It may be time to rewrite history textbooks. 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. What’s more, the researchers have found evidence of a pre-Harappan civilization that existed for at least 1,000 years before this.
According to The Times Of India, the discovery, published in the prestigious ‘Nature’ journal on May 25, may force a global rethink on the timelines of the so-called ‘cradles of civilization’. The scientists believe they also know why the civilization ended about 3,000 years ago — climate change. “We have recovered perhaps the oldest pottery from the civilization. We used a technique called ‘optically stimulated luminescence’ to date pottery shards of the Early Mature Harappan time to nearly 6,000 years ago and the cultural levels of pre-Harappan Hakra phase as far back as 8,000 years,” said Anindya Sarkar, head of the department of geology and geophysics at IIT-Kharagpur.
The team had actually set out to prove that the civilization proliferated to other Indian sites like Bhirrana and Rakhigarrhi in Haryana, apart from the known locations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan and Lothal, Dholavira and Kalibangan in India. They took their dig to an unexplored site, Bhirrana — and ended up unearthing something much bigger. The excavation also yielded large quantities of animal remains like bones, teeth, horn cores of cow, goat, deer and antelope, which were put through Carbon 14 analysis to decipher antiquity and the climatic conditions in which the civilisation flourished, said Arati Deshpande Mukherjee of Deccan College, which helped analyse the finds along with Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad.
The researchers believe that the Indus Valley Civilisation spread over a vast expanse of India — stretching to the banks of the now “lost” Saraswati river or the Ghaggar-Hakra river – but this has not been studied enough because what we know so far is based on British excavations. “At the excavation sites, we saw preservation of all cultural levels right from the pre-Indus Valley Civilisation phase (9000-8000 BC) through what we have categorised as Early Harappan (8000-7000BC) to the Mature Harappan times,” said Anindya.
While the earlier phases were represented by pastoral and early village farming communities, the mature Harappan settlements were highly urbanised with organised cities, and a much developed material and craft culture. They also had regular trade with Arabia and Mesopotamia. The Late Harappan phase witnessed large-scale de-urbanisation, drop in population, abandonment of established settlements, lack of basic amenities, violence and even the disappearance of the Harappan script, the researchers say.