Terracotta stamp seal "Harappan"

425 €

The Early Harappan civilization, Sindh, Pakistan, c. 3200 BC - 2600 BC, private collection from Denmark.

Indus civilization (called also Indus Valley civilization or Harappan civilization) was a Bronze Age civilization in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasted from about 3300 BC to 1900 BC, and envolved from earlier settlements in the area. It extended over almost 1,25 million square kilometres, and had several large cities with baked brick structures and an intensive drainage network, occupying an area from Afghanistan in the northwest through Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh, and further east through Haryana up to the Yamuna. It also extended into Rajasthan and Gujarat. Over 1000 sites have been found of this culture. Harappan cities and towns hade some common features. Some had a separate area where large buildings were built on raised brick platforms, with the whole area surrounded by a massive brick wall. Scientists from IIT-Kharagpur and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have uncovered evidence that the Indus Valley Civilization is at least 8,000 years old, and not 5,500 years old, taking root well before the Egyptian (7000BC to 3000BC) and Mesopotamian (6500BC to 3100BC) civilizations.

Mohenjo-daro meaning "Mound of the Dead Men" is located off the right (west) bank of the lower Indus river in Larkana District, Sindh, Pakistan. It lies on a Pleistocene ridge in the flood plain of the Indus, around 28 kilometres from the town of Larkana. The city's original name is unknown. Based on his analysis of a Mohenjo-daro seal, Iravatham Mahadevan (Indian epigraphist and civil servant, 1930-2018) speculates that the city's ancient name could have been Kukkutarma ("the city of the cockerel [kukkuta]"). Cock-fighting may have had ritual and religious significance for the city. Mohenjo-daro may also have been a point of diffusion for the clade of the domesticated chicken found in Africa, Western Asia, Europe and the Americas. Built around 2500 BCE, Mohenjo-daro was the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation, and one of the world's earliest major cities, contemporaneous with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Minoan Crete, and Norte Chico.  At its height, the Indus Civilization spanned much of what is now Pakistan and North India, extending westwards to the Iranian border, south to Gujarat in India and northwards to an outpost in Bactria, with major urban centers at Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Lothal, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Rakhigarhi. Mohenjo-daro was the most advanced city of its time, with remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning.

Mohenjo-daro has a planned layout with rectilinear buildings arranged on a grid plan. Most were built of fired and mortared brick; some incorporated sun-dried mud-brick and wooden superstructures. The covered area of Mohenjo-daro is estimated at 300 hectares. At its height the city probably had around 35,000 - 40,000 residents. The sheer size of the city, and its provision of public buildings and facilities, suggests a high level of social organization. The city is divided into two parts, the so-called Citadel and the Lower City. The Citadel, a mud-brick mound around 12 metres high, is known to have supported public baths, a large residential structure designed to house about 5,000 citizens, and two large assembly halls. It is clear that the citadel (for such it evidently was) carried the religious and ceremonial headquarters of the site. In the lower town were substantial courtyard houses indicating a considerable middle class.The city had a central marketplace, with a large central well. Individual households or groups of households obtained their water from smaller wells. Waste water was channeled to covered drains that lined the major streets. Some houses, presumably those of more prestigious inhabitants, include rooms that appear to have been set aside for bathing, and one building had an underground furnace (known as a hypocaust), possibly for heated bathing. Most houses had inner courtyards, with doors that opened onto side-lanes. Some buildings had two stories. Mohenjo-daro was abandoned in the 19th century BCE as the Indus Valley Civilization declined, and the site was not rediscovered until the 1920s.

Early Harappan refers to a period between 3200 BC and 2600 BC, when settlements had spread all over the north-western plains, extending into Haryana, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. According to the archaeologist Gregory Possehl there were four approximately contemporary, interrelated, archaeological cultures that can be called early Harappan. The main differences in these cultures are the different pottery types. These are: Amri-Nal (named after two sites of Amri and Nal) this culture was located in Sindh, north Balochistan, and north Gujarat. Kot Diji: over one hundred Kot Diji sites are known in northern Sindh and adjacent regions. Damb Sadat: this type, with more than thirty-five known sites, represents a culture mainly in the Quetta valley of central Balochistan. Sothi-Siswal: this type is located in the valleys of the Chaggar-Chautang rivers, often identified with the ancient Sarasvati and Drishadvati of Vedic texts. There ar at least 165 Sothi-Siswal sites, two of them larger than 20 hectares.

On the whole, Early Harappan sites were agricultural (sesame seeds, wheat, millet) with domesticated animals (water buffalo, zebu cattle, sheep and goats), and some specialized crafts. The final stages of the early Harappan period are characterized by the building of large walled settlements, the expansion of the trade networks, and the increasing integration of regional communities into a "relatively uniform" material culture in terms of pottery styles, ornaments, and stamp seals with Indus script, leading into the transition to the Mature Harappan phase.

Between 400 and as many as 600 distinct Indus symbols have been found on stamp seals, small tablets, ceramic pots and more than a dozen other materials, including a "signboard" that apparently once hung over the gate of the inner citadel of the Indus city of Dholavira. Typical Indus inscriptions are around five characters in length, most of which (aside from the Dholavira "signboard") are tiny; the longest on any single object (inscribed on a copper plate) has a length of 34 symbols. Thousands of steatite seals have been recovered, and their physical character is fairly consistent. In size they range from squares of side 2,0cm to 4,0cm. In most cases they have a pierced boss at the back to accommodate a cord for handling or for use as personal adornment. In addition a large number of sealings have survived, of which only a few can be matched to the seals. The great majority of examples of the Indus script are short groups of signs on seals.

Exceedingly rare, fine circular terracotta stamp seal engraved with beautiful geometric designs and symbols. A delineated in an abstract style characteristic of the early Harappan culture. Good condition. Age-related heavy wear, abrasion and corrosion. Some chips to the rim and handle, otherwise intact. Rich deposits on exterior. Dirt, dust and soil. Size approx. 7,2cm x 7,0cm x 6,3cm. Weight c. 120g.

References, sources & citations:

The Harappan Civilisation: Its Sub-cultures, Roshen Dalal, The Pioneer, Thursday, 10 May 2018.

Indus Valley Civilization, Mark, Joshua J., World History Encyclopedia, Last modified October 07, 2020 (https://www.worldhistory.org/Indus_Valley_Civilization/).

The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective, Gregory L. Possehl, Rowman Altamira, 2002.

The Chronology of Prehistoric North-West India, Stuart Piggot, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1950

The Harappan Civilization, Tarini Carr, Archaeology Online.

Indus Civilization, R.K. Pruthi, Discovery Publishing House, 2004, s. 157.

The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization, Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel, 2004. (http://www.safarmer.com/fsw2.pdf)

The Neolithic in Baluchistan: New Evidence from Mehrgarh, M. Lechevallier and G. Quivron, South Asian Archaeology 1979: pp. 71-92.

Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations, Charles F. W. Higham (toim.), New York: Facts on File, 2004. New York: Facts on File, 2004.

Mohenjo Daro, Alex Whitaker (www.ancient-wisdom.com).

Les Cites Oubliees de I'ndus: Archeologie du Pakistan, J.F. Jarrige, 1988, pp. 105-107.

Oxygen isotope in archaeological bioapaties from India: Implications to climate change and decline of Bronze Age Harappan civilization, Sarkar A., Mukherjee A., Bera M., Nature, Sci Rep 6, 25 May 2016.