that the Mature Harappan settlement at Kalibangan had to be abandoned around 2000–1900 BCE. And, as the hydrological evidence indicates, this abandonment took place on account of the drying up of the Sarasvati (Ghaggar). This latter part is duly established by the work of Raikes, an Italian hydrologist, and of his Indian collaborators”.1

  1. Robert Raikes, “Kalibangan: Death from Natural Causes”, Antiquity, XLII,1968, pp. 286-291

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