In the Earliest Cities Class 6 History Notes

The story of Harappa

  • When railway lines were being laid down for the first time in the Punjab, engineers stumbled upon the site of
    Harappa in present-day Pakistan.
  • To them, it seemed like a mound that was a rich source of ready made, high quality bricks.
  • They carried off thousands of bricks from the walls of the old buildings of the city to build railway lines.
  • Many buildings were completely destroyed.
  • This was the first city to be discovered, all other sites from where similar buildings (and other things) were found were described as Harappan.
  • These cities developed about 4700 years ago.

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What was special about these cities?

  • Many of these cities were divided into two or more parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller but higher.
  • Archaeologists describe this as the citadel.
  • The part to the east was larger but lower.
  • This is called the lower town.
  • Very often walls of baked brick were built around each part.
  • The bricks were so well made that they have lasted for thousands of years.
  • The bricks were laid in an interlocking pattern and that made the walls strong.
  • In some cities, special buildings were constructed on the citadel.
  • In Mohenjodaro, a very special tank, which archaeologists call the Great Bath, was built in this area.
  • This was lined with bricks, coated with plaster, and made water -tight with a layer of natural tar.
  • There were steps leading down to it from two sides, while there were rooms on all sides.
  • Water was probably brought in from a well, and drained out after use.
  • Kalibangan and Lothal had  fire altars, where sacrifices may have been performed.

Houses, drains and streets

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  • Houses were either one or two storeys high, with rooms built around a courtyard.
  • Most houses had a separate bathing area, and some had wells to supply water.
  • Many of these cities had covered drains.
  • Each drain had a gentle slope so that water could flow through it.
  • Drains in houses were connected to those on the streets and smaller drains led into bigger ones.
  • The drains were covered, inspection holes were provided at intervals to clean them.
  • All three — houses, drains and streets — were probably planned and built at the same time.

Life in the city

  • A Harappan city was a very busy place.
  • There were people who planned the construction of special buildings in the city.
  • These were probably the rulers.
  • It is likely  that the rulers sent people to distant lands to get metal, precious stones, and other things that they wanted.
  • They may have kept the most valuable objects, such as ornaments of gold and silver, or beautiful beads, for themselves.
  • There were scribes, people who knew how to write, who helped prepare the seals, and perhaps wrote on other materials that have not survived.
  • There were men and women, crafts persons, making all kinds of things — either in their own homes, or in special workshops.
  • People travel to distant lands or returning with raw materials and, perhaps, stories.

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  • Terracotta toys have been found and a long time ago children must have played with these.

New crafts in the city

  • Things that have been found by archaeologists are made of stone, shell and metal, including copper, bronze,
    gold and silver.
  • Copper and bronze were used to make tools, weapons, ornaments and vessels.
  • Gold and silver were used to make ornaments and vessels.
  • Perhaps the most striking finds are those of beads, weights, and blades.
  • The Harappans also made seals out of stone.
  • These are generally rectangular and usually have an animal carved on them.
  • The Harappans also made pots with beautiful black designs.
  • Cotton was probably grown at Mehrgarh from about 7000 years ago.
  • Actual pieces of cloth were found attached to the lid of a silver vase and some copper objects at Mohenjodaro.
  • Archaeologists have also found spindle whorls, made of terracotta and faience.
  • These were used to spin thread.
  • Many of the things that were produced were probably the work of specialists.
  • A specialist is a  person who is trained to do only one kind of work, for example, cutting stone, or polishing beads, or carving seals.

Faience

  • Unlike stone or shell, that are found naturally, faience is a material that is artificially produced.
  • A gum was used to shape sand or powdered quartz into an object.
  • The objects were then glazed,  resulting in a shiny, glassy surface.
  • The colours  of the glaze were usually blue or sea green.
  • Faience was used to make beads, bangles, earrings, and tiny vessels.

In search of raw materials

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  • Raw materials are substances that are either found naturally (such as wood, or ores of metals) or produced by farmers or herders.
  • These are then processed to produce finished goods.
  • Some of the raw materials that the Harappans used were available locally, many items such as copper, tin,
    gold, silver and precious stones had to be brought from distant places.
  • The Harappans probably got copper from present-day Rajasthan, and even from Oman in West Asia.
  • Tin, which was mixed with copper to produce bronze, may have been brought from present-day Afghanistan and Iran.
  • Gold could have come all the way from present-day Karnataka, and precious stones from present-day Gujarat, Iran and Afghanistan.

Food for people in the cities

  • Many people lived in the cities, others living in the countryside grew crops and reared animals.
  • These farmers and herders supplied food to crafts persons, scribes and rulers in the cities.
  • Harappans grew wheat, barley, pulses, peas, rice, sesame, linseed and mustard.
  • A new tool, the plough, was used to dig the earth for turning the soil and planting seeds.
  • Real ploughs, which were probably made of wood, have not survived, toy models have been found.
  • This region does not receive heavy rainfall, some form of irrigation may have been used.
  • This means that water was stored and supplied to the fields when the plants were growing.
  • The Harappans reared cattle, sheep, goat and buffalo. Water and pastures were available around settlements.
  • In the dry summer months large herds of animals were probably taken to greater distances in search of
    grass and water.
  • They also collected fruits like ber, caught fish and hunted wild animals like the antelope.

A closer look — Harappan towns in Gujarat

  • The city of Dholavira was located on Khadir Beyt in the Rann of Kutch, where there was fresh water and fertile soil.
  • Dholavira was divided into three parts, and each part was surrounded with massive stone walls, with entrances through gateways.

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  • There was also a large open area in the settlement, where public ceremonies could be held.
  • Large letters of the Harappan script that were carved out of white stone and perhaps inlaid in wood.
  • This is a unique find as generally Harappan writing hasbeen found on small objects such as seals.
  • The city of Lothal stood beside a tributary of the Sabarmati, in Gujarat, close to the Gulf of Khambat.
  • It was situated near areas where raw materials such as semi-precious stones were easily available.
  • This was an important centre for making objects out of stone, shell and metal.
  • There was also a store house in the city.
  • Many seals and sealings (the impression of seals on clay) were found in this storehouse.
  • A building that was found here was probably a workshop for making beads: pieces of stone, half made beads, tools for bead making, and finished beads have all been found here.

Seals and sealings

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  • Seals may have been used to stamp bags or packets containing goods that were sent from one place to another.
  • After a bag was closed or tied, a layer of wet clay was applied on the knot, and the seal was pressed on it.
  • The impression of the seal is known as a sealing.
  • If the sealing was intact, one could be sure that the goods had arrived safely.

The mystery of the end

  • Around 3900 years ago we find the beginning of a major change. People stopped living in many of the cities.
  • Writing, seals and weights were no longer used.
  • Raw materials brought from long distances became rare.
  • In Mohenjodaro, we find that garbage piled up on the streets, the drainage system broke down, and new, less impressive houses were built, even over the streets.

Why did all this happen?

  • Some scholars suggest that the rivers dried up.
  • Others suggest that there was deforestation.
  • This could have happened because fuel was required for baking bricks, and for smelting copper ores.
  • Besides, grazing by large herds of cattle, sheep and goat may have destroyed the green cover.
  • In some areas there were floods.

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  • But none of these reasons can explain the end of all the cities.
  •  Flooding, or a river drying up would have had an effect in only some areas.
  • It appears as if the rulers lost control.
  • In any case, the effects of the change are quite clear.
  • Sites in Sind and west Punjab (present-day Pakistan) were abandoned, while many people moved into newer, smaller settlements to the east and the south.
  • New cities emerged about 1400 years later.

Elsewhere

  • Find Egypt in your atlas.
  • Most of Egypt is a dry desert, except for the lands along the river Nile.
  • Around 5000 years ago, kings ruled over Egypt.
  • These kings sent armies to distant lands to get gold, silver, ivory, timber, and precious stones.
  • They also built huge tombs, known as pyramids.
  • When they died, the bodies of kings were preserved and buried in these pyramids.
  • These carefully preserved bodies are known as ‘mummies’.

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  • A large number of objects were also buried with them.
  • These included food and drink, clothes, ornaments, utensils, musical instruments, weapons and animals.
  • Sometimes even serving men and women were buried with the rulers.
  • These are amongst the most elaborate burials known in world history.

DATES

  • Cotton cultivation at Mehrgarh (about 7000 years ago)
  • Beginning of cities (about 4700 years ago)
  • Beginning of the end of these cities (about 3900 years ago)
  • The emergence of other cities (about 2500 years ago)

See Also : What Where, How and When? Class 6 History

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