Harappa is one of the most fascinating and often-visited of Pakistan’s tourist sites: a Bronze Age city dating back to a time so long ago, so ancient that historians do not even know how to interpret the writing system used in the artefacts left behind. To be precise, though, the site was very likely not named Harappa during its time: we have no idea what name it originally had. The current name is just taken from a modern village 6 kilometres away from the excavation site.
It is a marvel that so much of the city has managed to stay intact throughout the years and damages caused by people. The British Raj, for instance, demolished a good part of the ruins during their construction of a nearby railroad, stripping bricks from the location for use in the railroad’s building. Then there was the attempt to promote tourism in the area by building an amusement park near it, which was fortunately put to a halt after protests gathered force. Nowadays, Harappa is relatively safe and combed daily by archaeologists seeking to learn more about how people lived here several millennia ago.
The estimated date of construction for the city is 2600 BC. Indications are strong that the culture of the people who lived here belonged to the Late Harappan phase of the Indus Valley Civilisation, a phase that was distinguished by such practices as cremation for the dead, the focus on cultivating rice, and the reliance on mud brick for construction. Along with nearby Mohenjo-daro, it is one of the biggest of the Indus Valley Civilisation cities, with an estimated population of well over 20,000-unusual for cities of that period.
There have been marvellous finds here, from amazingly delicate reddish pottery and sculptures to yet-to-be-deciphered soapstone seals of startling number. Urns and terracotta figures have also been brought up and continue to be found to this day. Perhaps most interesting of all are the bones from the cemeteries, however. When Harappa was first discovered and studied, most archaeologists suggested a nearly classless, rather healthy society due to the burial patterns in the ancient site. A relatively low percentage of fatally violent attacks as seen in the bones was also suggestive of the peace of the city. However, new studies have revealed some startling notes, such as the fact that although apparently deliberate fatal blows in the form of clubbing to the cranium were indeed rare for the population as represented by the bones in the cemeteries, the gender and health profile for those who bore the club-marks was strikingly skewed towards those with chronic diseases and those who were female.
More studies have to be carried out at Harappa before further suggestions are made, of course, but this does indicate some exciting discoveries for archaeologists in Pakistan. Those with even only the faintest interest in ancient civilisations should definitely take time to pass by the site, it being such a splendid repository of the artefacts of humanity’s past.