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sarasmap2.jpg (51943 bytes) Sarasvati river and archaeological settlements in NW India (After V.N.Misra, 1994,  Indus Civilization and the Rgvedic Sarasvati_, pp. 511-525, in: South Asian Archaeology 1993, Helsinki)

Shift of Late Harappan sites from the southwest to the northeast

Number of Late Harappan sites decrease in the Bahawalpur region and are totally absent in Ganganagar District; number of sites increase in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh with major concentrations in the Jind, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Hissar and Ambala districts; almost all districts of Punjab; Saharanpur District of U.P.. In Mahendragarh and Gurgaon districts, the Late Harappan sites represent the earliest human settlements.

"This dense concentration of sites on dead rivers is in sharp contrast to their scarcity or absence on the two perennial rivers of the region, namely the Sutlej and Yamuna_. Thus, for example, of the Early and Mature Harappan periods, only two sites of each are found on the Sutlej, both near Ropar where the river emerges from the Siwaliks. Of the Late Harappan period, only seven sites are found on this river, all of them in the upper reaches close to the hills. There is a complete absence of sites once the river enter the plains. Similarly, on the Yamuna_, Harappan sites of all periods are conspicuous by their total absence whereas they are present in strength in the non-riverine region to the west of the Yamuna_, and those of Mature and Late Harappan, particularly the latter, are present in large numbers on small tributary streams between the Yamuna_ and the Ganges. It will be clear from the above account that the focus of the Harappan Civilization was not on the Indus and its tributaries but on the Ghaggar-Hakra and its tributaries which flowed between the Indus and the Ganges rivers." (V.N.Misra, opcit., p. 514).

"Of the 1400 sites known in India and Pakistan (as of 1984), as many as 1097 (nearly 80%) are located on the vast plain between the Indus and the Gnages, comprising the Cholistan region in the Bahawalpur District of Punjab (Pakistan), The Ganganagar District of Rajasthan, Haryana, PUnjab and western Uttar Pradesh. They range in time from the Hakra Ware Culture of the fourth-third millennia BC to Late Harappan Culture (including its variant, Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP) of the late second millennium BC)... Two of the largestsettlements of the Harappan Civilization -- Ganweriwala Ther in Bahawalpur and Rakhigarhi in Haryana-- are located in this region... in the Cholistan Desert the densest concentration of protohistoric sites...occurs...south of the confluence of the Chenab and Sutlej rivers, roughly between longitudes 71deg. and 72deg. east. The oldest protohistoric sites, namely those of the pre-Early Harappan Hakra Ware Culture, are confined to the Cholistan region but some of their ceramic elements are known to extend into the adjoining Ganganagar District of Rajasthan.. only 44 sites are located in Sind on, and in the vicinity of the Indus... The total absence of Harappan sites and abundance of PGW sites on the Yamuna_ is eloquent proof that this river was not flowing in its present channel during Harappan times but had shifted to it during PGW times.

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Present and ancient courses of the Punjab rivers (After R.D. Oldham, 1887, On probable changes in the geography of the Punjab and its rivers. An historico-geographical study. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 55: 322-343).
"The variation in the number and location of sites of different protohistoric cultures suggests that different segments of the river were receiving different volumes of water during different periods. For example, during the Hakra Ware and Mature Harappan times, the middle reaches of the river, between longitudes 71 deg. and 72 deg. east were receiving more water, whereas during Early Harappan times the upper reaches, comprising the area on either side of the Indo-Pakistani border and the northern part of Haryana, were receiving a higher water supply. Again, during Late Harappan times there was a decrease or cessation in the supply in western Haryana and Punjab, Ganganagar and the contiguous Bahawalpur sector though some water was available further down in western Bahawalpur. Again, the river seems to have remained completely dry for several centuries after the disintegration and disappearance of the Harappan Civilization sometime in the second millennium BC. However, it received a limited supply of water again in the first millennium BC as indicated by the presence of a few Painted Grey Ware (PGW) sites in the Ganganagar District and the contiguous Bahwalpur area (Pande 1977; Mughal 1981)... the shifting of the Sutlej and Yamuna_ courses into and away from the Ghaggar-Hakra (Sarasvati_) was neither a unique nor a simultaneous event... the Maha_bha_rata period (Sorensen, S., 1904, An Index to the names in the Mahabharata, London: 622), however, the Sarasvati_ had dried up by getting lost in the sands at Vinas'ana... However, its reappearance at several places (Sorensen 1904: 622) suggest that it was still carrying some water intermittently...Sir Aurel Stein (1942: 180) wrote that a careful study of the large-scale levelling charts prepared by the Survey of India for the Sutlej Project, when this important canal scheme was being planned by the Punjab Irrigation Department, has shown that the Hakra Branch canal passes for some 104 miles across levels between the sand ridges of the Cholistan which unmistakably represent an ancient winding bed of the Sutlej, that once joined the Hakra between Walar and Binjor. The junction of the Hakra with a branch of the Sutlej must have meant a great increase in the volume of water, and accounts for the Hakra bed widening below the junction about Walar. This fact alone can explain the large concentration of protohistoric sites on the Hakra in the Cholistan Desert." (V.N.Misra, opcit.)


Distribution of Harappan Sites in NW India

State Early
Haryana 103 44 297 323
Punjab 26 37 129 147
Rajasthan 8 28 ... 29
Chandigarh     4 4
Himachal Pradesh     3 3
Delhi     1 1
Jammu 1     1
Uttar Pradesh   31 132 133
Gujarat   110 130 230

Note: Some sites were occupied during more than one period. 46 sites in Sikar District in the Aravalli Hills (Rajasthan) are excluded, which relate to the Ganeshwar culture, a variant of Harappan culture.

The phases of the Sarasvati-Sindhu Civilization are reckoned as follows:

Early Phase: 3100 - 2800 B.C.

Mature Phase: 2800 - 1900 B.C.

Late Phase: 1900 - 1400 B.C.

"The overall chronological bracket of the Early Indus-Saraswati Civilization falls between 3300 B.C. and 2700 B.C... The overall assessment, therefore, comes to the hard fact that the beginning of the early Indus-Saraswati Civilization goes back at least to the 31st century B.C. (Possehl, G.L., Radiometric Dates for South Asian Archaeology, Xeroxed copy, 1993; loc. cit. S.P.Gupta, op. cit.)... the mature Indus-Saraswati Civilization is to be placed in the 28th century B.C... (Late Indus-Saraswati phase)... it was during this phase that the so-called neolithic-chalcolithic cultures, particularly the Banas, the Kayatha and the Malwa culture-complexes, which flourished in Rajasthan, Central India and Maharashtra, closely interacted with the last sub-phase of the Mature Indus-Saraswati Civilization... we see, for example, mother-goddess figurines, bull figurines and the depiction of pipal leaf on pottery still continuing as manifestations of age-old popular beliefs. Steatite, shell, faience and carnelian objects of everyday use, such as the bangles, beads and various other ornaments go a long way to prove that the Indus-Saraswati traditions in crafts continued to be practised. It is true, however, that Harappa's 'Cemetery H' presented a far different form of material culture than the Lothal 'B' culture, and Lothal 'B' culture is different from Late Rojdi culture, and this too was different what Hulas (upper levels) presented; but it only reiterates what we observed earlier -- the Late Harappan develops regional culture-complexes although certain beliefs and crafts of the old traditions (Mature Indus-Saraswati) still continued to be practises... there are several times more sites on the banks of the river Saraswati and its tributaries than on the banks of the Indus. Mughal has already plotted 363 sites only in Cholistan, i.e. old Bahawalpur State (Mughal, M.R., Recent archaeological research in Cholistan desert, in: Possehl (ed.), Harappan Civilization, New Delhi, 2982, pp. 85-96). There are 25 sites which A. Ghosh explored on the Indian side of the Saraswati in District Ganganagar (Ghosh, A., The Rajputana Desert--its archaeological aspect, Bull. of the National Institute of Sciences of India, No. 1, pp. 37-42). J.P. Joshi and others located 62 more sites further east in Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana (Joshi, J.P., Madhu Bala and Jassu Ram, The Indus Civilization: a reconsideration on the basis of distribution maps, in: B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta (eds.), Frontiers of the Indus Civilization, New Delhi, Books and Books, 1984, pp. 511-530). Thus, there are as many as 500 sites, if not more, on the River Saraswati and Drishadvati (old courses and new courses together, plus their tributaries). Obviously, the Saraswati played a very vital role in the formation and development of this civilization... the civilization has been here entitled by us as the 'Indus-Saraswati Civilization'."

Corrected radiocarbon dates determining the chronological bracket of the Indus-Saraswati Civilization

Early Indus-Saraswati Phase (3100 B.C.-2800 B.C.) Radiocarbon dates (5730 half-life) Calibrated dates
Damb Sadaat (Pd. II) 2550 + - 370 B.C. 3021, 2916, 2927 B.C.
Gumla (Pd. II) 2385 + - 155 B.C. 2883, 2796, 2784 B.C.
Hathial West (Late Kot Diji) 2150 + - 145 B.C. 2554, 2548, 2491 B.C.
Harappa 2725 + - 185 B.C. 3338, 3213, 3203 B.C.
Ghazi Shah (Amri/harappan Transition) 2325+ - 70 B.C. 2867, 2808, 2772, 2723, 2699 B.C.
Gonur Depe North (Namazga V, Harappan) 2540 + - 60 B.C. 3018, 3001, 2926 B.C.
Hulas 2560 + - 155 B.C. 3028, 2985, 2930 B.C.
Islam Chowki 2335 + - 105 B.C. 2870, 2806, 2774, 2720, 2702 B.C.
Jhang 2440 + - 115 B.C. 2903 B.C.
Jhukar 2820 + - 310 B.C. 3371 B.C.
Jodhpura (Ganeshwar culture) 2540 + - 165 B.C. 3018, 3001, 2926 B.C.
Kalibangan (TF-241) 2265 + - 95 B.C. 2853, 2882, 2655, 2644, 2615 B.C.
Kalibangan (TF-155) 2370 + - 120 B.C. 2879, 2799, 2781, 2711, 2709 B.C.
Kot Diji 2605 + - 145 B.C. 3070, 3040, 2781, 2711, 2709 B.C.
Lak Largal 2345 + - 50 B.C. 2872, 2804, 2776, 2717, 2704 B.C.
Mehrgarh (Pd. IV) 2365 + - 145 B.C. 2877, 2800, 2780, 2712, 2708 B.C.
Mundigak (Pd. IV) 2360 + - 155 B.C. 2876, 2801, 2779, 2714, 2707 B.C.
Prabhas Patan (Pd. I) 2415 + - 115 B.C. 2892 B.C.
Rana Ghundai (Pd. IIIA) 2790 + - 60 B.C. 3360 B.C.
Rehman Dheri (Pd. II, Kot Diji) 2355 + - 70 B.C. 2875, 2802, 2778, 2715, 2706 B.C.
Rehman Dheri (Pd. II, Kechi Beg) 2705 + - 115 B.C. 3310, 3326, 3185, 3155, 3147 B.C.
Sarai Khola (Pd. II-A) 2295 + - 255 B.C. 2860, 2817, 2693, 2684, 2662, 2633, 2626 B.C.
Surkotada (Pd. IA) 2315 + - 135 2865, 2810, 2747, 2725, 2697, 2674, 2668 B.C.


Mature Indus-Sarasvati Phase (2800 - 1900 B.C.) Radiocarbon dates (5730 years half-life Calibrated dates
Harappa (Transition Early/Mature) 2316 + - 65 B.C. 2863, 2812, 2742, 2776, 2696, 2677, 2666 B.C.
Harappa (Mature) 2470 + - 70 B.C. 2913 B.C.
Kalibangan (Mature) 2225+ - 115 B.C. 2586 B.C.
Lothal (Mature) 2080 + - 135 B.C. 2461 B.C.
Mohenjodaro (Mature) 2155 + - 65 B.C. 2556, 2546, 2493 B.C.
Nausharo (Mature) 2540 + - 70 B.C. 2598 B.C.
Pirak (Pd. I) 2250 + - 300 B.C. 2250, 2245, 2652, 2647, 2617 B.C.
Prabhas Patan (Mature) 1755 + - 95 B.C. 1953 B.C.
Rehman Dheri (Pd. III; early/Mature) 2130 + - 115 B.C. 2470 B.C.
Rojdi (Mature) 2325 + - 115 B.C. 2867, 2808, 2772, 2723, 2699 B.C.
Shortugai (Pd. I; Mature) 2245 + - 100 B.C. 2651, 2649, 2610 B.C.


Late Indus-Saraswati Phase (1900 - 1400 B.C.) Radiocarbon dates (5730 years half-life) Calibrated dates
Daimabad (post-urban) 1760 + - 155 B.C. 1961 B.C.
daimabad (post-urban; Pd. II) 1285 + - 105 B.C. 1424 B.C.
Kaliban (TF-152) 1725 + - 130 B.C. 1923 B.C.
Kalibangan (TF-138) 1215 + - 105 B.C. 1391, 1334, 1327 B.C.
Katelai (Late bronze/early iron) 1295 + - 155 B.C. 1428 B.C.
Loebnar III (Pd. IV, chalcolithic) 1285 + - 60 B.C. 1424 B.C.
Mohenjodaro (Late Mature) 1760 + - 115 B.C. 1961 B.C.
Prabhas Patan (Late, LRW) 1245 + - 165 1406 B.C.
Rojdi (Mature) 1750 +  - 105 1947 B.C.
Sibri (Pd. VIIIC or later) 1365 + - 60 B.C. 1514 B.C.
Shortugai (Pd. III, post-urban) 1325 + - 345 B.C. 1445 B.C.

(S.P.Gupta, 1993, Longer chronology of the Indus-Saraswati Civilization in: Puratattva, No. 23, 1992-93, pp. 21-29.)

"... only two dates, one from Mitathal and the other from Hulas, pre-date 2700 BC. Further, only one date, from Surkotada, lies between 2700 and 2600 BC. There are at least five dates between 2600 and 2500 BC. From 2500 BC onwards there is a heavy concentration of dates. This concentration begins to peter out after 2000 BC. Later than 1800 BC the dates are very sporadic as was the case prior to 2600 BC. It would thus work out that the main lifespan of the Mature Phase of the Harappan Civilization was between 2600 and 2000 BC, with a margin of about a hundred years on the later side. The beginning of the Early Harappan phase... is ascribable to the first quarter of the third millennium BC. As to the Late Harappan Phase, it may have persisted for a couple of hundred years after 1900 BC." (Lal, opcit., p. 115).


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